Here in the Pacific Northwestern United States, there are no haunted Civil War battlefields or traditional colonial haunts like the East Coast. But what our geographic location lacks in European historical presence, it more than makes up for in a 12,000-year Native American presence. Humans have been here long before the area was "discovered."
I've been researching some of the indigenous folklore and have found a rich sources of unique and unsettling tales to incorporate into future storytelling routines. Take for example, the area where I live. The tribes who once lived here did not bury their dead, rather they carefully wrapped the corpses and placed them in the branches of the surrounding trees. In our credulity, we've been treading nervously over ancient burial "grounds," when all along, we never suspected the supernatural presence in the shadows above.
What unique folklore have you found that overturns the common spooky storytelling troupes?
When I was young we moved to the States and lived near my maternal grandparents. An only child, I explored their barns and storerooms and voraciously read everything I could find which included old masonic books, carnival programs, and newsletters/booklets from the odd sort of ur-newage groups that cropped up in the early 20th century. The rural parts of the central states during the early 20th century and the dust bowl developed a truly weird folklore of their own. Rural protestantism coupled with the desperation of poverty and near-frontier life created a kind of dust-bowl theosophy and many organizations wrote pamphlets that, while trying to remain evangelical, bordered on spiritism. All these things coalesced in me into an almost mythic view of Plains life in the early 20th century.
I've long used this consciously as an inspiration for my work (and possibly unconsciously as part of my persona), and I think it's really an under-utilized segment in American story-telling/bizarre magic. Although a certain vendor-not-to-be-named of bizarre magic props created a few props along those lines, and the television show "Carnival" explored some of these themes I don't see a lot of performance with these themes today, but it's really a body of folklore that's very rich in the kind of inspiration for bizarre and story-telling magicians.
I have wondered about creating an alternate/occult history of Seattle. I recently convinced a coworker that the Fremont Troll was actually a statue of worship built by the cult of Fremel in the late 19th century. Maybe I could tie this Fremel cult into the fire of 1889 in downtown.
But on a serious note, I grew up across from the abandoned western state hospital, an abandoned mental asylum, located in steilacom (spelling?) park.There were many stories surrounding that place including one from my literature teacher at Pierce college which is also located next to the park. He claimed to be waking through the park at night after staying late on campus and glimpsed what he believed to be part of a satanic ritual including an infant in the woods. The party in question then disappeared with the infant into the night before he could see anything illegal so he just ran off. Unfortunately it was long before cellphones. He was also a lousy instructor.
I currently work in a grocery store that claims Ted Bundy as a former employee who worked night crew. It may not be true but it isn't treated as a joke there either.
Hello Raymond! Seattle as plenty of spooky places. One could be a lot with chinatown. Study the local urban legends, like you lousy instructor's, and build up a story including some accurate history. You cannot go wrong. I thought the Green River murders or your Ted Bundy store might be good sources, but the western state hospital is pretty hard to beat! (I looking into visiting there last spring, but it look to be closed?)
It is like a mini-reunion in this thread!
Az mir vill schlugen a hunt, gifintmin a schtecken!
Yitzhak, check out Northern State Hospital in Sedro-Woolley Washington. It's an about an hour drive north of Seattle and well worth it. A few months back, the wife and I easily spent 2-3 hours taking photos and didn't see everything. We will be going back soon.
You just gave me an idea. My store is scheduled for demolition fall/18. What if I found an item or message from Bundy in the store in preparation for closing? There is attic space that is only reserved for emergency generators (it's cramped and creepy too). What could he leave behind?
I concur with your thoughts regarding the deep and mysterious potential attached to early and mid 20th century American folklore.
When performing in this genre for adults, in midlife, they can identify with the things you share and discuss, they have heard of many of the weird and strange events attributed to this mystical part of history.
Even for younger audiences (Millennials) it remains relevant in that they have read accounts and seen documentaries (or shows like Carnival or Ken Burns great, Dust bowl) about said places and events. I feel most American audiences can relate to themes of superstitious origin if not for the fact that superstition runs in our DNA. Myself, I often feel an invisible and unexplainable connection to such events even though they were far before my time. Past life?
Sadly, there are not a lot of credible bizarre pieces/effects that have the ability to bring this fascinating and mysterious part of our history to inquisitive audiences. Time to rectify that. Do share if you come across any worthy Ideas, effects that cast a bit of light on this shadow laden subject.
You are being summoned down an intriguing dusty road that will only lure you further down it, enjoy your journey but don't forget your protective talisman!
"They must find it difficult...those who have taken authority as the truth, rather than truth as the authority." - Gerald Massey Egyptologist
One of the neat things to note here, and I'm not being picky, it is really fascinating and actually quite useful, is that history, folklore and urban legend are all being touched on here. I wouldn't want the whole thing to get dragged down by definitions, that would spoil the interaction and exchange of ideas. Part of the reason I've always liked the interaction of these things it they play nicely together and are a boon to the storyteller. Here is an interesting article that touches on parts of the subject: link.
Here in the part of the Midwest I'm located an example of the interaction of these is the period of Prohibition both in Detroit and Chicago. Stories of Rum Runners, Gangsters and Blind Pigs are part of folklore and Capone's infamous hideaways in our county is probably part urban legend. And for the storyteller, this is useful because it helps fill in blanks as the listener will be aware of some of it and sets the stage in that persons imagination.
I live about 15 minutes down the road from Western State Hospital and I can confirm that the place gives off a troubling energy. Perhaps it's the dilapidated Victorian-era structures, or the jagged stone-wall that guards the perimeter. Or maybe it's the asylum's notorious history of abuse and neglect... or the convicted killer that the hospital staff allowed to escape last year. Likely, it is a combination of all of these things.
I also love how the state originally named the place "Washington State Hospital for the Insane." For those who are unfamiliar with the WSH, here is a vintage postcard. Who wouldn't love to perform here on a damp October evening?
Great idea from yitzhak! To document the supposed finding of the artifact we are going to use in performance. That would add great value and believability to the story and the artifacts introduced. It is something that we do already in the form of newspaper clips and other type of convincers, but taken to another level of authenticity. All the best!
I live in the prairies of Southern Alberta, Canada. Our town of Drumheller is now just over 100 years old. That being said, I maintain that it is the most ACTIVELY HAUNTED TOWN in Alberta. There are ghosts everywhere, if you want to believe all the stories that folks have of their homes, places of work and outside areas.
The whole reason for this activity is two-fold; one is the horrific Spanish Flu of 1918 which killed as much as 15% of our population! Secondly is coal mining accidents. Our town is built on coal mines - about 137 all told. When they first opened back in 1911 - and for the next 20ish years - there were no unions yet. If a coal shaft happened to collapse with miners trapped in there, no effort or money was spent to get them out. It was assumed they were dead anyway, so just redirect the shaft and keep digging.
Wow - there is a bit of psychic trauma in our valley!