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Strange Fruit: That Ghost Was Not A 'Mistress'

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If you're intrigued by the supernatural, or just like scary stories, a ghost tour can be a fun way to see a city and learn about its history.

But ghost stories tend to be about people who experienced violence while they were alive, or had unfinished business that caused them to come back as a spirit. And we all know what group of people were historically subjected to violence in the American south.

And that's how black trauma ends up repackaged as entertainment on southern ghost tours. Tiya Miles was visiting the Sorrel-Weed House in Savannah, Georgia, when guides presented the tale of Molly, who supposedly haunts the historic home.

Molly was described as a "slave girl" who was the "mistress" of the home's patriarch, and was killed by his wife when she discovered their relationship. Not only is this a very real and very ugly historical phenomenon presented as entertainment, but the terminology implicates Molly in her own fate, wrongly casting her as a willing participant in a consensual affair.

Miles is the author of “Tales from the Haunted South: Dark Tourism and Memories of Slavery from the Civil War Era." She joins us this week to talk about what she's learned about ghostly folklore, and how the story of Molly sheds light on what we tend to remember -- and forget -- about our history.

Laura is LPM's Director of Podcasts & Special Projects. Email Laura at lellis@lpm.org.