Elk LandingOn June 22 at 6:30 pm, author/historian Ed Okonowicz will give a talk about spooky Maryland and Cecil County stories and legends. As I was putting this program together, I remembered listening to ghost stories around the campfire when I was a kid and wondered, how long have ghost stories been around? When and why did people start telling these whispered, spooky tales?

Since ancient times, ghost stories – tales of spirits who return from the dead to haunt the places they left behind – have been an important part of the folklore of many different cultures around the world. The idea of a ghost or a specter is based on the idea that a person’s spirit exists separate from his or her physical body, and may continue to exist after the person dies. Because of this idea, many societies would use funeral rituals to make sure that the dead person’s spirit would not return to ‘haunt’ the living who were left behind.

Spirits of the dead appear in literature as early as the 8th century BC in Homer’s ‘Odyssey,’ which features a journey to the underworld and the hero encountering the ghosts of the dead. Roman author and statesman, Pliny the Younger, recorded one of the first ghost stories that features a haunted house in his letters in the first century A.D.  Pliny said that the ghost of an old man with a long beard and rattling chains was haunting his house in Athens, Greece.

Many different cultures have their own version of the ghost story. The Duppy is a West Indian ghost who will appear if coins and a glass of rum are thrown on its grave. The Indian Mumiai is a ghost who throws things around. They especially like to make trouble for people who are lazy or criminals. The Japanese Umi Bozu is a huge sea ghost who haunts Japanese sailors.

America has its own rich tradition of historical ghosts, including one of its founding fathers: Benjamin Franklin. Beginning in the late 19th century, Franklin’s ghost was seen in Philadelphia and some reports held that the statue of Franklin in front of the American Philosophical Society comes to life and dances in the street. The White House in Washington, D.C. has had many ghost sightings over the years. Everyone from first ladies to prime ministers have reported seeing the ghost of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln.

CCPL has a number of Mr. Okonowicz’s spooky stories as well as other ghost and haunted tales.

I hope you’ll join us on June 22. We’ll have a “campfire” and s’mores pie!

Do you dare?

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