Readers who enjoy American and family history will appreciate this account of the author’s great-great grandmother Julia Schuster Staab and her descendants, who were among the early settlers of Santa Fe, New Mexico and who built the home that is still in use as the La Posada hotel — and is reputedly haunted. The luxury hotel has been featured on Ghost Hunters and Unsolved Mysteries tv series, as the ghost of Julia, white-haired and in a long, black gown, has been reported as seen on the staircase, and blamed for various mischievous activities throughout the hotel, such as causing lights to flicker on and off and pulling blankets off guests as they sleep.
Based on online reviews, some readers of American Ghost by Hannah Nordhaus were somewhat misled into expecting more emphasis on ghost hunting than the book delivers. Rather, it is primarily an engaging exploration of the lives of Nordhaus’ ancestors, mainly Julia, who was whisked off to the American Southwest by her bridegroom immediately after her marriage in 1865 at age 21. The account explores how the young woman, lacking physical
strength and a spirit of adventure, must gradually have been beaten down by her life in this inhospitable environment far from friends and family—a condition that may well have contributed to discontent in the afterlife that could result in a haunting.
Nordhaus is able to maintain a steady pace and focus while conveying details about various members of the family and life in New Mexico in the mid-nineteenth century. Her journey to learn more about the life of Julia Schuster Staab takes her around the United States and to Germany.