What follows is based on another
reprint from our BOOK AGAIN archives. Since October of 1986 we've
been putting out store newsletters, and back in those primitive
times I was putting the things together on an IBM XT with a whopping
20 megs of memory (hard drive, not RAM). To convince me into
undertaking this arduous chore, Mom (Sheryl Anderson to you -
the founder of Book Again) agreed to let me do a folklore column
in every issue.
Now, exactly what constitutes
"folklore" can easily lead one into a hopeless sea
of semantic soup, suffice it to say that I personally choose
to define the subject rather broadly. The whole great wonderful
canvas of human experience is fair game - anything that touches
us, that takes human beings out of the realm of the ordinary
into something else, anything that mythologizes or demonizes
ordinary folks, all that is fair game.
Which means I can touch on
anything from the origins of a particular holiday or superstition
to the Checkers Speech or the sinking of the Titanic.
In the past, time and space
constraints have to some extent restricted my choice of topics,
and in truth the majority of subjects this past decade have been
"traditional" - the origins of holidays, debunking
historical misconceptions, and of course the realm of fantasy.
As far as the latter, those who've read this column once or twice
are undoubtedly aware that I have a particular favorite subgenre
of fantasy: ghosts.
Now, I don't know where this
obsession began. I do recall being very young, and watching Walt
Disney's "Wonderful World of Color." The particular
episode that comes to mind was in essence a one hour promotion
for the film "Darby O'Gill and the Little People,"
entitled "I Captured the King of the Leprecauns." At
the beginning of the show they gave a little teaser of what was
coming, and as I recall my parents were out of the room at the
time, and for a brief moment I saw the most horrifying glimpse
of a banshee, shrouded and groaning, bursting through a door.
When said parents returned
I began suggesting a switch to Ed Sullivan. They patiently tried
to figure out what was wrong with me, and upon learning of my
fears reassured me that this was, after all, Disney, and nothing
too terribly frightening was going to be shown.
Fool that I was, I believed
So it was that, about 35 minutes
into the show, Walt Disney gave me the worst scare of my life
and changed said life forever.
You see, the introduction of
the Banshee in the film is scary enough, but for the television
show they upped the ante a bit, and set up a rather innocent
situation where someone was innocently opening a door, and
Little Joe at this point goes
running hysterically for cover, vowing never to trust parents
or Uncle Walt ever again.
There may be those who would
put forth the possibility at this point that I was something
of a weird kid. Fair enough. I avoided the show for quite awhile
- to the point that when we would gather at my mom's folks in
Sherman Oaks, and the kids would be sent downstairs to watch
Disney, I would curl myself up in a ball on the stairs and make
loud noises to myself, for at that point the very sound of the
"Wonderful World of Color" theme song would terrify
me. I can recall my grandfather asking if my parents had considered
As is probably already obvious,
the other great obsession of my life besides paranormal research
is collecting as many episodes of that wonderful series as possible.
I have a friend (and former brother-in-law) who has always turned
queasy at the slightest sign of blood. He wound up creating gory
special effects for a living. I think our deepest obsessions
come out of our earliest traumas - as we grow the love/hate pendulum
swings the other way and we attempt to conquer that which we
once feared by owning it.
It probably didn't hurt that
I entered elementary school in the wonderful monster-mad early
In 1962 two things happened.
First, I saw Charles Laughton's immortal "Canterville Ghost"
for the first time. Second, Ideal realeased a game that fall
called Haunted House. It was a 3D game, where one actually got
to move pieces around a miniature haunted house. I was in love
with the thing, though, having never heard the word before, I
would call it a "hunted" house. My Dad finally clued
me in: "No, Joe, it's haunted."
Now, don't ask me why, but
that slight difference in pronunciation had a profound effect
on me. "Haunted" sounded so much cooler than "hunted."
In late '63 I had a friend
who was, shall we say, given to tall tales. He swore he had a
real live haunted house right next door to him. I was naive enough
in those days to believe him, and can actually recall my disappointment
when I finally stayed the night at his house and realized it
had been a fabrication (although I did get to see the Outer Limits,
which was off limits at the Nolte household).
So I headed toward adolescence
in a quandary - I knew there weren't really ghosts - it was illogical.
At the same time, I wished so much that such things existed.
At any rate, it's common knowledge
that the great horror fad of the early sixties never did quite
die, and as we mid-to-late boomers came of age we brought it
all back with a vengeance. At the same time, it is not necessarily
as much of a given as it once was that such things do not in
fact exist . . .
Last month's column dealt with
a real haunted house that affected me so much I was compelled
to return with my brother Mike (Book Again manager). That visit
was part of a day long "ghost tour" I may bore you
with in a subsequent column.
I continue the tradition now
- this is based on a column that originally appeared in the August
1988 newsletter. As before, I am expanding it and adding photos,
and blessing the beauty that is the WWW all the while. It is
a good thing to have a potentially global audience, and more
than justifies these enhanced reruns.
In the future, however, we
shall be exploring new and as yet untouched regions. There's
a wealth of stuff out there (how about a column on Tecumseh's
curse and how it ties in Lincoln, Kennedy and John Lennon?),
and I propose to have a lot of fun.
For now, here's another true
ghost story that happened to Mike and me.