The eerie music and lyrics to “Ghost in This House” will definitely break your heart and, at the same time, send shivers down your spine. This is especially true when you’re listening to Alison Krauss’s voice that pierces through you as she sings this heartbreak with haunted suffering.
The country band Shenandoah originally recorded “Ghost in This House” in 1990 at the height of their career, and it became the most gripping tune out of Shenandoah’s three-decade history. It did not only top out at No.5 on the Billboard Country Charts but also earned the group a Grammy nomination and a multitude of new fans.
Nine years later, bluegrass queen Alison Krauss recorded “Ghost In This House” on her album Forget About It, introducing a new generation of fans to the Shenandoah classic. She also won a Grammy for a collaboration with Shenandoah lead singer Marty Raybon.
The Chilling Story of Loneliness and Longing
Written by Hugh Prestwood, “Ghost In This House” sings about unrelenting loneliness and longing.
“I’m just a ghost in this house. I’m shadow upon these walls. As quietly as a mouse, I haunt these halls. I’m just a whisper of smoke. I’m all that’s left of two hearts on fire that once burned out of control. You took my body and soul. I’m just a ghost in this house,” the song goes.
Prestwood, who described himself as a slow, methodical writer, composed “Ghost In This House” after watching the old classic movie “The Grapes Of Wrath,” starring Henry Fonda. One scene that caught Prestwood’s attention was when the character named Muley told Tom Joad (Fonda) that he’s “just an old graveyard ghost. That’s all in the world I am.” Muley has just lost everything he owned and was broken and sad. Prestwood thought that might make an interesting idea for a song, and wrote it down in his “song ideas” journal.
About a year or so later, Prestwood’s wife got into a minor car wreck and suffered a lot for almost two months. This got Prestwod thinking, “What if this had been a really serious accident, and I had lost her?” It was a dreary night, and he started writing, composing lyrics, and began imagining this big house with only one light on upstairs, empty and quiet. It was then “Ghost In This House” was born.
The Slower and Heavier Version, The Way Prestwood Imagined It
After Shenandoah cut “Ghost In This House,” Prestwood revealed that he had envisioned a somewhat darker version than the way Shenandoah did it. Though he was pleased with the band’s rendition, thinking it was exactly right for radio airplay, he imagined the song to be much slower and heavier.
Finally, when Alison Krauss recorded it, Prestwood admitted that she took the song to where he initially thought he wanted it to go. Indeed, it became one of the most notable songs for the Grammy Award-winning artist.
Several years later, Alison Krauss performed at a White House event along with Brad Paisley. One of her song choices was “Ghost In This House,” and it received favorable reviews by The New York Times and The Washington Post, to which Prestwood thought was “kind of cool.”
Hear Alison Krauss perform “Ghost In This House” in the video below.