It all starts with a story. It always does. Every haunt. Every monster. Every strange mystery. There’s a story you heard that compelled you to take a closer look. To investigate for yourself, and maybe even have your own unexplained experience. The story is a living, breathing thing, that moves from person-to-person like a virus. Each time it mutates just a bit, but it still maintains its power to infect, resulting in specific symptoms—namely, the story compels you to want to learn more and then pass it on.
For me, the folklore offers us a road map we can follow back to the source. Each element of the story is a line that leads to another clue, then another, and so on, until we get back to the catalyst that led to a haunting.
Profound history leaves a mark, and sometimes that mark is more like a scar that will forever remind us that something big happened here. “Big” is a relative term, of course. Big can be on a national or global scale, like major battle sites where scores of lives were lost. Big can also be on a community scale, where a murder claimed the lives of an entire family.
So we follow the trail the folklore leaves behind. Sometimes it leads to a dead end. Sometimes it leads to gold. Literally.
For example, I’m currently chasing a story of buried pirate treasure guarded by a centuries-old ghost. Someone sent me a newspaper article from the 1970s that relayed an old tale of a ship sunk by pirates, and their treasure cursed forever. Eventually that treasure made its way inland up to a mountain cave, where the trail goes cold. Then I found a second story of buried treasure on this same mountain—and this mountain is small, almost unknown outside of the town where it resides. Two stories about buried treasure on the same mountain? How can that be? So I dig through historic records and newspaper archives. I find an article. Then another. It turns out pieces of the legend have basis in fact. So I found a string of clues, a few old town records showing old property lines, and now I’m about ready to launch an expedition to the mountain and search for something that most folks gave up on over a century ago.
Folklore is the wisdom of the ages, it’s the connective tissue between all of humanity, it’s a relevant form of communication, and it’s as much a part of our communities as the buildings and the people. The stories give us insight into ghosts and hauntings. We’d do well to pay attention to them.