ANSS Subject and Bibliographic Access Committee
Question/Answer on cataloging issues – March 2016
Question: What are the subject headings that we can use to find materials about ghosts, vampires, and zombies?
Submitted By: Tom Durkin, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Liminality, a state of existence on the border between cultural categories, is a condition that is of longstanding interest to anthropologists, folklorists, and social scientists. Within the realm of myth and folklore there are liminal entities between life and death that might be commonly grouped as “the undead.” Some familiar English words for such entities are ghosts, vampires, and zombies, although there are many words for similar beings around the world. These mythological and folkloric entities continue to fascinate story tellers, audiences, and those who analyze the belief systems and rituals that incorporate them. When assisting patrons, we have many options at our disposal for identifying and locating relevant works. The list of terms below is chosen to represent the terms usually applied to anthropological and folkloric works and not works of fiction; however, the boundaries between them are fittingly ambiguous.
Ghosts: The apparent primary and most common LC Subject Heading for works about ghosts is “Ghosts.” It can be subdivided geographically and topically.
There are a number of common topical subdivisions that may be useful for searching for more specific materials. Some are listed here, and additional similar useful subdivisions are listed below under Vampires and Zombies.
There are a number of similar and related subject terms that focus on ghost story telling. The LCSH guidelines do not clearly indicate that these terms are to be applied to fictional stories or to folklore. The application of the terms evident from WorldCat indicates that the terms can be used for works of folklore and mythology as well as personal narratives of research subject’s reported belief in ghosts and their associated experiences. There are a large number of geographic variations for these terms.
There are certain types of liminal beings that are kinds of ghosts, or very similar to ghosts:
Apparitions. [Seems to include ghosts as well as religious apparitions or visions.]
Banshees. [A ghost or spirit from Irish folklore.]
Dybbuk. [A ghost or spirit from Jewish folklore.]
Llorona (Legendary character) [A ghost or spirit from Mexican folklore.]
Spirits. [Seems to include ghosts as well as demonic or nature spirits.]
There is a long list of typically haunted places, each with its own LC Subject Heading.
Haunted places. [The “broader term” for the terms listed below.]
Haunted houses. [“Here are entered works on places believed to be actually haunted.”]
There are subject terms related to ways that people have attempted to communicate with or otherwise interact with ghosts and spirits:
Vampires: The most commonly used LC Subject Heading for folklore related to vampires is “Vampires.” There are many geographic subdivisions, and a number of common topical subdivisions that may be useful for searching for more specific materials. These subdivisions can also be used with the terms for Ghosts and Zombies. Compared to ghosts, there is a surprising dearth of variety in vampire-related subject terminology.
There are two special subject terms related to legends of vampires and vampire-like beings. The first is for Vlad III, an historical figure also known as “Vlad the Impaler” or “Vlad Dracul.” The second is for the vampire-like creature from Latin American folklore known as a “chupacabra.”
There are a significant number of works related to vampires in German listed in WorldCat. The two subject terms below are not LC Subject Headings; they are headings from the German National Library. The first term shows up in WorldCat records regularly, the second rarely.
Zombies: In the case of works on zombies, they are primarily divided into two groups: works related to the analysis or interpretation of Haitian Vodou practices, and works about walking corpses, either folkloric or purely fictional. There are many topical subdivisions that may be useful for searching for more specific materials. These subdivisions can sometimes also be used with the terms for Ghosts and Vampires.
Materials related to Haitian Vodou and the folk belief in “zombiism” are frequently given these LC subject terms.
Bizango (Cult) [This appears to be a component of Haitian Vodou.]
Hoodoo (Cult) [This appears to be the North American version of Haitian Vodou.]
Vodou — Haiti. [The “complex subject” term.]
Materials related to walking or moving corpses are usually given the subject term “Zombies.” This term now appears to be used for both purely fictional and pop-culture zombies, as well as for folklore from around the world about animated corpses. There are a number of topical subdivisions which may be useful, as well as those listed above for Ghosts and Vampires.
Discerning folkloric and anthropological works from works of fiction: there is a voluminous body of fiction related to ghosts, vampires, and zombies. Many of these works of fiction are inspired by or even based directly on folklore. The boundary between folklore and fiction is somewhat fuzzy in this case, and depending on the research project that a patron is working on, they may be interested in both kinds of works.
Works of folklore or anthropology related to ghosts, vampires, and zombies can sometimes be identified by these subject terms below when they also occur with the terms listed in the sections above for ghosts, vampires, and zombies. As usual, these terms can be subdivided geographically and topically.
Ghouls and ogres. [This is listed as a “narrower term” below both “Vampires” and “Monsters.”]
Works of fiction related to ghosts, vampires, and zombies can sometimes be identified (and perhaps excluded from search results if needed) by these subject terms and topical subdivisions below. However, there appears to be some inconsistency in how these terms are applied to works of fiction. Meaning, a work of fiction may or may not be identified by these terms and subdivisions. This may be caused by the representation of the text (for example, works with “folklore” in the title are not treated as fiction, but works with “stories” in the title may be), or it might be a result of cataloging practices where catalogers do not apply subject headings to single works of fiction. Subject terms are usually only applied to collections of fiction.
Ghosts [or Vampires, or Zombies, etc.] — Drama.
Ghosts [or Vampires, or Zombies, etc.] — Fiction.
Ghosts [or Vampires, or Zombies, etc.] — Juvenile fiction.
Ghosts [or Vampires, or Zombies, etc.] — Juvenile literature.
Ghost [or Vampire, or Zombie, etc.] films.
Ghosts [or Vampires, or Zombies, etc.] in literature.
Ghosts [or Vampires, or Zombies, etc.] in mass media.
Ghosts [or Vampires, or Zombies, etc.] in motion pictures.
Ghosts [or Vampires, or Zombies, etc.] in popular culture.
Dracula, Count (Fictitious character)
Lestat (Vampire), 1760- — Fiction.
Stoker, Bram, 1847-1912.
Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, 1430 or 1431-1476 or 1477 — Fiction.