Stories For Ghosts

Horror for the Discerning Fan

Category: History (page 2 of 2)

La Catrina – Icon of Death, Beauty, and Dia de Los Muertos

Today is All Saint’s Day! Or as we celebrate it in Texas, El Dia de Los Muertos, a Mexican holiday. For the uninitiated, El Die de Los Muertos is a vibrant, introspective holiday devoted to remembering the dead. Those who celebrate the holiday will tend to the graves of their deceased loved ones, cleaning the tombstones, arranging flowers and altars, and leaving food and small offerings. They do this to invite the spirits to visit so that the departed will hear the prayers of their living relatives.

While this sounds like it could be morbid and depressing, El Dia de Los Muertos is actually cheerful and uplifting. People are encouraged to remember the dead fondly by recounting happy and funny stories about them. This attitude carries over into the festival itself, which is often whimsically macabre and very enjoyable.

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Marfa, Train Tracks, and Haunted Hotels: The Best Texas Ghost Stories

October is slowly coming to a close, and Halloween is almost here. Since I’ve been doing my Halloween Blogging Blitz, I’ve reflected a great deal on scary stories. Why do we tell them? Why do we listen to them?

I hope that, if you’ve been following any of my posts, that you’ve learned that so many horror films and books are art. And as art, they help us reflect upon reality: our prejudices, our fears, our secret desires. The right ghost story has much to teach us.

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Creep Yourself Out – 10 of the Best Scary Podcasts

One of the regrets I have about growing up is that I no longer experience “Story Time.” It sounds silly, and maybe it is, but I really loved sitting quietly and listening to a teacher or parent tell me a story. Who didn’t love Story Time as a kid? Especially around Halloween, when the teacher might bust out a worn, cherished copy of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark? Even as a teenager, when I attended summer camp, we regularly stayed up to tell creepy stories. We took turns telling ghost stories around a literal campfire.

Such stories, told with the human voice, possess their own kind of magic. There’s something genuine and compelling about a lone voice weaving a story in the night, while others listen in complete silence. There is the gravitas of ritual, the authenticity of an intimate story, and the hard-to-deny possibility that maybe it’s real after all. Without the spectacle of movies or the artful words of a book, you’re left with the truth, right? Possibly?

These days, I can satisfy my love for stories with movies, television shows, novels, short stories, and comics whenever I want. But they don’t approximate that shivery joy of listening to a person tell you a spooky story.

That’s why I love podcasts. With the right podcast, I can find that same thrill combined with wonderfully complex, creepy stories that fold and unfold, drawing in threads and characters and events that transport me to an entirely different world. Using only the power of the human voice.

In honor of Halloween, I want to share some of my favorite scary podcasts with you. These podcasts vary from graphic true crime, to macabre accounts of historical events, to fictional audio plays. They’re all compelling in their own ways, keeping readers, including myself, coming back for more week after week.

Enjoy!

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The History of Halloween, Part 2: Colonies, Immigration, and WWII

In my last post, I explored the historic origins of Halloween before it came to America, turns out, this secular American holiday started out as a Pagan celebration in the British Isles. Thanks to the influence of the Ancient Romans, I persisted into the Middle Ages and the Catholic Church strategically turned the holiday into a celebration of saints, martyrs, and the faithful dead.

There are tons of similarities between present day Halloween and Halloween as it was celebrated hundreds of years ago—costumes to scare away bad spirits, veneration for the dead, respect for the bounty of all before the long winter, and community unification. For a time, Halloween held religious significance for its participants; yet this is not the case for most Americans.

What happened?

Let’s dive in, starting with the birth of America.

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The History of Halloween, Part 1: Celts, Romans, and Catholics

Halloween’s current incarnation as an American holiday is focused mainly on secular pursuits. As I wrote about in my latest blog post, Halloween is a time to come together and indulge a part of ourselves we don’t acknowledge during the rest of the year. We dress up, we throw spooky parties, we trick-or-treat. We also spend a ton of money on Halloween, shelling out nearly $7.4 billion dollars for Halloween in 2015. $2 billion dollars of that was spent on candy alone. It proves to be a nice shot in the arm for the stock market, buoying the economy until the holiday shopping season rolls around.

Halloween has come a long way from its beginnings as a harvest festival, from the ancient Celts to the Romans to Medieval Catholics to Irish immigrants traveling to America. Halloween, like all holidays, speaks volumes about the society that celebrates it. As the people observing Halloween evolve, so does the holiday. The magic of holidays like Halloween lies in the threads of truth that speak to all peoples. There are certain rituals that have persisted and will persist in for as long as we celebrate Halloween, cutting across gender, race, religion, socio-economic position, geography, ethnicity, and nationality.

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