It was ghost stories night at the Majestic Theatre in downtown Chillicothe, Ohio.
Friday night: clouds skittered across the sky as the moon rode, almost full, behind them.
Chillicothe is an old city, the first capital of Ohio, with a rich history and a tradition of ghostly tales that has been in place long before there were people called storytellers coming to tell tales. This year I was one of six tellers invited to share a ghost story during the Southern Ohio Storytelling Festival. There were other stories Thursday evening and all day Friday, of course, and on into Saturday. We got there in time to hear some of our favorite storytellers tell, greet friends and enjoy the lovely park setting at the Pump House by the river.
Then it was time to head over to the Majestic. I went early just to feel the history and the past of the place. The setting was perfect for ghost stories--a quiet street, an arching neon sign glowing red in the darkness, the moon flitting in and out of the clouds.
I watched her for some time, enjoying the juxtaposition of moon and neon and old buildings. Then I ventured inside.
The stage was lit up and ready for us--and the air, apparently, full of orbs. They certainly showed up in my camera anyway (click the photo to see it in a larger format; you should be able to see the orbs then). Some people believe that orbs indicate the presence of spirits. Whether you believe that or not, there are many stories about ghosts being sighted in the theater along with other odd occurrences. A man in top hat and tails, for instance, is said to stroll the isles from time to time.
I don't know if we disturbed any spirits, but we told some fine tales. There was an obligatory "vanishing hitchhiker" story, a jump tale with a funny ending, a strange tale of conjure and magic from the days of slavery, a literary tale by H.G. Wells, and one teller told an original story she had written. I sang a ballad and told the story of Big John, a coal miner who died in the mines and supposedly came back to save his brothers.
I learned during the evening that Chillicothe hosts a ghost walk and I do believe I might have to return to this pretty town and see what other spirits may linger in its historic buildings.