When I first began collecting ghost stories, I began spending a lot of time with historians and story tellers. I also spent a great deal of time in the Heritage Room at Sarah Hightower Regional Library in Rome. Ga. I made some great friends, I heard some great stories, and I came upon some ugly truths as well.
In one instance, I was reading a rare collection of ghost stories collected in the early 1980s. Copies of this book sold for over $100 on Amazon, as the book was out of print. I read the book front to back and took many notes. There was one story in the book that captured my attention. It was an interview with an old reverend who has since passed away. It was his sincere account of his own paranormal experience, which took place back in the 1940’s. He was sincere in his retelling and I had a great deal of respect for him as he tried his best to integrate his fundamental Christian beliefs with what he had seen. Fast forward to months later- I was searching online about a haunting in that same area and I came across a rather well-known website that covers strange and paranormal experiences here in Georgia. Lo and Behold, I read an account of the reverend’s story- yet is was being told be another storyteller/ historian who claimed it was HIS experience! As a teacher, writer, and former librarian, this set off every alarm in my little brain and heart. This was wrong on SO MANY levels. Call me naive. I was floored! Seriously- this was outright plagiarism in my book.
Later on, I was interviewing another storyteller/ historian who was involved with a ghost tour in her town. As she told me stories from the area, I asked about one of the stops on the tour. “Oh no, honey, that one’s not true,’ she said. ‘I mean, the story happened, but it happened elsewhere, We just needed a story for that building so we could include it in the tour. So we just stuck that one there.”
A couple weeks ago I posted on the history site of a certain Northwest Georgia town (known for it’s “haunted places”) that I am collecting ghost stories for a book on Ghosts of Northwest Georgia. I got a (QUICK!!!) response from a lady in that town who informed me that, if I would PAY for a ghost tour of the town, they would share their stories. Sadly, I don’t believe a single tale I hear from this town now. I feel like that are making up ghost stories to gain tourism. Being noted in a book would bring in business, would it not? They just sell made-up tales for money, in my opinion.
This has changed the way I look at local legends and ghost stories. I still love them. I still collect them. However, I also look at the teller as well as the tale. When the average Joe (or Jolene) sends me their sincere personal tale, I take it for the truth. They believe it, so I believe it. But do I believe every story I hear on a haunted tour? No, I am afraid I don’t. Where there is fame to be gained, or money to be made (or public recognition being sought)…. I take it with a grain of salt.
Am I wrong to feel this way? What are your experiences with tours and such? Maybe I have allowed a few bad apples to wrongfully color my opinions. I DO honestly listen to and read every tale. It’s just that, when certain local celebrities have an agenda… it just makes me wonder….
In researching tales of the southern states, I came across a tale that takes place in Cloudland Canyon State Park- a hidden gem in Rising Fawn, GA. According to legend, the park is haunted at night by the ghost of a Native American on Horseback. Campers often see him as he quietly passes through the park. However, this spirit doesn’t incite fear in guests. Evidently, he makes them feel safe- as if he is watching over visitors to the park.
Here’s the thing- In searching the web and the Heritage Room at Sarah Hightower Library, I can find nothing on this haunting. I posted the haunting on my FB page Ghosts of Northwest Georgia. No comments. No takers. SO… I am beginning to wonder- is this a true tale, or did someone make this up? And for what reason? To gain readership? To gain visitors to the park?
Maybe the ghost is for real. Maybe he just has a small following….
Have you ever heard of the ghost of Cloudland Canyon? Have you seen him?
I thought more than once about starting this blog. I wavered back and forth for some time. I knew I wanted to write about ghosts. I began a collection of ghost tales from Northwest Georgia a while back. My Facebook page, Ghosts of Northwest Georgia , has developed a small following. I love the emails, stories, and comments I get there. (I hope to publish my collection of Northwest Georgia tales very soon.) My page has brought me a great deal more enjoyment that I ever expected. I love hearing from people who, like me, love true ghost stories.
I guess, then, this blog is one more step in a natural progression. I’ve always loved ghost stories and tales of the unexplained. In elementary school, I devoured every book of ghost stories I could find- in my school library, my local library, monthly class book orders… I couldn’t get enough! Why this interest in the supernatural? Who knows? It’s just a part of who I am. I’ve never lost my interest and, combined with my love of writing, this is where I am today.
I hope to spark discussions, learn new stories, and explore old and little-known tales of the American South. I’d love to hear from others who are like-minded. I’d love to hear any tales you’d like to share.
Add your comments, email me with your tales…..