A New Page (But Not a New Inductee) at the Ghost Hunter Hall of Fame

I finally got around to devoting a full page to Athenodorus, an ancient Roman ghost hunter who is the earliest (by far) inductee in the Ghost Hunters Hall of Fame. A quartet of inductees there are better thought of as ghost hunters of legend rather than of verifiable history: Athenodorus, Antoinette du Ligier de la Garde Deshoulières, John Rudall, and Richard Dodge. All four existed in reality, but the stories told of their ghostly pursuits are folklore, tales that are sometimes believed to be true but that blend fact and fiction. It’s a bit like George Washington and that unfortunate cherry tree. George was real, and in his younger years, he actually had been a boy. Cherry trees and hatchets are also real. The rest of the story? Well, let’s call it legend.

The great thing about Athenodorus’s adventure is how, on one level, it seems surprisingly “modern.” There’s a house haunted by a creepy ghost who rattles chains. The people living there flee. The house gets a bad reputation and can’t be sold or rented, even at a bargain. Athenodorus hears about this and performs some nocturnal surveillance. Boom! He solves the mystery of the house and ends the haunting. This is why I put his story into Ghostly Clients & Demonic Culprits: The Roots of Occult Detective Fiction.

H.J. Ford’s illustration — somewhat embellished — for Mrs. [Leonora Blanche] Lang’s The Strange Story Book (1900).
On another level, though, Athenodorus is unique in his approach to ghost hunting. He deliberately kept the ghost a low-priority on that night. Instead of checking for cold spots or bringing a trustworthy dog or checking to see if the candles would burn blue, he focused on his writing. In fact, when the foreboding specter trudged into the room, manacled and fettered, Athenodorus bid the spectral gent to stay put a moment. This rattled the ghost’s chain, so it rattled its chains louder. The ghost had waited long enough for someone who wouldn’t simply run away, someone like Athenodorus. This is why I titled the page “Athenodorus and the Ghost Who Waited.”

I hope you enjoy it.

— Tim

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