Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ghost Stories: Looking for a Scare...

I've been invited to tell ghost stories in Athens, Alabama at the Athens Storytelling Festival on October 30th. I tell a lot of ghost stories and have many in my story bag.

But I'm thinking, why not look for something new to tell? I have time to develop a new story, almost two months.

Last night I started in on my collection of ghost story books and folk history books that I thought might have a tale or two. I found some interesting ideas:

In "History of Monroe County West Virginia" by Oren F. Morton there were several tantalizing references; one to a grave in which the corpse was buried vertically (standing up), another to a home about which the author said he'd heard many ghost stories, noting that the "harnt's"could be the ghosts of slaves buried beneath the creek bank. But that was all he said. Now the stories are probably lost because this book was published in 1916. Those who knew the stories are gone, unless by chance they passed the tales on to others.

In Jim Comstock's West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia, he tells the story of the Rich Mountain ghost, a Civil War ghost story that while spooky, isn't scary enough for my needs.

Then I found a Scottish story about a crying baby in the night, and its ghostly mother; several Scottish accounts of visits from water-horses, strange beings that rise from the water and drag people below the surface to eat them.

There was a strange tale from the Gulf Coast of the United States about a greedy ship captain and ghostly harp music that brought his doom, and several about witchcraft and its effects.

I am still searching. One of these stories may still be the one I develop, but the pile of books still to be looked through is still tall, and there may yet be something that jumps out at me as "the" story to tell. Which is not meant as a pun! That is how it works, as any storyteller can tell you. A story is heard or read and it sparks something in the teller's imagination that says, "Yes. This one is for me to tell." (Which in itself is kinda spooky, now I think about it.)

Somewhere I have read a story about a slave woman who uses a spell to hide her husband in a pine tree so he won't be sold away from her. It's an eerie tale. Perhaps I'll stumble on it again. It has remained in my mind, a tale too powerful to forget.

So I am still searching. Maybe tonight the story will be there, buried in the pages of a book published in 1890-something.

A ghostly legend haunting the pages, waiting for me to open the book.

I hope.

If you have a ghost tale to tell, I'd love to hear it.

(I suppose the festival will update its web page soon--it's still showing Lyn Ford, a fantastic teller from Ohio who was the ghost stories teller last year.)

Now back to the kitchen. This weekend is grapes and elderberries again, potatoes to dig and roosters and turkeys to prepare for the freezer. We'll see how much of these tasks we accomplish.


DGranna said...

As I research my ancestry in the area of now Pocahontas County, WV, I find this story. All the people in the following story are names that wind in and out of our family history, though not directly related. The Edray area, Stony Creek, home of Drinnon's as well as my Griffin family, and Knapps Creek are still found on the map of the area.

Found in Price's "Historical Sketches of Pocahontas County" (Full transcription on Google Books pg 416)
"John Drinnon, son of Lawrence was a soldier in the War of 1812 and was in camp near Norfolk when he died of measles. At that time, Wm. Gay, Sr. was a youth and,
coming home from the mill on Knapps Creek, came to a gate when his horse suddenly stopped. There by the gate he saw John Drinnon, wrapped in a blanket, and seemed to be taking his rest, but, before Wm. could speak to him, the horse started off at headlong speed. He went into Josiah Brown's & told the family he had seen John Drinnon on his way home, and now they would hear news from the war. Upon going to Drinnon's however, it was found that he had not come in. The whole matter remained a mystery until David Cochran & John Flemmens returned from the war bringing the news of Drinnon's death in Norfolk. Upon comparing the time of his decease with the time Gay saw the apparition at the side of the road, there was a striking coincidence."

Granny Sue said...

What a story, DGranna. Thank you for sharing it. I come upon such stories in my research, in places that are not ghost story collections, but family and local histories.

I can imagine how the young man felt when he heard the news.

Angela said...

Cool! How exciting to get to go to Alabama to tell ghost stories that close to Halloween.

I've been reading a lot of post about Elderberries and I had to google them because I didn't know what they were. I'm still not sure if there are any where I live or not but I am facinated with Elderberries after I read that they help cure the flu! So I am now on my quest to find black elderberry extract. They are also saying that it helps with sinus problems and that is one of my main complaints. They didn't have any at WalMart, Target or RiteAid. Have you heard of this?

Granny Sue said...

Angela, elderberries are widespread in West Virginia, and grow all down the east coast and ito the midwest and Texas. I usually spy out a bush when it's in bloom in May or June--they are very easy to see then with their large clusters of white flowers. Then I know where to go back to get the berries in August.

I knew that elderberries were a good source of vitamin C and that native Americans used them medicinally for many purposes. In Stalking the Wild Asparagus Euell Gibbons discussed their medicinal purposes and gave a few recipes.

When I look online for information like this, I try to find a university's site because I trust their research. I found this one for you this afternoon: This is a good article on elderberries and has an excellent picture of the berries.

Marilyn said...

Hi, Sue, I think the story you're remembering is "Po' Sandy" from The Conjure Woman and Other Conjure Tales by Charles Chesnutt. It really is a chilling tale. I've never told it in a performance, but maybe one of these days. . . .

Granny Sue said...

Thank you, Marilyn! I will look for it. I was thinking I'd seen it in a Zora Neale Hurston book; you've saved me some time researching.

Patty said...

I have lots of ghost stories on my paranormal blog, your welcome to use any of them you want if they are of interest to you.
Just check them out at

Jason Burns said...

GSue - one of the most gruesome ghost stories I've heard lately is of the Red-headed man who was killed on Dorsey's Knob in Morgantown. I wrote about it on my blog.

There must be something in the air, too. Because in the last week I've gotten five new ghost stories from WV - which piles my legion up to 493!

These include a ghostly fireman in Morgantown, a ghost in the WVU art department, a haunted lock house (as in lock and dam), a haunted convent/catholic school in Wheeling, and another haunted (and abandoned) sanitarium in Wheeling.

I'll look through the stack I have to find a really gruesome tale for you. There are so many I have to keep writing them down or I forget them.

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