Sunday, October 2, 2011

Traditional Versions: Knife in the Grave

One modern day version of this story was retold in Alvin Schwartz’s book “Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark.” 

The basic structure of this story begins with a group of teenagers who are attending a Friday night party near a graveyard. The conversation always evolves into a discussion about the cemetery
One teenager states that you should never stand on a grave after dark because the dead occupant will pull you under.

At this point in the story a brave person in the group, usually a girl announces that she doesn’t believe this—it is just a superstition. The group then always “dares” the brave one, in this scenario a girl, to stand on a grave that very night. 

She accepts announcing she isn’t scared. The group gives her a knife and tells her to stick it in a grave as proof she was there.

This brave teen then has no choice but to follow through on the group’s dare because if she doesn’t, she will lose face. 

So the story follows the “girl” into the graveyard where she tries to put up a brave front, but she is terrified. She reassures herself by talking aloud she hastily picks out a grave bends down and sticks the knife into the soil.

The catch here is as she turns to leave she finds that something is holding her. In a panic, she struggles in the dark but whatever has her will not let her go. She screams in terror and collapses. 

Meanwhile, at the party, it is getting late, and her friends notice she hasn’t returned, so they go look for her. They find her body sprawled across the grave. 

It seems that when she had plunged the knife into the dirt, it had caught her skirt pinning her to the ground. At this point, the reader is told she died of fright.

Marie Laveau's grave.
Another version of this story takes place in New Orleans in the French Quarter. This story involves three young male tourists who have drunk too much. They are bored, so their talk turns to one of New Orleans’s famous Voodoo witch queens “Marie Laveau.” 

One of these three men is enticed into a wager—thirty dollars if he dares to climb the wall of St. Louis Cemetery #1 and drive an iron spike into Marie Laveau’s final resting place. Courage is needed for this task because Laveau’s tomb is considered haunted.

The foolish young man takes the thirty dollars and throws himself over the wall. His friends wait for him to return for over an hour. They drink more and pass out. 

In the morning they curse their friend for he has not returned. Angry now, they walk through the cemetery gates calling to their inconsiderate comrade. 

They find him by the side of the witch’s grave dead—thirty dollars in coins strewn about. In his drunken state, he had hammered the spike through his coat and into the stone sarcophagus.

The misguided nail had held him in place as he rose to leave. Panic and fear settled over his drunken hazy mind for his stressed heart gave out as he struggled to free himself. 

When his friends find him dead, his frozen features tell the story of his last emotional moments: horror and despair.

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