Halloween Listening: Archival tales of ghosts, witches, & haints

Happy Halloween.

Today’s Halloween edition of The Lost Child is mostly made up of southern haunting and supernatural tales, with stories of ghosts, witches, zombies, and haints. A few spooky tunes for the season are scattered in also, along the way.

In case you missed it, or want to hear it again or share it with a friend, you can stream the whole episode anytime here

and I’ve got an extra 90 minutes of Halloween-themed music available for streaming here.

Many of the stories in today’s show come from the online archives of the Digital Library of Appalachia (Blue Ridge Institute and Museum, Ferrum College), the Library of Congress, and the Association for Cultural Equity: all excellent resources, and all searchable and streamable anywhere, for free.

Even better, perhaps, than the ghostly specifics of the stories themselves, the true highlight of today’s episode may be its gathering of warm and wonderful accents. I hope you’ll give it a listen.

Here’s the playlist and source info:

  1. Sandy Shelor: Giant cat ghost
    Recorded by Kip Lornell, Carroll County, Virginia, 1970s
    Digital Library of Appalachia
  1. Cora Jackson: Ghost story, ten-foot woman
    Recorded by Kip Lornell, Fairfax County, Virginia, 1977
    Digital Library of Appalachia
  1. The Phantom Five: Graveyard
    Skull Records, 1964
  1. Ed Harris: Haunted house
    Recorded by Kip Lornell, Chilhowie, Virginia, 1977.
    Digital Library of Appalachia 
  1. 11 and 12 year old girls: Conversation about ghosts
    Meadville, Mississippi, c. 1972-3
    Library of Congress 
  1. Bessie Jones: Ghost story about a haunted church
    Recorded by Alan Lomax, Greenwich Village, 1961
    Bessie Jones lived in St. Simon Island, Georgia. 
    Association for Cultural Equity
  1. Aunt Jenny Wilson: Witch Story #1
    Recorded by Fred Coon, Peach Creek, West Virginia, c. 1960s
    from Aunt Jenny Wilson: Recordings from the collection of Fred Coon, Field Recorders’ Collective, 2007.
  1. Kip Tyler: She’s My Witch
    Ebb Records, 1958
  1. Margarie Quinlin: Lamb of God story
    Recorded by Kip Lornell, Patrick Henry Community College, Martinsville, Virginia, 1985
    Digital Library of Appalachia 
  1. Burl Hammons: Turkey in the Straw (story)
    Recorded by Carl Fleishchauer and Alan Jabbour, Stillwell, West Virginia, 1972. From The Hammons Family: The Traditions of a West Virginia Family and their Friends, Rounder Records, 1998.
  1. Quincy Higgins: Hant tale and witch story
    Recorded by Patrick Mullen, Sparta, North Carolina, 1978
    Library of Congress
  1. Herbert Fulk: Witch stories
    Recorded by Patrick Mullen and Blanton Owen, Toast, North Carolina, 1978
    Library of Congress
  1. Lilia Huddie: Broom test for Liz Deavers
    Recorded by Roddy Moore, Wytheville, Virginia, 1970s
    Digital Library of Appalachia 
  1. Lou Rawls: Season of the Witch
    from The Way it Was — The Way it Is, Capitol Records, 1969
  1. Texas Gladden: Ghost story of Civil War soldiers and a haunted house
    Recorded by Alan Lomax, Manhattan, New York, 1946. Texas Gladden was from Saltville, Virginia. 
    Association for Cultural Equity
  1. Eartha White: A ghost story
    Recorded by Robert Harrison Cook, Jacksonville, Florida, 1940
    Library of Congress
  1. Lightnin’ Hopkins: Black Ghost Blues
    from Soul Blues, Prestige Records, 1964
  1. Zora Neale Hurston: Haitian zombies
    Mary Margaret McBride Show, 1943
  1. Bessie Jones: Ghost story about a haunted wood
    Recorded by Alan Lomax, Greenwich Village, 1961. Bessie Jones lived on St. Simons Island, Georgia.
    Association for Cultural Equity
  1. Lee Morse and her Blue Grass Boys: ‘Tain’t No Sin (To Dance Around in Your Bones)
    Columbia Records, 1930
  1. The Phantom Five: Graveyard
    Skull Records, 1964
  1. Kathryn Tucker Windham: Don’t be afraid of ghosts
    Alabama Folk Sampler Stage, City Stages, Birmingham, Alabama, 1998. Kathryn Tucker Windham was from Selma, Alabama.
    Alabama Folklife Collection, Alabama Department of Archives and History

Thanks for tuning in.

Medieval monsters by Sebastian Münster, 16th century.

“Western wear invited. Sportswear accepted.” Happenings ’69.

I was working on my next couple of blog posts, “Adventures in Basements” (Parts 1 & 2), when I got a call from my friend Patrick. “Adventures in Basements” will chronicle my favorite discoveries rooting through archives and library stacks around the country. But in the meantime Patrick called to say he wanted to pass on to me a small but generous chunk of his own archival collection.

Over the course of a lifetime Patrick Cather has built an incredible collection of books, records, memorabilia, artifacts, and ephemera related to (among many other things) Birmingham’s history and music. We got to know each other several years ago through a mutual friend, Frank “Doc” Adams. My book-in-progress includes a lengthy, important chapter on Patrick, Doc, and the boogie-woogie pianist Robert McCoy.

About a year ago Patrick entrusted to me a couple hundred R&B and soul records, mostly from the 1960s. This week he shared with me enough 78’s to make my car sink from the weight: Bessie Smith, Jimmie Rodgers, Fats Waller, the Mississippi Sheiks, Erskine Hawkins, and all sorts of other things. There’s even one from Clifford Hayes’s Louisville Jug Stompers and a couple of the V-Disc records, issued during World War II for the soldiers overseas.

Among the papers I got from Patrick was a single issue of Dick Coffee’s Birmingham Doin’s, dated November of 1969. It’s a periodical survey of late 1960s (white) Birmingham nightlife, consisting mostly of advertisements. As such, it’s an interesting glimpse into this city’s nightclubs—a segment of them, anyway—a half a century ago.

I asked Patrick, flipping through the pages: Did you ever go to the Original Boom Boom Room?

Many times, he said, and added: the Boom Boom Room had a chicken in a cage, and it would dance on demand. 

Only one of the establishments listed below is still in business: the Red Lion in Homewood, a place I love. Long may it run.

I’ll be posting many more archival finds in the weeks ahead—including some excerpts from Glare magazine, the glossy 1950s magazine devoted to Birmingham’s black entertainment and social life. For now, here are some Birmingham Doin’s.

Don’t miss the talked about Blaze.









While I was going through his records, Patrick got a call from the family of Joe Rumore, Birmingham’s late, longtime radio personality: a chunk of Rumore’s estate, it happened, was going on sale in the morning, and Patrick passed the tip along to me.

I went to the Rumore sale, but I only purchased one item. There were lots of framed, signed photos of old country music stars, all out of my budget—and autographed head shots don’t do much for me, anyway.  More my speed, and priced at just a few dollars,  was this photo from radio station WSPG in Anniston, Alabama: a trio identified as Mary Frady, Jerry Frady, and Ruby Fallon. I’ve got a decent collection of photos like this—images of forgotten, mostly anonymous musicians—and I find all the details in them wonderful. For starters: from a distance the pattern on Jerry’s shirt might look likes flowers, but it’s cowboys and lassos.

Version 2

Really I love everything about this photo. The mic placement, obviously. The rolled cuffs of Jerry’s pants. The younger woman and the older woman, and their symmetry. That fringe, just under their knees. How everybody’s wearing boots. The look on Ruby’s face. The look on Mary’s. Jerry’s absolute earnestness.

I’d like to have heard him sing.

(Incidentally, about this time last year I compiled some of my photos of “lost and found” musicians in a little collection, titled “Melodies Unheard.” You can get a copy here.

More soon.)