American Ghost | Synopsis

American Ghost

La Posada—“place of rest”—was once a grand Santa Fe mansion. It belonged to the Staab family: Abraham and Julia, who had emigrated from Germany in the middle of the 19th century. After they died, the house became a hotel. And sometime in the 1970s, the hotel acquired a resident ghost.

She was a dark-eyed woman with upswept white hair, in a long gown. She was sad and translucent, present and absent at once. Strange things began to happen in the hotel. Vases moved; glasses flew; blankets were ripped from beds. Julia Staab died too young in 1896, a sad woman in a foreign land. But her ghost, they say, lives on.

In American Ghost, Hannah Nordhaus, traces her great-great grandmother’s transfiguration from 19th-century Jewish bride to modern phantom. Family diaries, photographs, and newspaper clippings take her on a riveting journey through 300 years of German history and American immigrant experience. With the help of historians, genealogists, aging family members, and ghost hunters, she weaves a masterful, moving story of fin-de-siècle Europe and pioneer life, villains and visionaries, medicine and spiritualism, imagination and truth, exploring how lives become legends, and what those legends tell us about who we are.