On the Open Library General Discussion List, Edward Betts recently posted that, while tidying author records in Open Library, he found 248 authors-as-spirits. Not unknown ghosts or muses, but the spirit of a particular person listed as a spirit. He included the examples below in the post and the full list on his website.
$a Abraham $c (Spirit)
$a Churchill, Winston $c Sir $d 1874-1965 $c (Spirit)
$a Doyle, Arthur Conan $c Sir $d 1859-1930 $c (Spirit)
$a Jesus Christ $c (Spirit)
$a Shakespeare, William $d 1564-1616 $c (Spirit)
For all those fascinated by dead (and undead) media, this is wonderfully rich. Not only do the dead speak through media (and issues of telepresence continue as we read, hear, and watch, from telegraph to home video–there’s a real horror movies and games are so populated by letters, diaries, books, histories, and the like) but their voices as the dead and even cataloged as such. When I learn bits of wonder like the spirit authors, I wish I had more experience in libraries and archives because there’s so much more to know and I’m so fascinated by the change of technologies, perceptions of the technologies, and the seemingly mundane ways in which people have dealt with the oddities.
I’m not interested in the large scale glam or beliefs in the paranormal or excitement over media revolutions because, while all of those are interesting, I’m so curious about how exceptional beliefs (as the outside-the-curve use cases, unintended uses and consequences, cultural beliefs, sheer oddities) are handled within day to day dealings and how those exceptions inform and shape the mundane and familiar. Noting “(Spirit)” inside a MARC record for ghostly authors–especially when including their birth and death dates–is wonderful. I’m sure there were meetings to discuss whether or not to include the first sighting of the spirit in a spirit birth date, but that was likely decided to be too cumbersome and too subject to interpretation. I’d absolutely love to read any archival files on how the inclusion of “(Spirit)” came about and what all was left out of the addition and why, and now I know to be on the lookout for it.