Summer 2017 Schedule

Here's where Granny Sue will be this summer! I hope you will be one of the people I see as I travel to many places to share stories.

June 15: Craigsville Public Library, Craigsville, WV 1:00pm. Stories for a Better World. Summer Reading Program

June 20: Sharpe Hospital, private event.

June 21: Wardensville (WV) 4-H 
June 21: Lost River (WV) Senior Center

June 23: Paden City (WV) Library, Summer Reading program, 12 noon, Paden City, WV

June 24: Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library, Clarksburg, WV: Stories for a Better World, 12 noon. Public program.

June 24: Blackwater Falls State Park, Davis, WV. Campfire stories, 7:00pm at the park. Open to the park guests and the general public.

June 25: Family reunion presentation at Helvetia, WV. Private event.

June 26: Tyler County Public Library, Middlebourne, WV, 1:00pm. Stories for a Better World. Public program.

June 26: Ohio County Public Library, Wheeling WV 6:30pm. Stories for a Better World. Public program.

June 27: Philippi Public Library storytelling, 10:00 am, Philippi, WV public performance.

June 30-July 5: Vendor at the big annual flea market, Fairplain WV!

July 11:  Louis Bennett Public Library, Weston, WV, 10:30 am: Stories for a Better World. Public program.

July 12: Shady Spring (WV) Library, Summer Reading presentation, 10:00 am. Public welcome!

July 13: Ripley (WV) Public Library 10:00am. Stories for a Better World Summer Reading Program. Public performance.

August 5-6: Inland Waterways Festival, Marietta, OH. Free festival promotes the inland waterway. Storytelling, music, history, science! I will be there telling stories both days.

Summer Reading 2017: Stories for a Better World

Summer seems like a long way off in these dreary days of February. But for a storyteller, summer is just around the corner, and this is the time to be busy planning and practicing for summer shows.

My summers are usually filled with library summer reading programs, and it's something I look forward to every year. This year I am focusing once again on the national theme for the libraries, Build A Better World. It's fantastic for a storyteller because most stories are meant to do exactly that--stories teach, inspire, and encourage us, not through outright "do this" statements, but through words that make us understand what is right and good, how we should behave and how goodness can be rewarded. Folktales were, after all, the original media.

Several performances are already scheduled. I hope your local library will consider having me come!

Christmas! Lore, Recipes, Stories, and More

I have compiled a list of posts from my other blog that have ideas, stories, crafts, folklore, traditions and more about this holiday season.

From Yule and Solstice to Old Christmas to elves and paper stars and simple gifts to make, there is a bit of something for everyone in the list below.


Mincemeat and the mincemeat tarts recipe

Here We Come A-Caroling!

Here We Come A-Caroling!

 My mind has been filled with carols these past few weeks as I practice and research for the upcoming Here We Come A-Caroling! program. I present this show with my friend, folk musician Jeff Seager, and each year we add new stories and songs to our performance. This year's new songs include:
  • Nova! Nova!, a medieval carol with an interesting construction
  • Beautiful Star of Bethlehem, a carol written in an Appalachian cow barn
  • Welcome Yule!, a hearty welcome to the coming of Solstice
There will be stories that tell the history and lore behind each of these carols as well as all of the other carols included in our program. Some favorites, such as The Huron Carol and Don in Yon Forest are also on the agenda. Recently I learned of a family connection to the Christmas Truce of 1914, and that story will be included in our rendition of Silent Night.

From last year's fun: attendees playing parts with masks for an old
Appalachian song.
There is so much more--there is such a wealth of carols! And there is fascinating lore too--the traditions, superstititions, prohibitions, etc. connected with our celebrations of the holidays. Holly, ivy, the bringing in of greenery, the food customs, ways to assure good luck and fortune, finding a mate, the Yule's not what to include, it's how much we can manage in the time we will have.

Here is the schedule of our performances so far. Call or email me for more information. I hope to see you at one of these events!


Ghostly Wanderings: The Storytelling Trail

Ghost stories season is beginning to wind down but it's been a busy time the past week for this tale teller.

Last weekend I presented two ghost walks in Ripley, WV, a mile-long stroll through stories of "mystery and history," as the director of the local Convention and Visitors Bureau called it. The walks are sponsored by the CVB and have become a popular annual tradition. Each year I research new stories to add and new tidbits from history to enhance the walk because many people return for the walk each year.

Over 100 people came out Saturday night for the ghost walk

The ghost walk was followed by a drive across West Virginia to the eastern county of Grant, where I told stories at the Grant County Library in Petersburg. A crowd of 50 turned out for the Monday night event. The audience included everyone from small children to senior citizens, so I had stories for all ages in my program.

While in Grant county, we took time to visit the Dolly Sods Wilderness area, one of West Virginia's most beautiful scenic areas. It was a very windy day and we had to be careful as we ventured onto the rocks to be sure we weren't blown over the edge! 

I remember when we camped on Dolly Sods about 15 years ago. An elderly gentleman camped nearby told us that he was one of the Dolly family for whom the rocks are named. Dolly Sods is known for its abundance of wild blueberries and huckleberries, which attract both humans and bears in the summer months. 

This gentleman said that when he was a boy they often spent days on the mountain picking berries, and that every 4 years or so someone would set fire to the mountain. Why? I asked. Well, he said, the brush would get to growing and crowding out the berry patches, so they'd burn it off to let the berry plants grow. That practice had to stop once the government took over management of the land. This reminded me of stories about the Native Americans burning off land so that the blackberries would come back in thicker and better.

We left to drive to central West Virginia for storytelling at a school in a small community that was a victim of the terrible June "thousand-year" flood. I had a great time telling tales at Birch River Elementary. I think the best--and most touching--part of the day was being interviewed by two 5th grade students. One of their first questions was, "Were you presonally affected by the floods?" They went on to describe some of the damage in their area. I did not suffer any damage to my home from the flood, but in this state we're all family, and what hurts one hurts us all. Thank you, boys, for reminding me of that.

In the few days remaining in this month I'll be storytelling at three more schools: for eighth grade students in Kanawha county, high school students in Putnam county, and elementary students in the northern panhandle town of Follansbee. I finish up with an evening of ghost stories at the south Parkersburg library. 

It's been a good month telling my favorite kind of story! Check out my upcoming performances here, and maybe I will see you at an event in the near future.

Ghosts in the Mist: A West Virginia Ghost Story

The Tray Run Viaduct near Rowlesburg. The viaduct is part of the image on the reverse side of the WV State Seal.

I found this story in three sources, but I think Ruth Ann Musick's version, with a citation for the teller of the tale, is most credible. She called it The Misty Ghosts in her book Coffin Hollow (University of Kentucky Press, 1977. pp 41-42). Dr. Musick heard the story from Theresa Britton of Rowlesburg, who had heard it from her grandfather. Other sources are Ghost Train! by Tony Reevy and Haunted West Virginia by Patty A. Wilson. Ghost Train! cites Dr. Musick's book as their source.

A young woman went to Pittsburgh to seek employment. (This was probably around the turn of the century when travel by rail was in its heyday). She found a position as household help and settled in to her job. But she grew lonely and she was homesick for the people and the place she left behind.

As it happened, she met a young man (one version claims she met him while visiting Rowlesburg, but Dr. Musick's story says that she met him in Pittsburgh). He was from a community called Manheim, which at that time was close to Rowlesburg, and now is incorporated within that town's city limits. With so much in common, they began to see each other a great deal.

Being far from home and lonely, the girl fell in love with the young man. Did he love her in return? That is hard to know this many years later. Whatever the case, he did not ask her to marry him. (Two versions of the story claim she was carrying his child, but the Musick story does not state that.) Perhaps he felt unable to support a wife financially, or thought they were too young to marry. It could be that he simply enjoyed her company but didn't care enough for her to marry her.

The girl grew despondent. She lost her position in Pittsburgh and had no choice but to return to Rowlesburg. As the train traveled through the night on the Cheat River line, she stepped out onto the platform. Perhaps she only meant to get some fresh air, or perhaps she was so upset over the turn of events in her life that she saw no other solution to her problems. As the train passed over the Cheat River caverns, she either fell, or she jumped to her death.

Bad news travels fast. The young man heard of her death and immediately returned home. He was overwhelmed with grief and felt he was to blame for her actions. On the anniversary of her death, the young man went to the scene of her death. He never returned.

When searchers found his body, it was a the bottom of the river near the caverns, opposite from where the girl had jumped.

The teller of this story said that old-timers say that on full-moon nights they would see mist rising from the place where the girl died; it would be joined by another mist rising from the Cheat River where the young man drowned, and then the joined mists would float away and out of sight.
It's difficult to verify stories like this since no names were attached to it by the time Dr. Musick heard it. Folklore often happens that way--while facts and dates may have been part of the story in the beginning, in time those seemingly unimportant bits were dropped and the main points preserved.
There are apparently several places that might have been the "Cheat River Caverns" or "Caves of Cheat" referred to in the story, all undeveloped sites. Online information suggests that a) the caverns are now called something else and are gated and inaccessible; or b) that they are actually located on the Dry Fork of Cheat. I wondered as I read the story if she had perhaps jumped at the Tray Run Viaduct, which looks like a good place to do such a thing.
So pinpointing the place from which the mists rise might not be easy. But it might be worth spending a night on the river to try to find out--if you dare.

I visited Rowlesburg almost 10 years ago. You can read about what the town was like when I was there in this post on my other blog. It is a lovely place on the river, remote and quaint, and yes, a place that could invite ghost stories.

For more information about Rowlesburg's railroad history, visit WV Rail Fan'swebsite. And for more about the town of Rowlesburg and it's role in the Civil War, visit the Rowlesburg Visitor's Guide.

October Schedule: Lots of Ghostliness

October is filling up with ghosties! I hope I will see you at one of these events:

October 6: Ripley, WV Middle School full day storytelling

October 10: Tamarack, tour group presentation. Private event.

October 11: Philippi Library, Philippi, WV. WV Ghost Stories, 4:00 for Teen Read Week

October 12-13: West Virginia Storytelling Festival, Weston, WV. Schools event and evening public performance.

October 15: Apple Butter Making at my house!

October 17: Mountaineer Tours, Tamarack, Beckley, WV. Private event.

October 21: Road Scholars presentation, Beckley, WV 9 am

October 21-22: Ripley Ghost Walk, 8pm each evening.

October 25: Grant County (WV) Library, Ghost Stories tentative

October 28: Hurricane High School, Hurricane, WV. Storytelling and workshop

October 31: Jefferson Elementary, Follansbee, WV. Ghost stories all day

October 31: South Parkersburg (WV) Library, Ghost stories, 6:30pm

Til then, happy haunting!