Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Things That Go Bump in the Night -- the Book.

By: Gwen Miner, Supervisor of Domestic Arts If you’re into ghosts, ghostly tales and hauntings, you really should pick up a copy of Things That Go Bump in the Night by Louis C. Jones. I bought my copy many years ago, when I first started working here at the museum. The pages of the book are now yellowed with age and dog eared, but every year at this time I pull it out to re-read various parts for a new ghostly tale to tell on our Things That Go Bump in the Night Tours here at the museum.I remember first reading the book alone in my apartment. It was the first adult ghost story book I had read. Not a good idea to read ghostly tales at night when you live alone in a creaky old house. So believable were the tales in the book to me at that time, I thought ghosts might lurk around every corner. Maybe the tales were more believable, because they took place here in New York State and near to where I grew up.

The book is about stories of ghosts and hauntings that have been kept alive by the retelling of the stories from one generation to the next. Dr. Jones and his students in Eng. 40: American Folklore in the early 1940s spread a “dragnet” across New York State, bringing in “child lore, proverbs, songs, tall tales, short tales, legends, and especially the tales of the supernatural”. Dr. Jones was always intrigued by ghosts, witches, and the Devil and his followers. His folklore archives are rich in the supernatural genre. Only a fifth of the stories that were collected during his six years teaching this class are told in this book. The tales that were collected, and not published, remain safe and sound and available to the interested at the library at the New York State Historical Association.

This is the 50th anniversary of the book and to me it is a classic that anyone interested in ghosts and ghostly tales should have. To quote Dr. Jones in his preface, “…I think we came up with a clear picture of what our countrymen say about the restless dead, a subject that has been of human concern since the first flame flickered in a cave, since men learned to love and face death.” Believe me when I say I have read a lot of books on ghosts the last few years, but Things That go Bump in the Night remains my favorite, because the tales are told in story form and not an accounting of an event.

The book was also my inspiration – along with ghostly happenings that have reportedly occurred here at The Farmers’ Museum – five years ago to develop the Things That Go Bump in the Night Tours here at the museum. After all, Dr. Jones was our first director and he did write the book here in Cooperstown.

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