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The Law Is a White DogHow Legal Rituals Make and Unmake Persons$
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Colin Dayan

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691070919

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691070919.001.0001

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Holy Dogs, Hecuba’s Bark

Holy Dogs, Hecuba’s Bark

(p.1) 1 Holy Dogs, Hecuba’s Bark
The Law Is a White Dog

Colin Dayan

Princeton University Press

This introductory chapter explains that when ghosts come before the law, they are sometimes treated as if real insofar as they have legal effect. Indeed, for legal purposes—in cases of undue influence, defamation, or fraud—spectral emanations may become proof, just like any facts. On this bewitched ground, the fantastic and the commonplace intermingle. In the case of wills, especially, even when the law does not acknowledge the unique gifts of spiritualists, it sometimes admits as valid the communications of the dead. In numerous eighteenth- and nineteenth-century appellate cases, especially, courts sustained the wills of those advised by mediums channeling the wishes of deceased loved ones into the minds of believers. The chapter also looks at the story of Hecuba. Changed into a dog, at once mystified and historicized, ghostly and corporeal, Hecuba shows the interstices of human and animal, person and god, living and dead.

Keywords:   ghosts, spectral emanations, wills, appellate cases, Hecuba

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