UAlbany MagazineUniversity at Albany

David Pitkin, B.A.’59, M.A.’64

Mixing Mystery With History

By Carol Olechowski

Ghosts are ordinary beings whose stories deserve to be told. David Pitkin’s books give them a voice.

In the past dozen years, the retired history teacher has authored eight books, including the just-released New England Ghosts (Aurora Publishing, 2010). His first, Saratoga County Ghosts (Aurora, 1998), was inspired by stories Pitkin collected after having his first “ghost experience” in the hayloft of an old barn in the early 1970s. Learning shortly thereafter that a man had hanged himself in the barn 30 years before, Pitkin realized that he’d heard “this poor fellow taking his last walk over and over again.”

Saratoga County Ghosts did well, selling 5,000 copies and bringing Pitkin invitations to tell stories at libraries and schools. It also inspired leads for additional ghost stories.

When Pitkin receives a lead, he follows up with the tipster, then visits the building where the ghost lived or worked. Sometimes, the current property owner invites him inside. Pitkin tries to learn as much as he can about the ghost. He does research on the Internet, using Google and Wikipedia; visits libraries and museums; and chats with local historians. To date, the Chestertown, N.Y., resident has interviewed nearly 1,400 people.

Ghosts don’t frighten Pitkin. Rather, he views their existence as “a whole other dimension to history” that has instilled in him “a strong faith in the continuity of life after death. Life goes on. Ghosts are the best proof of that.”

Visit David Pitkin online at

The World Within Reach

Beth Riley, M.S.W.’99, and Mitchell Rosenwald have published Advocating for Children in Foster and Kinship Care, a Guide to Getting the Best Out of the System for Caregivers and Practitioners. This book provides strategies for effective advocacy and placement within the foster care and kinship care systems. Riley is the cofounder of BCFOCUS, a multiagency collaboration working with foster and adoptive families.