It’s Time for a Ghost Story

By , October 11, 2011 5:33 pm

As Halloween approaches, the crisp night air stirs inside us a curiosity for the unknown. Here at the University Press our minds have wandered into the realm of ghosts and goblins. Three workers at the Press recall what makes ghost stories so interesting to them:

 

April Loebick explains how ghost tales are deep-rooted in her family:

My grandfather was a master story teller. One of his favorites was the story of Grey Toe. He told it to us grandchildren many times, and when I was really young, it scared me to pieces. Since then, I’ve seen the story adapted into a collection of short stories, Scary Stories to tell in the Dark, Collected and retold by Alvin Schwartz. The story is “The Big Toe” and it is the first one of the collection. I, myself, have retold the story of Grey Toe numerous times, each time, making sure I grab the entranced listener at just the right time to produce that extra element of spookiness that I learned from my grandfather.

I owe my love of ghost and other scary stories to both my grandparents on my mother’s side. When we went camping once with my grandmother, we were gathered around the campfire (like you should be for any ghost story). She told of a ghost dog that would visit her at night when she was visiting a certain relative. It would sit at the end of her bed and guard her through the night. She could feel its presence and even see it, but when she went to pet it, her hand passed right through the form of the black dog. My Grandmother was never one to lie. I believed her, and still believe.

I don’t get to listen to my grandparents’ stories anymore. They both passed away several years ago, but the legacy lives on. I love my ghost stories and indulge in them often. Everytime I go on a vacation, I try to look for a book on local ghost stories, especially if I’m in the South or in Appalachia.

 

Chris Griffith connects our society through the common link of supernatural interests:

With the autumn season upon us, and Halloween quickly approaching, feelings of change and mystery fill our heads. Come October 31st, everything may not quite be as it seems to the innocent eye. With the growing anticipation of that final day of October, traditions of carving an evil face into a pumpkin, eating an apple covered in caramel, and planning a costume for a fall party will soon commence. With these social ties also comes a love for a popular genre of literature. Ghostly myths and legends are some of the most powerful styles of stories, and due to their influence on the imagination they have the ability to be appreciated generation after generation for their fantastical qualities. The tradition of sitting around a camp fire on a dark night, and taking turns sharing ghost stories with friends is a memory that many individuals can say they have experienced. Whether you frighten your audience or not, the reciprocal gift that comes as a result of a good rendition of a ghostly tale will always keep the love alive for a supernatural story.

One of the most notable and enjoyable features of a quality ghost story is its tendency to change and be open completely. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, where the antagonist, a headless horseman thought to be an American Revolutionary War casualty, rides his horse through a town in search of his head which he lost in battle. The unnamed horseman terrorizes the protagonist, Ichabod Crane, who vanishes mysteriously from town after several visits from the anonymous culprit. The story hinges itself on the conflict between Crane, a superstitious school teacher, and a man by the name of Abraham Van Brunt, who competes with Crane for the love of a farmer’s daughter. Washington Irving, author of the legend, leads the reader to believe that the headless horseman must be Van Brunt, who characterizes a mischievous troublemaker; however, Irving is smart to not offer a clear ending, allowing the tale to be told again and again, with the hope that the legend’s mystery will enthrall all its future audiences the same way it did with its first telling.

 

Kelley Spurlock relates how her childhood interests in ghost tales have followed her into adulthood:

Ghosts, spirits, haunts. Whatever you want to call them, they’ve always held a place in my heart. It may have started with my mom. Whenever we we traveled to a new town she would always search out a ghost-tour. In a group the tour guide would wind us up and down backstreets, telling us stories we never would have heard otherwise. They would point out the place where the general is sometimes seen pacing, or where the heartbroken girl is heard wailing. Places like Gettysburg and Williamsburg can captivate a child’s imagination and I was no exception.

Every city had its own people and its own stories, and I wanted to know more. I wanted to hear the stories of the people who had left their bodies but not the earth. Wherever we went I started to collect ghost story books. I would read them until the cover started to crack and the pages had become worn. It was an interest that seemed to be deep-rooted in me. Maybe it just came from the human curiosity to want to know about the things that are beyond us. These were things that were out of the human grasp, but I wanted to grasp them anyway.

And as fall closes in and the air becomes crisp and wraps its cool arms around us, its time to open those ghost stories again. Maybe its the falling leaves or the approaching winter, but fall always rekindles those childhood interests and pleasures.

 

 

 

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