Is Washed and Ironed — and Now I Can Ramble about Lessons Learned

For the first couple of weeks of the new year, I’ve been acting on a resolution to give a good laundering. I scrubbed some smudged language and stitched some ripped links to other websites. I also converted a whole lot of the pages into posts. This means there are now many more tags for finding related information, and there are more chances to post a comment.

I’ve always thought of this site as something more than place to display my stuff-for-sale. My books are important to me, of course, but so are the various historical projects that have often led to them. Two books were inspired by the Chronological Bibliography of Early Occult Detectives, my effort to reveal that occult detective fiction began much earlier than was once thought. My desire to do the same with ghost hunting manifested in the Ghost Hunter Hall of Fame, a corridor that leads to the Victorian Ghost Hunter’s Library and the Rise of the Term “Ghost Hunter” TARDIS. Again, two books resulted. My anthology of spooky, train-related stories crossed tracks with Railroad Hauntings You Can Still Visit. In terms of books, only Charting Crocker Land stands out in the cold. These are the projects that I washed and ironed.

Doing so, I was reminded of how digital archives have brought great opportunities to historians, including those exploring something other than popular fiction or ghosts. I recalled that, along the way, I’ve picked up some general lessons about chronicling history.

  • Be careful about claiming something is “the first in history.” Some brat will come along and show that’s simply not the case.
  • Define terms. Settling on a definition for “occult detective fiction” took a few years, but since I’ve done it, I now have a firmer grasp on how to separate works in this cross-genre from that more pervasive type of detective fiction, the one with corporeal criminals. In turn, this has opened doors, admitting new works into the tradition while helping me show that validating the supernatural, not debunking it, has been a part of modern mystery fiction from the start. Not everyone will agree with my definition or the conclusions I’ve drawn from it, but at least folks might better understand what I’m getting at.
  • Remember that humans rarely, if ever, agree on things. My hunting through the history of ghost hunting has taught me this over and over. Ever since some of the earliest extant documents about ghost hunters were written, the reality of ghosts has been debated. Roughly, that’s the 1st century CE (a.k.a. AD). I suspect this debate will continue for centuries.

Here endth the lessons (and, quite likely, the extent of my wisdom). Let 2023 begin!

— Tim

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