A few posts ago, we wrote about haunted libraries. Well, I was in my local public library recently, looking for spooky, moody stuff to read. Since we’ve had some rain lately, I was looking for some Nathaniel Hawthorne. I know that when most American readers think of Gothic, spooky and classical American literature at this time of year, they’re apt to go for Edgar Allen Poe first, or Stephen King, or Anne Rice’s witch novels, or perhaps even Daphne du Maurier. Not me: I think of The House of the Seven Gables and short stories like The Minister’s Black Veil and Rappacini’s Daughter, which is a favorite of mine from that era. This guy was no slouch. Heck, he was even born in Salem, Massachusetts and his ancestor John Hathorne was the judge at the Salem Witch Trials (the judge who never repented; his ghost ought to be plenty unsettled). In fact, Hawthorne changed the spelling of his surname to disassociate himself from his murdering ancestor (and succeeded at that).
So here I am in the library, looking for my guy Hawthorne, when I notice a pile of bookmarks on the information desk. Since I always need more bookmarks, I picked one up – and behold, it was touting a local magician, author and storyteller by the name of William Pack. Sounds New England-y and Hawthorne-ish, so I went for it. Then I realized his website URL is on the bookmark (smart!), so I looked him up.
Turns out the guy is, first and foremost, a local (i.e., Chicago area) author on subjects such as Harry Houdini, magic and the history of same, and ghost stories. He’s a professional magician, too, plus he wrote a book on P.T. Barnum (I guess if you’re willing to write about one form of hokum, it’s not much of a stretch to write about Barnum, too). But what really grabbed me is that the mysterious Mr. Pack’s public appearances are, per his calendar, virtually exclusively at public libraries. Then it hit me: where else do kids go these days to hear a good ghost story? The local library, of course, if not a museum (he’s done a few of those, too, including the Chicago History Museum).
Now, I have no idea about this guy’s magic skills, so I’m not recommending those. And I’ve not read his books. But I’m fascinated by people who make a living – in whole or in part – telling ghost stories. I just think that’s grand. That alone makes me wish this guy well. Bravo!
I sincerely doubt that Mr. Pack is the only guy who makes a living at telling ghost tales and/or that Chicago is the only metropolis in which this happens. So tell me, y’all: how many of you know of similar storytellers in your neck of the haunted woods? Don’t be shy, now. Let us in on the spooktacular stories here and share.
Until next time,