Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Day 28 - The Telltale Lilac Bush

      This is an odd one as it's an item more localized and personal than anything else on the list, but this is my blog, dammit. "The Telltale Lilac Bush", as the subtitle might suggest, is a book of scary stories that originated in West Virginia. For anyone who grew up here, it's, at the least, a treasured memory of the Halloween season as much as anything mainstream and found nationwide. I cannot describe the excitement in second or third grade when we knew it was "Telltale Lilac Bush Day" and the volunteer from the library would be visiting to read a few of the tales.

     The stories were culled from around the state, basically written down exactly as they were told by the contributors, either personal, first-hand accounts of something spooky or an orally passed down story from generations ago. The informal, unsophisticated...yes, sometimes uneducated... and varying way the stories are delivered is a large part of the book's charm. Each one, many often just a paragraph or two, sounds like something you'd hear from an old neighbor while sitting on their porch. There's no pretension to be found, just dozens of fun, quick stories to try to give you chills. Stories that cover a lot of subjects, and that's how the book is broken up, by type of ghost or nature of the event described. There's a section on "Ghost Children" and "Ghost Wives", there's "Headless Ghosts" and "Weird Creatures", and since it's West Virginia, there's of course "Mine Ghosts". Bound to be something for the whole family.

     What I also enjoy is the personal connection I have as a native. As you might expect, being accounts or recollections of regular ol' folk and not those with a penchant for powerful prose, the stories when looked at objectively aren't terrific. But in addition to the casual nature they are presented, the other big hook (especially as a kid) is that they take place in towns and areas you've heard of. Or maybe live in! :O  Growing up about ten minutes outside of the city, whenever the family would be driving home on autumn evenings, on quiet unlit stretches of rural roads, my mind will always call up stories from "the hollers", picturing what it might be like to see "the white thing" come scurrying out of the treeline and cross in front of us.

     Lastly, not unlike "Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark", "Telltale Lilac" also had horrifying illustrations that went on to have starring roles in many an 8-year-old's nightmares.

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