In yesterday’s post, Englishman Martin Pengelly explained everything he thinks is wrong with American Halloween. I’m not here to disagree with him, but I do want to speak up for one of my favorite things about Halloween: spooky stories.
The ultimate American ghost story is Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which has lately added a Fox television series to its long list of adaptions. To this day, there are people in around North Tarrytown, New York – which in 1997 officially changed its name to Sleepy Hollow – who insist that the tale is real. They’ll happily take your money through the month of October to scare with you re-enactments of the headless horseman said to have inspired it.
Nearly every corner of America has one of these stories to tell, and they often rear their spooky heads around Halloween, when – as every teenager looking for a fright knows – the barriers between the spirit world and the real world are said to be at their weakest. In San Jose, there are special Halloween tours of the Winchester House, built by Sarah Winchester, who was said to have gone mad after being tortured by the spirits of people shot by her family’s rifles. Growing up near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, I devoured tales of ghost soldiers appearing on deserted highways 150 years after one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War. And come now, let’s not forget the Blair Witch, the (made-up-by-film-makers) local legend of rural Maryland.
What are your local legends, English and American readers? What tales do you tell your children to frighten them on All Hallow’s Eve? Tell us your stories, and we’ll decide whether the US or the UK has the scariest stories.