HST 329: Haunted Histories

HST 329: Haunted Histories

Summer II 2020 (June 29-July 29, 2020): Online

Haunted Histories: The Modern Supernatural, Science, and Society is taught by Dr. Christopher Laursen, who specializes in how Americans and Europeans have encountered and sought to explain the supernatural over the past two centuries. This course is listed as HST 329 – History of Science and Technology in the Modern World in the UNCW Academic Catalogue.

Over the past 175 years, scientists, scholars, and paranormal enthusiasts have actively sought out haunted places. Various theories emerged about why people experience ghostly phenomena at specific locations: for example, that buildings and landscapes record and play back scenes from the past, that deceased historical actors become trapped in purgatorial limbo, or that psychic mediums can communicate with those who lived there in the past. Experiences of apparitions, uncanny feelings, and things seemingly moved by unseen forces have enticed locals and researchers alike to reach back into history to find clues and reasons for hauntings. Archives and oral history collection provide puzzle pieces which have created narratives to try and make sense of how past traumas haunt the present.

In this 4.5-week summer course, students compare case studies of hauntings and their historical narratives to determine the roles of history, sciences, technology, religion, and reason in making sense of ghostly experiences. Students will each study a public site with a reputation for haunting (near to them or afar) and, step by step, excavate the making of hauntings in history and history in hauntings.

No textbook.
All materials are provided online.

Credit Hours: 3

Additional Restrictions/Requirements: Any HST course or consent of instructor.
Course Repeatablility: Course may be repeated. Maximum Repeatable Hours: 9

COVID-19 Note (updated April 9): Hopefully, summer will bring more access to public sites and archives if students so choose to focus on local history, but if not, students will be able to complete their work completely online and remotely drawing from online sources. If stay-at-home orders continue, the focus of the course will be on the online archives of England’s Society for Psychical Research which extend back to the 1880s to the present day.

Last updated: 9 April 2020