Who doesn't like a really good ghost story? And what is Halloween without conjuring up tales of spirits, demons and ghosts? It's near impossible to scare me now, but as a child in the dark, scary stories would keep me up all night long.

Some of you must remember a ghost story told around the campfire, or one that you read that sent chills down your spine. Share the tale and post them here!


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RAW HEAD AND BLOODY BONES

A Missouri Ghost Story

retold by S. E. Schlosser

Way back in the deep woods there lived a scrawny old woman who had a reputation for being the best conjuring woman in the Ozarks. With her bedraggled black-and-gray hair, funny eyes - one yellow and one green - and her crooked nose, Old Betty was not a pretty picture, but she was the best there was at fixing what ailed a man, and that was all that counted.

Old Betty's house was full of herbs and roots and bottles filled with conjuring medicine. The walls were lined with strange books brimming with magical spells. Old Betty was the only one living in the Hollow who knew how to read; her granny, who was also a conjurer, had taught her the skill as part of her magical training.

Just about the only friend Old Betty had was a tough, mean, ugly old razorback hog that ran wild around her place. It rooted so much in her kitchen garbage that all the leftover spells started affecting it. Some folks swore up and down that the old razorback hog sometimes walked upright like man. One fellow claimed he'd seen the pig sitting in the rocker on Old Betty's porch, chattering away to her while she stewed up some potions in the kitchen, but everyone discounted that story on account of the fellow who told it was a little too fond of moonshine.

"Raw Head" was the name Old Betty gave the razorback, referring maybe to the way the ugly creature looked a bit like some of the dead pigs come butchering time down in Hog-Scald Hollow. The razorback didn't mind the funny name. Raw Head kept following Old Betty around her little cabin and rooting up the kitchen leftovers. He'd even walk to town with her when she came to the local mercantile to sell her home remedies.

Well, folks in town got so used to seeing Raw Head and Old Betty around the town that it looked mighty strange one day around hog-driving time when Old Betty came to the mercantile without him.

"Where's Raw Head?" the owner asked as he accepted her basket full of home-remedy potions. The liquid in the bottles swished in an agitate manner as Old Betty said: "I ain't seen him around today, and I'm mighty worried. You seen him here in town?"

"Nobody's seen him around today. They would've told me if they did," the mercantile owner said. "We'll keep a lookout fer you."

"That's mighty kind of you. If you see him, tell him to come home straightaway," Old Betty said. The mercantile owner nodded agreement as he handed over her weekly pay.

Old Betty fussed to herself all the way home. It wasn't like Raw Head to disappear, especially not the day they went to town. The man at the mercantile always saved the best scraps for the mean old razorback, and Raw Head never missed a visit. When the old conjuring woman got home, she mixed up a potion and poured it onto a flat plate.

"Where's that old hog got to?" she asked the liquid. It clouded over and then a series of pictures formed. First, Old Betty saw the good-for-nothing hunter that lived on the next ridge sneaking around the forest, rounding up razorback hogs that didn't belong to him. One of the hogs was Raw Head. Then she saw him taking the hogs down to Hog-Scald Hollow, where folks from the next town were slaughtering their razorbacks. Then she saw her hog, Raw Head, slaughtered with the rest of the pigs and hung up for gutting. The final picture in the liquid was the pile of bloody bones that had once been her hog, and his scraped-clean head lying with the other hogsheads in a pile.

Old Betty was infuriated by the death of her only friend. It was murder to her, plain and simple. Everyone in three counties knew that Raw Head was her friend, and that lazy, hog-stealing, good-for-nothing hunter on the ridge was going to pay for slaughtering him.

Now Old Betty tried to practice white conjuring most of the time, but she knew the dark secrets too. She pulled out an old, secret book her granny had given her and turned to the very last page. She lit several candles and put them around the plate containing the liquid picture of Raw Head and his bloody bones. Then she began to chant: "Raw Head and Bloody Bones. Raw Head and Bloody Bones."

The light from the windows disappeared as if the sun had been snuffed out like a candle. Dark clouds billowed into the clearing where Old Betty's cabin stood, and the howl of dark spirits could be heard in the wind that pummeled the treetops.

"Raw Head and Bloody Bones. Raw Head and Bloody Bones."

Betty continued the chant until a bolt of silver lightning left the plate and streaked out threw the window, heading in the direction of Hog-Scald Hollow.

When the silver light struck Raw Head's severed head, which was piled on the hunter's wagon with the other hog heads, it tumbled to the ground and rolled until it was touching the bloody bones that had once inhabited its body. As the hunter's wagon rumbled away toward the ridge where he lived, the enchanted Raw Head called out: "Bloody bones, get up and dance!"

Immediately, the bloody bones reassembled themselves into the skeleton of a razorback hog walking upright, as Raw Head had often done when he was alone with Old Betty. The head hopped on top of his skeleton and Raw Head went searching through the woods for weapons to use against the hunter. He borrowed the sharp teeth of a dying panther, the claws of a long-dead bear, and the tail from a rotting raccoon and put them over his skinned head and bloody bones.

Then Raw Head headed up the track toward the ridge, looking for the hunter who had slaughtered him. Raw Head slipped passed the thief on the road and slid into the barn where the hunter kept his horse and wagon. Raw Head climbed up into the loft and waited for the hunter to come home.

It was dusk when the hunter drove into the barn and unhitched his horse. The horse snorted in fear, sensing the presence of Raw Head in the loft. Wondering what was disturbing his usually-calm horse, the hunter looked around and saw a large pair of eyes staring down at him from the darkness in the loft.

The hunter frowned, thinking it was one of the local kids fooling around in his barn.

"Land o' Goshen, what have you got those big eyes fer?" he snapped, thinking the kids were trying to scare him with some crazy mask.

"To see your grave," Raw Head rumbled very softly. The hunter snorted irritably and put his horse into the stall.

"Very funny. Ha,ha," The hunter said. When he came out of the stall, he saw Raw Head had crept forward a bit further. Now his luminous yellow eyes and his bears claws could clearly be seen.

"Land o' Goshen, what have you got those big claws fer?" he snapped. "You look ridiculous."

"To dig your grave…" Raw Head intoned softly, his voice a deep rumble that raised the hairs on the back of the hunter's neck. He stirred uneasily, not sure how the crazy kid in his loft could have made such a scary sound. If it really was a crazy kid.

Feeling a little spooked, he hurried to the door and let himself out of the barn. Raw Head slipped out of the loft and climbed down the side of the barn behind him. With nary a rustle to reveal his presence, Raw Head raced through the trees and up the path to a large, moonlight rock. He hid in the shadow of the huge stone so that the only things showing were his gleaming yellow eyes, his bear claws, and his raccoon tail.

When the hunter came level with the rock on the side of the path, he gave a startled yelp. Staring at Raw Head, he gasped: "You nearly knocked the heart right out of me, you crazy kid! Land o' Goshen, what have you got that crazy tail fer?"

"To sweep your grave…" Raw Head boomed, his enchanted voice echoing through the woods, getting louder and louder with each echo. The hunter took to his heels and ran for his cabin. He raced passed the old well-house, passed the wood pile, over the rotting fence and into his yard. But Raw Head was faster. When the hunter reached his porch, Raw Head leapt from the shadows and loomed above him. The hunter stared in terror up at Raw Head's gleaming yellow eyes in the ugly razorback hogshead, his bloody bone skeleton with its long bear claws, sweeping raccoon's tail and his gleaming sharp panther teeth.

"Land o' Goshen, what have you got those big teeth fer?" he gasped desperately, stumbling backwards from the terrible figure before him.

"To eat you up, like you wanted to eat me!" Raw Head roared, descending upon the good-for-nothing hunter. The murdering thief gave one long scream in the moonlight. Then there was silence, and the sound of crunching.

Nothing more was ever seen or heard of the lazy hunter who lived on the ridge. His horse also disappeared that night. But sometimes folks would see Raw Head roaming through the forest in the company of his friend Old Betty. And once a month, on the night of the full moon, Raw Head would ride the hunter's horse through town, wearing the old man's blue overalls over his bloody bones with a hole cut-out for his raccoon tail. In his bloody, bear-clawed hands, he carried his raw, razorback hogshead, lifting it high against the full moon for everyone to see.

http://americanfolklore.net/folklore/2010/07/raw_head_and_bloody_bo...
BLACK MAGIC
Excerpt from Spooky Massachusetts
Retold by S.E. Schlosser

Listen to the podcast of this story



Mad Henry was a hermit who lived alone in a decrepit mansion at the edge of town. Rumors were rife about the wild-eyed man. Some folks said that he was a magician who called upon the powers of darkness to wreck havoc upon his neighbors. Others called him a mad doctor who could restore life to foul corpses from the local cemetery. No respectable citizen in town had anything to do with Mad Henry


Then one year a new family moved to town with a lovely daughter, Rachel, who caught Mad Henry’s eye. He showered the maiden with gifts—goblets of pure gold, necklaces of pearl, and a pot of daisies that never dropped a single petal. Despite the gifts, Rachael fell in love with another, Geoffrey, a handsome young man just home from university. A week after meeting they eloped, leaving behind a stunned Mad Henry.


When Rachael and Geoffrey returned from the elopement, they threw a big ball and invited everyone in town. While Rachel was waltzing with her father, she heard a clap of thunder. Lightning flashed again and again. Suddenly, the double doors blew open and a breeze whirled in, bringing with it the smell of dead, decaying things. Mad Henry loomed in the doorway, pupils gleaming red with anger. He was followed by the grotesque figures of the dead, who came marching two by two into the room. Their eye sockets glowed with blue fire as they surrounded the room.
Two of the corpses captured Geoffrey and threw him down at the feet of their lord. Red eyes gleaming, Mad Henry drew a silver-bladed knife and casually cut the bridegroom’s throat from ear to ear. Rachel screamed and ran forward, pushing through the foul, stinking corpses of the dead, and flung herself upon her dying husband.


“Kill us both,” she cried desperately.


But Mad Henry plucked the lass out of the pool of blood surrounding her dead husband and carried her out into the thundering night. Behind him, the army of the dead turned from the grizzly scene and followed their master. The sounds of thunder and lightning faded away as the alchemist and his dead companions disappeared into the dark night.


Geoffrey’s father and Rachael’s father gathered a small mob and followed the evil hermit, intent upon saving Rachel. When they searched Mad Henry’s house, they found it completely empty save for a light, which shone from a series of mysterious globes that bobbed near the ceiling of each room. Mad Henry had vanished.


Search parties scoured the countryside for days, but turned up nothing. Geoffrey was buried in the local cemetery, and the dance hall was torn down. No one in town spoke about what had happened, and no one dared imagine what had become of poor Rachel.


A year to the day after the ball, a timid knock sounded upon the door of Rachael’s parents’ home. When her father opened it, he saw a gaunt, gray figure on the stoop. Her eyes were dull with exhaustion and pain. It was Rachel! Her tongue had been cut out so she couldn’t speak. But when she produced a knife from her tattered garments—the knife with a silver blade that they had last seen in the hands of Mad Henry— the gleam of satisfaction in Rachel’s eyes told them that the streaks of blood that coated the knife were those of Mad Henry. That night, Rachel died in her sleep with a peaceful smile upon her ravaged face.

http://americanfolklore.net/folklore/2009/08/black_magic.html


Tam O’Shanter - By Robert Burns 1792 (1855 illustrations)

“Tam O’Shanter” is a ghost story written in verse by the great Scottish poet Robert Burns. Burns persuaded his friend Francis Grose to include a drawing of Alloway Kirk, in his Antiquities of Scotland (1791), which Grose promised to do if Burns would supply him with a ghost story to go with it. Burns wrote a brief version of the story in prose before starting his 224 line poem. Both versions have been quoted in the following account (see here for the prose and here for the poem).

The poem concerns a farmer, Tam. After a night of drinking and story-telling, Tam must ride home to Carrick through a heavy storm. As Tam passes Alloway kirk-yard it is “the wizard hour, between night and morning”. He sees a bright light streaming from the ruined church and, on investigating, he is “surprised and entertained, thorough the ribs and arches of an old gothic window … to see a dance of witches merrily footing it round”. As the dance grows “fast and furious” the women cast aside their cloths and dance in their “sark” (undershirt). Alone among the many “wither’d beldams, auld and droll” (withered grandmothers, old and comical) Tam notices a “winsome wench” in a “cutty sark” (short shirt). After some time observing the young witch dancing, Tam unwisely cries out “Weel done, Cutty-sark!”; at which, the music stops, the lights go out and all the witches give chase. Tam makes for the bridge (since a witch can’t cross running water): “the pursuing, vengeful hags were so close at his heels, that one of them actually sprung to seize him: but it was too late; nothing was on her side of the stream but the horse’s tail, which immediately gave way to her infernal grip, as if blasted by a stroke of lightning.”

The poem was immediately, and immensely, popular: it has been illustrated many times. Artists have shown particular relish in depicting Nannie (the young witch) dancing, chasing Tam, and grasping the tail of Tam’s horse, Meg (or Maggie). The three illustrations below are by John Faed (and engraved by Lumb Stocks and James Stephenson for the 1855 edition). These are some of the best and most frequently reprinted or copied illustrations to Burns’ poem. I have accompanied each illustration (or detail) with a passage from the poem.

A final comment on the subject of Nannie’s negligee: compare the pictures below to Burns’ two descriptions of Nannie’s “sark”: in his prose account of 1790 he writes: “one of [the witches] happening unluckily to have a smock which was considerably too short to answer all the purpose of that piece of dress, our farmer was so tickled that he involuntarily burst out, with a loud laugh.” In his poem of 1791 Burns writes (concerning the attire of the “wither’d beldams”):


… had thae been queans,
A’ plump and strapping in their teens!
Their sarks, instead o’ creeshie flannen,
Been snaw-white seventeen hunder linen!-
Thir breeks o’ mine, my only pair,
That ance were plush, o’ guid blue hair,
I wad hae gi’en them off my hurdies
For ae blink o’ the bonie burdies!

[… had they been girls,
All plump and strapping in their teens!
Their shirts, instead of greasy flannel,
Been snow-white seventeen hundred linen!-
These trousers of mine, my only pair,
That once were plush, of good blue hair,
I would have given them off my buttocks
For one look on the lovely maidens!]

Tam then notices Nannie, whose “sark” is described:

Her cutty sark, o’ Paisley harn,
That while a lassie she had worn,
In longtitude tho’ sorely scanty,
It was her best, and she was vauntie.
Ah! little kend thy reverend grannie
That sark she coft for her wee Nannie
Wi’ twa pund Scots (‘twas a’ her riches)
Wad ever graced a dance of witches!

[Her short shift, of Paisley cloth,
That while a girl she had worn,
In length though very short,
It was her best, and she was vain.
Ah! little knew your reverend grannie,
That shift she bought for her little Nannie,
With two pound Scots (it was all her riches),
Would ever have graced a dance of witches!]

From these descriptions it is clear that Nannie’s shirt is “considerably too short” to cover her backside, and that Nannie herself is just such a girl (All plump and strapping in her teens) that Tam/Burns would give his best pants to see. A sexy witch indeed, and possibly the first.


And, wow! Tam saw an unco sight!
Warlocks and witches in a dance:
Nae cotillion, brent new frae France,
But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels,
Put life and mettle in their heels.
A winnock-bunker in the east,
There sat Auld Nick, in shape o’ beast;
A tousie tyke, black, grim, and large,
To gie them music was his charge:
He screw’d the pipes and gart them skirl,
Till roof and rafters a’ did dirl.
Coffins stood round, like open presses,
That shaw’d the dead in their last dresses;
And, by some devilish cantraip sleight,
Each in its cauld hand held a light:

[And, wow! Tam saw a strange sight!
Wizards and witches in a dance:
No cotillion, brand new from France,
But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels,
Put life and mettle in their heels.
A window seat in the east,
There sat the Old Devil, in shape of beast;
A shaggy dog, black, grim, and large,
To give them music was his charge:
He screwed the bagpipes and made them squeal,
Till roof and rafters all did ring.
Coffins stood around, like open cupboards,
That showed the dead in their last dresses;
And, by some devilish magic device,
Each in its cold hand held a light]

Detail of previous: Tam looking through the window.

As Tammie glower’d, amaz’d, and curious,
The mirth and fun grew fast and furious…
And how Tam stood like ane bewitch’d,
And thought his very een enrich’d”

[As Tammie glowered, amazed, and curious,
The mirth and fun grew fast and furious…
And how Tam stood like one bewitched,
And thought his very eyes enriched]

Another detail of the first illustration: Nannie dancing.

But here my Muse her wing maun cour,
Sic flights as far beyond her power:
To sing how Nannie lap and flung
(A souple jad she was a strang)…
Till first ae caper, syne anither,
Tam tint his reason a’ thegither

[But here my Muse her winging must stop,
Such flights as far beyond her power:
To sing how Nannie leaped and kicked
(A supple jade she was and strong)…
Till first one caper, then another,
Tam lost his reason all together]


And in an instant all was dark;
And scarcely had he Maggie rallied,
When out the hellish legion sallied.
As bees bizz out wi’ angry fyke,
When plundering herds assail their byke…
So Maggie runs, the witches follow,
Wi’ monie an eldritch skriech and hollo.

[And in an instant all was dark;
And scarcely had he Maggie rallied,
When out the hellish legion sallied.
As bees buzz out with angry fret,
When plundering hoards assail their hive…
So Maggie runs, the witches follow,
With many an unearthly screech and cry.]


But ere the key-stane she could make,
The fient a tail she had to shake;
For Nannie, far before the rest,
Hard upon noble Maggie prest,
And flew at Tam wi’ furious ettle;
But little wist she Maggie’s mettle!
Ae spring brought off her master hale,
But left behind her ain grey tail:
The carlin claught her by the rump,
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.

[But before the key-stone she could reach,
The attack [on her] tail she had to shake;
For Nannie, far before the rest,
Hard upon noble Maggie pressed,
And flew at Tam with furious aim;
But little knew she Maggie’s spirit!
One spring brought off her master whole,
But left behind her own grey tail:
The witch clutched her by the rump,
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.]

http://sexywitch.wordpress.com/2006/09/15/burns-tam-oshanter/

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