Haunted Tradition: Ghosts, Legends and Tradition at Smith College
Ghost stories have their roots in the tradition of oral storytelling. Told around the fire to explain the unseen, they evolved and changed with people’s culture and taught generation what to fear. The way the stories were told influenced them as much as the words spoken and those tales became the bonding force of the society. Listening was not passive. The weight of remembering and retelling helped to form identity. The relationship between those that spoke and those that heard connected the group and signaled an informal initiation.
The tradition is not dead. The passing of ghost stories, whether they are true or not, still has the same effect. No longer is the telling crucial to maintaining the social structure, but its value as part of an initiation lives in sleepovers, camp outs and in the spreading of local legend. To believe is to belong and to be part of the tradition means to be part of a group. Read more