Friday, November 4, 2016

A Catch-Up Post: Storytelling, Ghosts, History

So, where to start? October was, as usual, a whirl of storytelling. We mixed in some family time too.

We had been home only a few days before my first storytelling performance of the month at Ripley Middle School. This was the 6th year I have been to the school to share West Virginia stories and ballads with the 8th grade class. It is always such a pleasure to see how interested the students are in the folklore, history, and traditions of our state.

A few days later I left for several days of storytelling in central West Virginia. I started with a ghost stories program in historic Philippi, WV, home of the first land battle of the Civil War (more of a skirmish, some claim), the two-lane covered bridge originally built by bridge builder Lemuel Chenoweth, and the Philippi Mummies.

What a great place for ghost stories. A gentleman who attended took me out to see some places that were supposedly haunted in the area, and he told me a good story from his family's history that he would like me to include in my repertoire. Working on it!

I left Philippi and headed to Jackson's Mill WVU Conference Center for the 20th annual West Virginia Storytelling Festival. This festival has had its ups and downs but seems to be on solid footing now with two days full of school children and an evening concert for the public. This year saw more schools than in the past, with well over 1000 attending both days.

As soon as I got home we were into making apple butter with our family. Two sons and some of their families came to help. We had a beautiful day for it!

Each year it seems to be easier, less work and more fun.

It was a good return for our time, and everyone had apple butter to take home.

I spent the following week preparing for the third annual Ripley Believe It or Not Lantern Walk. It was so good to have the luxury of a clear week to review, research and prepare the stories for this year. While some are repeats (and favorites of the listeners) I add new details each year as well as new stories and historical anecdotes to keep the walk fresh. 

This year I visited the two cemeteries in town, finding graves of the early settlers and other people who figure in my stories.

The Early Settlers Cemetery is filled with history, and there are many unmarked graves here.
 I liked the way my shadow played between these two matching stones.
The grave of Henry Progler, a Swiss immigrant who was
one of the early movers and shakers in Ripley.

I also visited the library to read old newspapers on microfilm and review some books and a unique scrapbook. This book has an interesting history--I'll write more about it in a later post. 

This old photo from the scrapbook shows the covered bridge (no longer in existence). I had not seen a photo this old of Ripley, and it has some fascinating details, like the paling fence around the courthouse.

The ghost walk was a blast, with very good attendance. The first night was cold and rainy, but 16 people came to take the walk and hear the stories anyway. I was soaked to the knees when we finished, and it took a while to warm up.

The second night was brisk and clear, and about 130 people came out. It was a huge crowd to shepherd through the streets and keep organized, as well as stay within a reasonable timeframe and keep all the stories and details straight in my head. The actors from the local acting group did a standout job portraying various historic figures. It was one more successful year for the walk, and I am already working on stories for next year.

More catch-up in my next post!

1 comment:

Deb Del said...

Exciting and interesting post as usual! Now that we are friends and I follow your blog, I'm going to attend the ghost walk next year!

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