The Great American (Local) Ghost Story

Posted: October 20, 2017 in Entertainment, Horror, Movies, Needless Things
Tags: , , ,

“11:55, almost midnight. Enough time for one more story. One more story before 12:00, just to keep us warm. In five minutes, it will be the 21st of April. One hundred years ago on the 21st of April, out in the waters around Spivey Point, a small clipper ship drew toward land. Suddenly, out of the night, the fog rolled in. For a moment, they could see nothing, not a foot in front of them. Then, they saw a light. By God, it was a fire burning on the shore, strong enough to penetrate the swirling mist. They steered a course toward the light. But it was a campfire, like this one. The ship crashed against the rocks, the hull sheared in two, masts snapped like a twig. The wreckage sank, with all the men aboard. At the bottom of the sea, lay the Elizabeth Dane, with her crew, their lungs filled with salt water, their eyes open, staring to the darkness. And above, as suddenly as it come, the fog lifted, receded back across the ocean and never came again. But it is told by the fishermen, and their fathers and grandfathers, that when the fog returns to Antonio Bay, the men at the bottom of the sea, out in the water by Spivey Point will rise up and search for the campfire that led them to their dark, icy death. “

That is, of course, the opening to John Carpenter’s The Fog, and the late John Houseman doing one of the best versions of the traditional old man around the campfire telling ghost stories and scaring the spit out of the children type of character. Depending on how old you may be and where you grew up; that scene may have been something you actually grew up with in real life. Stories of the local spirits roaming the material plane just waiting for you to wander unknowingly into their path and become their victim were plentiful for many a generation’s upbringing. They were a part of our childhood, they were something that created the local color of a region, and they were a great deal of fun back in the day.

The local ghost story still exists even as it seems like the interconnectivity of the World Wide Web is making more and more ghost stories and paranormal urban legends less local in nature. However, even the old local stories, as much as I loved them, were originally really not quite as local as they seemed to us back then. As a matter of fact, the truth is that many of them were just variants of stories brought over from the old countries by settlers and immigrants and remade into a local legend. Some would start as stories from back in the home country, but, eventually, they would incorporate local settings and characters into their telling and end up being told by people who swore that they knew the sorry souls involved or knew the now old man or woman who knew those sorry souls way back then or witnessed it with their own eyes in their youth. Then the years of “witnesses” and “documented events” (sometimes complete with names, ranks, and serial numbers) would enter into the tale, and the story would become firmly rooted in the area you lived in.

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