14 April 2007
Ghosts in the Graveyard
I am haunted.
By words and images that dance in my head. By remembered ghostly tales told on my grandmother's front porch by moonlight. By the occasional glimpse of a beloved, long-dead pet, still sunning herself in her usual spot by the window. By the voice of a loved one, calling my name on the edge of sleep.
As a native of North Carolina with ancestors stretching back into ancient Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Cornwall, I am haunted by history, by the words of great Southern writers, and by music of times long past. So it seems only fitting that I could sing before I could talk, and have been writing since I was old enough to hold a pencil.
Ghosts and ghost stories are a natural part of growing up Tarheel. From Murphy to Manteo, you can trace your way across the state following the trail of legends. I challenge you to find a North Carolina native-born who doesn’t know at least a dozen stories of haints, boogers, disembodies lights, and unexplained mysteries. Say the word “Croatoan” to a North Carolinian and watch their eyes light up. Before you know it, they’ll be telling you the whole story of the strange disappearance of the Lost Colony.
Even childhood games with my cousins leaned decidedly in a paranormal direction. We played a variation of tag called “Ghosts in the Graveyard.” And we really played it in a graveyard, because my ancestors are buried in unmarked graves along the edge of the tobacco fields beside my grandparents’ house. My sister is still convinced that a ghost from that graveyard slammed her Honda’s hatchback down on her head one dark, moonless night!
I asked my grandfather once if having graves so close to the house bothered him. He leaned back in his porch rocker and said placidly, “Nah. Dey rotten.” Ask him about the Haint Mule, though, and he’d shift uncomfortably and change the subject. My sister finally wormed the story out of him, about how he sold a particularly stubborn mule “down the river”, only to have its ghost come back to haunt him by repeatedly thundering around the house and keeping him awake at night.
My first published book, Beaudry’s Ghost, was born of a vacation trip that included Appomattox Battlefield and the most haunted coastline in America, the Outer Banks. Spirits of both these places began whispering in my ear. On the drive home, my brain began to play the writer’s game of “what if?” By the time I got home, a story was born of the ghost of a wrongly dishonored Union soldier seizing a chance for revenge during a modern-day Civil War re-enactment.
I could hold forth on for hours about the legends and lore that shaped me as a writer. But I will save those for another time. Wait’ll you hear the one about the Devil’s Tramping Ground. Hee!
For now, I’m off to watch another episode of “Supernatural” on DVD with my daughter. Well how about that. The title of this episode is... wait for it...
What regional ghost stories and supernatural legends do you remember from your childhood? Let's see who can raise those most hairs on the backs of our necks!
ABHAINN'S KISS, available now from SamhainPublishing.com.