The Ghostway (1984)

The Ghostway (1984)

chindi hogan

In Navajo culture, when a person dies inside a hogan, the traditional Navajo house, it is believed that the person’s spirit, known as “chindi,” can remain trapped in the built structure and potentially cause ghost-sickness, an affliction that can manifest in physical or mental illness. Because the Navajo take great care to avoid any contact with dead bodies and the deceased person’s possessions, generally when people are nearing the moment of death they are brought outside of the hogan to die in the open, which will release the chindi into world to disperse. In the case that someone does die indoors, the dwelling must then be vacated and abandoned, and the family constructs a new hogan elsewhere. In order to enable the release of the lingering chindi in the old hogan, a hole is created in the northern wall of the hogan. This hole also functions as a mark indicating that the structure is contaminated by death and is never to be inhabited again.

airflow trailer

Likely a reference to an Airstream Trailer, a famous aluminum luxury vehicle produced by Airstream INC. from the 1930s to the present. Airstream was the brainchild of Wally Byam, who, in the 1920s, created a trailer in his backyard out of tent materials and a car chassis. This sparked massive interest from other holiday-goers, and Byam began to manufacture camping trailers for the mass use. The initial design included a living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. Airstream was one of the only trailer companies to survive both the Great Depression of the 1930’s and World War II. Today these iconic trailers are still widely used, to the point where there are groups that share their love for these trailers and call themselves Airstreamers.


In the early days of the telephone, calls had to be connected manually by inserting two phone plugs into specific ports, one from the caller and one for the called, in a panel called the switchboard. Switchboards were located in central locations, and a system of phone lines was managed by a switchboard operator.

funeral home

A funeral home, sometimes referred to as a mortuary, is a funeral service agency that specializes in planning and conducting burials, cremations, and memorial services. This includes preparing the body of the deceased for the funeral, helping the family choose a casket or an urn, as well guiding the selection of music and flowers, and arranging transportation to the cemetery.


The English word "taboo" originates in the Tongan term tapu, or the Fijian tabu. The term was originally translated into English as "consecrated, inviolable, forbidden, unclean or cursed." A taboo is generally a vehement prohibition of an action based on the belief that such behavior is either too sacred or too objectionable for ordinary individuals to undertake. Such prohibitions are agreed upon in a given society and often are understood as transgressions that are subject to punishment from the gods or other supernatural beings. Taboos are present in virtually all societies, and many are shared throughout the world, although the 19th-century psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud suggested that incest and patricide were the only two universal taboos. According to recent research, however, while similarities do exist, there is no such thing as a universal taboo, and each cultural group has its own set of rules pertaining to acceptable and unacceptable behaviors.


A native plant to the U.S. Southwestern regions, the yucca is a member of the agave family, characterized by stiff, sword-like leaves. In the center of the yucca plant grow its long spikes that carry clusters of white, bell-shaped flowers. There are over forty species of yucca, and the indigenous peoples of the Southwest have a long history of utilizing the plant's thick, strong fibers in woven textiles and cords. Although woven yucca textiles are no longer in use, the cords remain vital elements in rituals. The Zuni people, for example, use these cords to tie prayer plumes and wands. The pulp and sap of the plant can also be used as a soap, especially for hair washing.

The yucca flower is the state flower of New Mexico.

tribal jail

Tribal jails are correctional systems maintained by individual tribes and sovereign nations as part of their own Public Safety Departments or Departments of Corrections. As with non-tribal jails, tribal jails are locally-run short-term holding facilities, whereas prisons, at the state and federal levels, are detention centers for those serving longer sentences.

The Navajo system currently maintains several adult and juvenile correctional facilities. The correctional facilities in the Navajo Nation were established under the Navajo government in the 1990’s but there were federally-funded tribal jails built on the reservation in the 1960’s to the 1970’s. New facilities and associated services and infrastructure continue to be built around the reservation, adding to the original tribal jail in Window Rock. Navajo Nation jails can now be found in Tuba City, Crownpoint, and Kayenta, with plans for adding jails in Chinle and Ft. Defiance.

Shiprock Sub-agency, Shiprock, New Mexico

The Navajo nation is split into seven districts, each with a field station. These stations include Window Rock, Arizona (1); Shiprock, New Mexico (2); Crownpoint, New Mexico (3); Tuba City, Arizona (4); Chinle, Arizona (5); Kayenta, Arizona (6); and Dilkon, Arizona (7). Each district is commanded by a Police Captain/Police Lieutenant, who ensures that the district is run properly and is in charge of the criminal investigations, patrol, and support. The Shiprock sub-agency is located in San Juan County, New Mexico. This sub-agency is one of the three locations in the Navajo Reservation with a correctional facility.

In Tony Hillerman’s novels Navajo detective novels, this sub-agency headed by Captain Largo and is Jim Chee’s headquarters.

Shiprock formation, New Mexico

A volcanic rock formation located in San Juan County, New Mexico, on the Navajo Nation Reservation. The actual rock is approximately 10 miles southwest of the town that was named after it, Shiprock. This formation, known to the Navajo as tse bida’hi, meaning “winged rock,” is approximately 1,400 feet in height. The English name “Ship Rock” was coined by Captain J.F. McComb from the U.S. Geologic Survey in 1860 due to its resemblance to a 19th century clipper ship.

In Navajo mythology, this dramatic rock formation is the home of Rock Monster Eagle (Tsé nináhálééh). In some stories, the Rock Monster Eagle swooped down to carry people to the precipice of the formation in order to feed his nestlings. As the tale goes, Monster Slayer killed the Rock Monster Eagle and transformed his children into the ancestors of the golden eagle and the owl.

horse trailer

A trailer specifically designed for hauling two or more horses behind a vehicle. It can also be adapted to carry feed, equipment, and to even heat or cool the animals inside.


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