Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ghost stories

In Haunted Providence, Rory Raven talks of his penchant for collecting ghost stories. Even though he is very much a skeptic, he enjoys the tales people share. He sees ghost stories as a "gateway" to spur interest in history.

He also touches on the impact our beliefs have on the volume and impact of ghost stories in a culture. In discussing Native Americans (and he admits this is a generalization and is not based on knowledge of all tribes):
"Most tribes have a tradition of feeling very connected to the spirits of their ancestors in general. This tradition is often a source of great comfort and even strength. Their spirits are there to help, not to haunt."

Raven has found little evidence of Native ghost stories prior to the arrival of the white man. After their first encounters with Europeans, ghost stories increased - where ancestors returned to warn their kin of the danger and evil of the whites.

This fascinates me - how would a different perspective on death, a different perspective on what, if anything lies after, and different encounters change what we share? That needs more thought and another post.

Ghost stories thrill me. Partly because I love the idea that something unexplained and funky is out there. Partly because of the personal histories they reveal - the personalities of those who once occupied (and maybe still do) a certain spot. They give depth to a building more than the 5 senses can reveal. And partly because of the oral tradition they represent. Gathering around the campfire and scaring each other exercises our minds, our imaginations, and brings us closer to the people we're sharing with.

So pull up a stool, and let's tell tales. To start, let me tell you about an apartment I lived in ...