I am finishing up my first draft of my next book, which will be an Outer Banks follow up to my book Haunting The Outer Banks. I thought it would be another interesting fun piece, like the first one, but I found that it was hard to locate thirteen new ghost stories along the coast. I wanted only paranormal, the great ghosts, spooks, monsters, and witches that permeated the coast of about a hundred years ago. I wasn’t going to do the historical legends just yet. That’s another book, and one I will start soon. Maybe later this week, even.
But one of the things I discovered, well, two things, were these. First, the ghosts stories that go past the usual haunted houses or Blackbeard walks the beach tales are hard to find. I really had to go deep to find some stories. And I was surprised at how they were right there, but not told. The same ghost stories get told, over and over, and there are these others, the Hatteras Island Fiddler and the Polly Poiner witch especially come to mind, that I had never heard, even though I grew up on the coast. I still am not entirely sure how to approach those stories for the book.
Which goes to my next discovery. I’ve seen this recently, in multiple locations and legends, all across the state. There are people who get really worked up over a ghost tale. Yes, it is important to me to get the facts and history right. Those of you who read Did You See That Ghost? know exactly what I mean. In that book, I told the legends and stories, but in an appendix I created “The Rest Of The Tale…”, where I explained the real history behind some legends, how the ghost story didn’t match up with the real history, or how some tales just got mixed together into a new and different legend. I wanted to acknowledge both the myth, meaning the story being told that is based on a real event but has grown past the facts, and the reality, that some of these tales are just made up and are part of our imagination. And I didn’t want to ruin the tale by putting the two together.
But some people really, really, don’t like it when you change any part of the tale that they know.
It’s when a classic, well known story is put forth, I’ve gotten this horrified “Oh no! That’s not a ghost! It’s not that person, what are you talking about?! I know all about this!” And I get that. Yes, some stories become personal, and I try very hard to avoid those.
One of my neighbors told me about going on a ghost walk where the presenter spoke about a house, haunted by the ghost of the owner, a prominent figure in the town at one time. That his ghost has appeared in the window, right there. While she kept quiet, another person on the tour mentioned that it was her father’s house, and that he didn’t die there, and the place wasn’t haunted. She just laughed it off and kept going. She didn’t plan on ruining the moment, even if the story wasn’t true.
So, when I ask the people that get upset about a ghost legend, “Oh, so this place really isn’t haunted, huh? Just a story?” I get back double the incredulity. “Oh yes, it’s haunted!!! You set foot in there a ghost will tear you into little pieces! Who said it wasn’t haunted? You just got the story wrong!”
Which is where my title comes into play. Say it with me, fans…
”It’s a ghost story.”
Say it with a sigh.
Ghost tales are meant to give us the shivers, be something fun to talk about on a dark night. They no more promise us the facts than any other piece of fiction. A ghost tale is no more, but no less, true than Star Wars or Huckleberry Finn or The Odyssey. They give us a scare, and then give us comfort. We like ghost stories because we can say we survived them. We slept through the night in the haunted house. We made it to sunrise. That’s what they do for us, in a nutshell.
Who am I to spoil the fun?
I once had someone get rabidly mad over the Devil’s Tramping Ground, a famous roadside attraction near Siler City. He was just insistent, “It’s just an old salt lick!” to anyone who referred to the legend that the devil paced there at Midnight, and would kick out anything that was inside the barren circle. And I’m just thinking, “Like, I don’t think anyone actually believes that legend. It’s just an old story.” Let people enjoy it. Let them have some fun. But he wasn’t about fun.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to have an old story hurt you so bad that you have to become angry at anyone who enjoys it. Again, it’s a ghost story. With emphasis on story. It’s a tale. At least let everyone else have some fun.
Be on the lookout, fans. New book, maybe in April.