On Researching and Historical Accuracy
Posted: 19th June 2015
So an interesting discussion popped up on the discussion thread about the Enchanted Forest theme park yesterday on my Abandoned America Facebook page: several of the sources that I used to pull facts about the park state that it is the second oldest theme park - not amusement park, as they've been around for much longer - in the US, just after Disneyland. I linked to several of them in the discussion thread of yesterday's post (the most prominent, I believe, is the book "Maryland Legends: Folklore from the Old Line State". However, as some people pointed out, there are other theme parks such as Frontier Town, Storytown USA, and Knott's Berry Farm, that may predate them both.
This, to me, poses an interesting topic: the accuracy of historical facts. Certainly I can't be an expert in all things, so I rely on source documents - which I have always been happy to share when people question the statements I make about places. This is, in my opinion, one of the most important things about being honest: accepting that people question things because they want to learn more, and being willing to show them how you did your work to get the conclusions you arrived at. Anyone who doesn't do that is someone you should frankly be very skeptical of. One book of haunted house photos, for example, was questioned by a blog writer, because with good reason, she believed that all of the histories had been fabricated. Rrather than responding with anything backing up the material, the author threatened her - this would be a good example where someone, rather than substantiating their claims, attacks the person questioning them. Not a good sign.
Even if you are referencing and sourcing things as accurately as you can, mistakes are going to be made. You, as a writer, might substitute a word (hour for minute, for example) and not notice it. You may be referencing something that has an incorrect fact. It happens. The important thing is that you're open to the discussion and admit you are not infallible. I am actually really happy when people are able to help me improve the details listed about the sites I write about. You'll notice that periodically an EDIT note will appear when new information comes to light that I feel is important to add. One fun example of this was the before/after shots of Mount Moriah I posted online two days ago (below). One of the commenters said they were from different angles and for about half a day I thought they were right and had an EDIT mentioning that on the photo description, then got home and looked at the originals and realized they were in fact the exact same angle based on some barely visible text on one side of the grave. I was right! But it still needed mentioned when I was unsure.
I'm not always right, nor would I ever claim to be. If you have something that adds to or calls into question something in the historical information about a place on my website, my promise to you is that I will treat it with the respect it is presented with, and do my very best to find the most accurate solution. I would hope that if you were in a similar position you'd do the same for me. After all, if you enjoy learning about and sharing the past, you're not competing with other people, you're working together, taking in the differing perspectives and doing your best to collect them into the most informed whole possible. You never get to a place where you're completely correct, you just keep walking towards it as best you can, even though it's always off in the distance. Thanks for the input on the Enchanted Forest, the website has been updated to reflect it.
Photograph and text by Matthew Christopher of Abandoned America. To visit the Enchanted Forest gallery on my website, follow this link. If you're interested in more Abandoned America blogs, follow this link. If you enjoy my writing, check out my books: Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream (Amazon / Barnes & Noble) or Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences (Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Signed copies).