Tuesday, October 7, 2008

October: The Creepy Month

Many of you are fans of Southern ghost stories and legends. This month, read a continuing series of articles that will showcase the best of these tales: from the legend of Cry Baby Bridge to spooky estates in Atlanta and onward to the sea with the Haunted Island of St. Simons.

Ghost stories were an ancient tradition, and told of visits to and from the other side of the grave, whereby heroes would learn of their destiny. The earliest known of ghost stories is The Epic Of Gilgamesh, written upon cuneiform tablets in the Akkadian language.

One of the most famous ghost stories was written by Homer and known as the Odyssey, while other reknown poets, such as Ovid and Vergil, also penned classic ghost stories. In fact, Pliny the Younger might have told one of the first ghost stories about a haunted house in 62 AD!

Ghost stories, whether modern or of old, all seem to tell similar stories about ghosts' tragedies, unfinished business, unrest, visitations, and hopeless roamings among the living. Ghost stories also sometimes share common ghostly messages of warning to aid those still alive, or tell of spirits with ill intentions, seeking revenge from those who wronged them in life. Some ghost stories truly enlighten, while other ghost stories paint a picture of hell to frighten!

Ghost stories have been popular for thousands of years, and people have various reasons for enjoying them, whether it's to learn something of the spirit world, or simply for a good scare. Ghost stories often reflect upon religious or spiritual beliefs concerning death and the afterlife. People naturally want to believe in and thus, read about the survival of the spirit upon the passing of the human body. Descriptions of ghosts in stories fascinate mankind, because one day we too will will be like them. So in reading ghost stories, we learn of ghostly conditions and appearances, enabling us to become somewhat enlightened with what our future may hold.

Many famous authors have written stories about ghosts, such as Shakespeare, Henry James, M.R. James, Dickens, Wakefield, Irving, Aickman and of course, Edgar Allen Poe. Today, Stephen King has carried on the tradition of ghosts, by telling stories through books, television, and even movies!

Beyond the masters who have written many a ghost story, lies cultural traditions and legends we share with one another. Many stories are passed down generations within families, never to be told to the world, yet these ghost stories are very personal and of greater meaning to many. The stories seem to evolve over time, though, as details are lost or forgotten. Yet, it seems almost every family, everywhere has some sort of good ghost story hidden somewhere in their history.

Ghost stories can be fiction or true, but usually include a haunting or experience with a ghost. Stories about ghosts are found within most cultures, whether modern or ancient. Ghost stories in classical literature have primarily been fictional, as they were typically used to teach a moral lesson. Charles Dickens' classic ghost story, A Christmas Carol, taught not only should we be benevolent to our fellow mankind, but that leading an immoral life can imprison one in their self-created hell in the afterlife.

Children also enjoy ghost stories, as evidenced by the popular Goosebumps series of books of recent years. It seems a good, non-terrifying ghost story awakens them to the supernatural and the unseen.

A great place to uncover ghost stories is while on vacation. Tourists love to pick up local lore concerning ghosts, as many gift shops and stores will carry books of regional hauntings written by local writers. Aspiring authors in many towns and regions will diligently research ghost tales and self-publish the stories which sell well to not only tourists, but local residents.

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