Last night was ghost stories night in Sistersville, West Virginia. And what a night it was.
I'd been working on a program to bring to Sistersville as part of the Stories at the River's Edge project. My original plan was to have four tellers in different locations in the town, each telling a ghost story about the area and perhaps another story or two. People could walk from teller to teller to hear the tales, and would end up at the Wells Inn for refreshments and a last story about the hauntings in the Inn.
That plan did not work out. Why? I simply could not find storytellers available! And it turned out for the best anyway as the Wells Inn was booked for a wedding on the same weekend and would have been unavailable to us. I am still planning to do such an event--maybe next year?
Plan B was to have two storytellers to tell ghost stories at the Sistersville Library. A lot simpler to plan! And as it turned out, a very good plan indeed. Storyteller Jason Burns of Morgantown joined me at the library to tell ghost stories from all around West Virginia, with a focus on Tyler County (where Sistersville is located). Jason maintains the website West Virginia Spectral Heritage and has as wealth of knowledge and stories to share (even if he is a young whippersnapper, he knows his stuff!).
Librarian Heather Weekley planned some creepy refreshments like Witch's Fingers and such, and her husband decorated the library. And not simple jack-o-lantern decorations, either. Greg must have a huge personal collection because the library was completely spooky--zombie babies, talking portraits, creepy scarecrows, smoke, strange lights--you name it, he had it. The library looked spectacular--or rather, spooktacular. Granddaughter Grace came with me and took pictures. She's a great roadie to have along.
Jason and I decided to tell our stories in round-robin style-he'd tell one, and I'd follow with another, and so on. This worked very well as we swapped stories back and forth for 90 minutes. And you know, we'd only scratched the surface of the stories we could have told! An audience of about 40 or more people came to listen, mostly adults with 3 young boys and a few teenagers. It was a perfect group for the stories we told.
Sistersville has a colorful history and many stories attached to it. An oil and gas boom town in the early 1900's, the town had its share of violent deaths, drownings in the Ohio River, unexplained events (like a UFO in the early 1900's) and more. It also had more than its share of millionaires as people gained almost instant wealth if a well struck a good vein. Almost 100 oil companies once listed Sistersville as their home location, and at one time the shantyboats of workers were so thick along the shore that you could have walked a mile along the river without ever touch land or water. It's a fascinating place.
And a perfect place for storytelling.