Beyond Metaphorical Spectrality For New Paranormal Geographies

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Vanessa Stevens
Jeffrey A. Tolbert


This paper discusses the progress and potential of spectral geographical research. It evaluates the usefulness of figurative spectrality in work on performance, (non-)representation, visual imagery, urban landscapes, remembrance and commemoration. Acknowledging the use of hauntological devices to speak to absence, liminality, excess, uncertainty and iteration, the paper identifies limitations of spectral metaphors, highlighting their tendency to marginalize historical and cultural specificity and embodied human experience. Subverting academic convention by taking seriously reports of possible ghost sightings at a property in the south of England, the paper further explores the space between the metaphorical and the material. It invites suspension of disbelief in order to consider implications of materially haunted spaces i.e. those indwelled or constituted by entities of a spiritual, otherworldly or otherwise anomalous kind. Speaking to debates within the complementary fields of geography and folklore, it proposes an agenda for new cross-disciplinary paranormal geographical research that would move beyond metaphorical constructions of haunting to cultivate radical openness to the ontological possibilities and intellectual challenges of materially haunted space.


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Stevens, V., & Tolbert, J. A. (2019). Beyond Metaphorical Spectrality: For New Paranormal Geographies. New Directions in Folklore, 16(1), 27–57. Retrieved from