The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities


American Spirit

Halloween—despite its solemn Celtic roots—has become a safe way for Americans to transgress social norms and toy with the idea of ghosts in a family-friendly fashion. But for some, spirits from another plane have always been a very real part of life on this plane. So this episode of BackStory delves deeper into Americans’ ongoing fascination with the supernatural, and explores why witches, spirits, and ghosts have haunted American history.

Why were colonists so fearful of New England “witches”? How is it that progressive social reformers found a home in the Spiritualist movement of the 19th century? Why do new media technologies tend to conjure up talk of the undead? Brian, Ed, and Peter look for answers…