Russell Kirk, patriarch of conservative thought, believed in ghosts. (Surprised? But what could be more "conservative—that is, backward and wrong-headed—than embracing an ignorant medieval superstition?) Well, maybe he didn't believe in them. We'll never know. He did write plenty about them, and he is to be congratulated for it. His ghost stories, gathered in a new volume called Ancestral Shadows: An Anthology of Ghostly Tales, are strange and welcome meat for the bones of conservative thought.

In Kirk's hands, ghost stories are morality plays, not penny-dreadful amusements. Kirk the medium is a messenger—and his message is: if you think you can discard the wisdom or the mystery of our ancestral past, you're dead wrong. Quoting another prominent conservative: "there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know we don't know?' In the present day more than...


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