I grew up hearing ghost stories from my cousins. Maybe that has something to with how I turned out. This is a confession that I have made before, but still hesitate to bring forth. I am fascinated with the macabre. Also, that’s a beautiful word, macabre. It’s one of those words that sounds how it means. Anyway, I like ghost stories, mostly for their history. I like spooky tales and mysteries of history. I have a fondness for the darker forms of story telling. I am not so much into horror, actually. At least not modern day horror. I don’t want to watch people running around, being chased by an ax murderer. I don’t want to watch a demon possessed child spew green vomit as her head rotates 360. I just want some spooky history stories of dark and dreadful humanity. Old monster movies, on the other hand, are quite fun.
My favorite play that I did at Geneva was Spoon River. Based off of The Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters the play took the poems, each narrated by a resident of a fictional town’s local graveyard, and put them on the stage. Each cast member was given several parts to play and it was wonderful. I still have many of my parts memorized. The director, Mindy, dressed us in muted sepia tones, as if we’d stepped out of an old picture. Our costumes were simple and we switched characters by simply adding or subtracting a piece here and there; the rest was up to us. The poems are beautiful and tragic. It was a very dark play, the first of a year full of draining performances, but it was so worth it. Theodore the Poet was my favorite and my first piece. I wasn’t telling my own story, I didn’t even have a name, but I talked about a friend and his longing to understand people. I’m not sure I can really explain why I find it to be so beautiful, but you should definitely look it up and read it for yourself. I loved this play for every long lost human it allowed me to embody, even if they were fictional. I still have Theodore’s head stone in my room back at my parents’ place.
In early college I enjoyed watched Ghost Adventures with my friend Kylie. I’ll admit, I tried watching it again a while ago and it just wasn’t the same. In my younger days I did enjoy watching grown men running around a potentially dangerous building screaming about shadows and noises they may have heard. Do I believe they were ghosts? Not so much. But I do believe there are spirits in this world sent to do us harm and they were definitely messing with things they shouldn’t have been. Can’t handle that so much anymore, but I still like the history behind the places. Sanatoriums fascinate me especially, which I know is awful. These were places where people were sent to get better and instead were locked away, strapped to beds and treated like animals. They started out with such good intentions and fell apart so horrendously, it’s like watching a train wreck in reverse. So instead of watching grown men provoke evil spirits I switched to podcasts instead.
The two that have filled that gap in my entertainment are Lore, naturally, and Stuff You Missed in History Class. Lore is a podcast by Aaron Mahnke that talks about elements of horror and the history behind them. He has episodes on vampires, on haunted places, on tropes such as the ax as a murder weapon, and prominent examples of these elements. He’s probably my favorite to listen to as he gives a great mix of history and horror. I get the macabre elements I’m looking for and also the history I crave. Stuff You Missed in History Class is part of the Stuff You Should Know network and explores a wide range of historical topics, striving to bring attention to minorities and their histories as well as more main stream events that are often overlooked. I enjoy almost all of their episodes but my favorites are the darker parts of history that tend to come out around this time of year. Sometimes I go back and just listen through Octobers from the archives. They did a series of ghost stories at one point early on, I want to think, and a compilation episode of most haunted historical places. I’m pretty excited to see what they do this year.
My husband doesn’t like graveyards the way I do. He sees them very differently. He looks at the markers and thinks about how many of those people died without knowing Christ and it makes him very sad. I understand that, and it is a very sad thought, but when I look at the markers I see a life that was. I love that there is a marker there to commemorate that life, that I can look at them and know the name of someone who existed and had a story of their own. I might not know what that story was, but I know their name at least, and that’s something. I think it’s beautiful to remember those who came before; to be among so many memories. There are a lot of beautiful old cemeteries around us. I’d love to take a walk in them this year, and bring Spoon River with me, which I’ve been saying for the past three years, but still. I was quite disappointed I didn’t get to be part of the photo shoot for Spoon River in one of the local cemeteries, but my costume wasn’t ready. I would really love to go out in my wedding dress sometime and get pictures taken among the older stones. I feel like it would be quite hauntingly beautiful, with the leaves and all. But that requires finding someone who has the same macabre sensibilities as me, and that’s not as common as one might think. Ah well. I hope that you will enjoy this season of spooky entertainment, and have a lovely day, my friends.