In the About the Author section of Tom Dresser’s latest book, Ghosts of Martha’s Vineyard, the author gives a quick account of his love for Martha’s Vineyard. A lifelong historian, he has written 12 books since retiring to the Island, all centered around Vineyard history.

Each book deals in facts but for his latest book Mr. Dresser has pivoted to a subject where fact is in the eyes and ears of the beholder. From spectral images sipping mugs of ale by the fireplace, to small children drowned centuries ago who continue to walk the grounds of windswept yards, the stories are not anchored in precise proof. But the sheer volume of bumps in the night and apparitions floating about effectively raises the question of who exactly was that standing in the doorway watching me while I slept last night.

Mr. Dresser acknowledges Holly Nadler, whom he refers to as the Ghost Lady of Martha’s Vineyard, on his own journey with the spirited inhabitants of Martha’s Vineyard. But he quickly carves out his own niche among the tombstones, creating a book that is part hair raiser and part comfortable journey through the Island’s past. The book travels amiably from town to town, anchoring most of the ghost stories to historical reality. Take the case of Old Joe, currently haunting the Dukes County Jail in Edgartown.

“Jail records indicate an inmate named Joe hanged himself on the site in 1950,” Mr. Dresser writes.

Not much more is known about the life of Old Joe, but in death he is still quite active, wreaking havoc with the lights, turning the radio on and typing late into the night.

In the olden days each town was required by colonial laws to have a tavern so travelers would have a place to dine. These old inns became fertile grounds for ghosts, Mr. Dresser writes, due to the sheer number of people passing through. Some of them are still there today, like Helen in room 307 of the Kelley House, waiting for her husband to return from sea.

For this story Mr. Dresser interviewed a number of employees at the Kelley House, including Robyn Joubert.

“Helen is a presence,” Ms. Joubert told him. “We know she’s around, but we are not afraid . . . I never feel uncomfortable. Over the past 10 years I’ve felt Helen’s presence. One time I saw her by the fireplace. Her dress was a bluish glow. Once we put brass candlesticks over the fireplace. I know Helen would not approve. I said, ‘she’s not going to like that.’ Just like that all the candlesticks fell of the mantel and onto the floor.”

It is a familiar refrain throughout the book, that the ghosts are part of the fabric of Island society, whether at a tavern, home or nearby graveyard. And while they may show their disapproval in small ways they are not something to fear. But they are restless.

From Edgartown to Aquinnah, to the Oak Bluffs Camp Ground and the old Marine Hospital in Vineyard Haven (now the site of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum) ghosts are tending to their needs, which in most cases result from the unfinished business of traumatic deaths. In the old days, before cemeteries became popular resting spots for loved ones, people were buried in the backyard, Mr. Dresser writes. So it may not be skunks or deer nibbling flowers out there, just beyond the perimeter of the manicured lawn. It might just be great, great, aunt Clara returning to do a bit of laundry.

Jim Powell, a resident of West Tisbury, is often called upon to look into unwanted visitors.

“Jim said he acts almost as a minister,” Mr. Dresser writes.

“I encourage the entity to move on,” Mr. Powell says in the book. “I talk with them. It’s like an exorcism. I come in and pray. They seem to have a visitor in their house, but they don’t want them.”

But of course many visitors won’t leave, like the ghostly typist feverishly hammering away at the keys at the Luce homestead in Chilmark. But Mr. Dresser stresses that ghosts are not here to exact revenge. Instead, they are mostly watching and waiting and wandering about, trying to complete their story in order to escape the limbo between life and death. Mr. Dresser encourages readers to seek them out, to go on their own ghost tours and to be kindly representatives of the living. After all, who knows what might await us in the afterlife.

“Ghosts are not dangerous; they’re struggling to complete their lives, to extricate themselves from whatever trauma killed them,” the author writes. “Ghosts need our help, not our fears.”

Mr. Dresser will have a busy Halloween, hosting in-person book talks at The Christopher in Edgartown at 1 and 4 p.m., and at the Carnegie in Edgartown at 3 p.m. At 6 p.m. he will have a Zoom book talk via the Chilmark Library. Ghosts of Martha’s Vineyard is for sale at Bunch of Grapes Bookstore, Phillips Hardware and Edgartown Books. Or contact the author at