Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ozark Ghost Folklore

The Ozark people who live in Missouri and Arkansas were descended from pioneers who came West from the Southern Appalachians, at the beginning of the 19th century.

They mostly came from British stock many of their families had lived in America since colonial days.

They had very minimal contact with the outer world for more than a hundred years. At the turn of the century--1900--they still were not influenced by the progress that shaped the rest of the country.

These “hillbillies” as they became known, clung to the old customs of their ancestors. Because of this their old songs, sayings and stories are still shared today.

Hand in hand with their traditional beliefs came a firm belief in superstitions and ghosts.

During pioneer times the old-time hillfolk would invite people to their cabins for the express purpose of swapping supernatural tales. In a society where people didn’t hold with “dancing” and “card playing” ghost stories were a cherished form of entertainment.

In my post entitled, Kentucky Ghostlore I share one version of a ghost story entitled Dividing Up the Dead often told in the Ozarks.

Many of the ghost stories told were not only scary but also humorous. Here is a prime example from 1899.

A Lost Relationship

A young man had been visiting his sweetheart. As he rode away from her gate at midnight, she called, “I’ll be with you all the way home.”

Soon he noticed something white floating in the air behind him. He kicked his horse into a trot, but the white object stayed close.

Just before he reached home the young man’s hat flew off, but he was too scared to stop and look for it.

Next morning he told his mother that the girl he was courting must be a witch. He announced that he intended to never see her again or have anything to do with her.

His sweetheart had no idea what was wrong. She wrote him several letters but never received a reply. A few months later she married and moved to Oklahoma.

The young man never saw her again. In the fall of that year, he was walking through the woods where he had lost his hat.

He spotted something sticking up out of the brambles with a roll of cotton attached to it. He spotted a familiar snakeskin hatband. It was his hat.

His sweetheart and her mother, on the last night he visited them had been carding cotton.

The long roll of cotton, streaming from his hat, was the “white thing” that had floated behind as he raced home.

Published 1947

1 comment:

Leona Joan said...

Very interesting. Thanks also for the book referral. 😎