Hauntings at the Murder House

In “Haunted Data, Transmedial Storytelling, Affectivity,” Lisa Blackman explores what she calls a hauntological method. In this, she draws upon Avery Gordon’s Ghostly Matters, highlighting how a “ghostly trail of haunted data” can emerge when the type of connectivity that Gordon discusses is brought to bear on digital narratives.1 Through the creation of the video posted here, I decided to explore this hauntological method in a very literal way.

Three years ago, my friend Kodee and I went to the Villisca Ax Murder House in Villisca, Iowa. What I’ve posted here is a digital narrative that weaves together “image, words, sound and movement.”2 “Welcome to Pine Point” and “The Third Eye” functioned as guides as I created my own narrative. “So often a memory depends on who we need to be at the moment of remembrance,” note the creators of the first work, and this struck me as hauntological in itself–as delving into the digital can heuristically restructure our own stories. I set out to simply retell the trip Kodee and I had made, but—in the process—I ended up writing about the person I used to be.3 In the second work, Professor Shyam Sharma considers the “range of semiotic resources” afforded by digital narratives: “the visual appearance of the narrators and their environments; their tone, voice, and accent; and their gestures and other non-verbal elements.”4. While attempting to embrace this full range that Sharma notes, I was struck by the quote he uses from Cynthia L. Selfe, who connects this dynamism with the formation of identity that the creators of Pine Point mention: “by locating themselves precisely and in nuanced ways within complex and dynamic social systems in their narratives […] storytellers actually compose their lives and values in reference to those around them, positioning themselves relationally to the other characters in their stories, to their previous selves, and to their listening audiences” (Sharma). This is exactly what I found occurred as I began telling my own narrative.

Lastly, as I created this small project, I dwelt on Ash Read’s story about Facebook’s new push to re-capture users and user-generated content.5 As I tried to figure out how to include my video in this post, I found myself hesitant to utilize a platform that would make my video available to just anyone. I wanted it to be here only—in the context of this blog. At first, I avoided YouTube, thinking the platform would make my video too public, but I then found out you can post an unlisted video, i.e. a video that you can only access if you have its URL. Not only does this speak to the issue that Facebook is currently facing, it also makes a full circle back to the hauntological method. If the content we (as a society) are currently interested in making is ephemeral by design, what does that mean for the digital ghost hunters of the future?




  1. Blackman, Lisa. “Haunted Data, Transmedial Storytelling, Affectivity: Attending to ‘Controversies’ as Matters of Ghostly Concern.” Ephemera: theory and politics in organisation. 2017.
  2. Chase, Darren. Research & Subject Guides: Digital Composition, Storytelling & Multimodal Literacy: What Is Digital Composition & Digital Literacy? http;//guides.library.stonybrook.edu/digital-storytelling/home. Accessed 19 Feb 2018.
  3. Welcome to Pine Point, The National Film Board of Canada, Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons.
  4. Sharma, Ghanashyam. “The Third Eye: An Exhibit of Literacy Narratives from Nepal.” Stories That Speak to Us: Exhibits from the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives. Ed. H. Lewis Ulman, Scott Lloyd DeWitt, & Cynthia L. Selfe. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press, 2013. Web.
  5. Read, Ash. “Facebook Stories: Everything You Need to Know about Facebook’s Latest Feature.” Buffer Social, Mar. 28, 2017 (updated Oct. 2017). https://blog.bufferapp.com/facebook-stories.


  1. Hi, Jon.
    I wanted to tell you that I loved this video. I think it fulfills the promise of digital narrative in that it works on so many levels. It’s a response to this week’s readings, a story on its own told in pictures, and a reflection on your own life. This would be hard to capture in just words alone, but your narration and the video editing together make this work seamlessly.

    What I liked best was how my understanding of the video changed when we went from finding out that this was old footage of you and your friend horsing around to actually finding out that you were leaving behind an old life, an old self, to pursue a new life. I felt sad you had to part ways with Kodee because you both looked like you were having such a good time.

    I know your question was on the ephemeral nature of online content; I used to watch a fan video on YouTube that used Genesis’ “Man On The Corner” as its soundtrack, but then it was taken down and just vanished. I know your video was personal but I’m glad I came across it. I guess I just take a very Buddhist view of Internet content, i.e. only this moment exists when you see this so appreciate it now because even if you see it again, it will never be exactly the same. It’s not a very scholarly answer, but unfortunately, like life, the Internet shifts around and things fall away.

    Thank you for making this. It made my day.

  2. Hi Jon, thank you so much for sharing this video. It definitely includes layers, textures, and atmospheres that would be hard to convey so effectively in writing. I loved the way you tie your personal narrative to our readings this week, and especially appreciated your thoughts that these images were the ghosts of who you and Kodee were.

  3. Hi Jon- loved the post and your video! Very excited to see a murder house make it into a blog post. 🙂

    I particularly loved your note regarding Selfe’s quote about the formation of identity as a result of engaging with the story and location of Welcome to Pine Point. I think you did a wonderful job integrating yourself into the story. I especially loved the way you organized these two plot-lines, often moving back and forth between your own personal narrative and the story belonging to the house.

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