Ghostly Tales of Law and Justice: Courthouse Hauntings
4 Unbound: Annual Review of Legal History & Rare Books 47 (2011)
11 Pages Posted: 6 May 2016
Date Written: 2011
Drawn from some thirty collections of folk tales about ghosts, this paper is an effort at collecting and characterizing ghost stories related public buildings associated with the law, primarily courthouses and jails. By far the most common law-related ghost story involves the hauntings of courthouses, with most of these stories falling under the general motif that folklorist Stith Thompson calls "ghost haunts place of great accident or misfortune," although many of these haunting stories also touch on other themes, including the mentioned "ghost returns to reveal murder" and the "ghost re-enacts scene from his own lifetime" motifs. Another closely related class of haunting story involves the gloomy building where the legal-process often ends: the jail or the prison. Finally, the research turned up one type of ghost story that perhaps deserves its own motif, "ghost haunts law school," although many law students would likely argue that it fits well in the existing category for "places of misfortune."
Keywords: folklore ghost tales haunted jails prisons courthouses
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation