True-life tales of terror tend to thrill me more than fake ones, as the truth is usually stranger than fiction. This is the reason why, once I randomly located The Haunted South: Where Ghosts Still Roam, written by Nancy Roberts, I just HAD to read it.
Have you ever felt like some object, possibly something random, was aiming for you, trying to grab your attention? At various times throughout my life, I’ve had this actually happen. Recently, when I took a week-long vacation with my family, upon inspecting a lengthy set of bookcases at the cottage we had reserved, I happened to find this creepy collection of factual tall tales, all taking place within the South.
Sometimes, things have a way of finding you… for a reason.
Originally released in 1971, Roberts has been hailed the “First Lady of American Folklore.” As a fan of books in general (and paranormal ones based on true events in particular), after learning about her unofficial title, I was ready to read. With chapter titles like The Demon of Wizard Clip, Room for One More, Tavern of Terror and The Surrency Ghost, what would you expect? These 14 chapters had some lengthy and some short stories, but a few of my favorites included The Little People, The King’s Messengers and The Phantom Rider of the Confederacy. These are backwoods ghost stories that may or may not have happened in real life, but there were people who definitely believed these strange events really happened and the author does a decent job at bringing them to life.
Are they simply folk tales, passed down throughout the years by people who scare easily? Maybe they’re just strange experiences from small-town folks? Or could these spine-tingling urban legends actually be real? The stories included in this book definitely include nightmare fuel detailing the unusual history taking place within the Great Smoky Mountains, deep in Mississippi, Southern Georgia and even in the Outer Banks. Tennessee even gets a drive-by mention.
As this book is almost 50 years old, it was automatically bound to feel outdated. Regardless, I enjoyed reading about the restless foreboding and superstitions from the people of this time. The writing does feel like it’s aimed toward the Young Adult crowd and sadly, the author breaks out in backcountry language at times, requiring passages to be re-read for full comprehension. And then there’s the random typos, which stick out like sore thumbs. Some actual pictures are included, which is nice. When details about factual locations are given, the information therein is greatly outdated. That is unfortunate.
What originally lured me to this book is the same thing that attracted me to horror anthology shows as a kid (even if they weren’t real). It’s the same thing that draws me in to the paranormal TV shows and movies of today. (It’s also one of the reasons I’ve become a huge fan of Blumhouse Entertertainment.). It’s why I enjoyed Ripley’s Believe It or Not (as a biographical book Robert Ripley: A Curious Man and a rejuvenated TV show). It’s also why I really enjoyed reading Ghosthunting Florida, Ghosthunting Kentucky, Is Your House Haunted?, Ghosts From Our Past, Chicago Haunted Handbook and Nashville Haunted Handbook.
You could say I enjoy exploring the dangers that lurk in the dark. Whether tall tales or true terror, I enjoyed reliving these phantoms of the past. For those who are interested in learning more about these encounters, The Haunted South is also available via audiobook. That seems kinda like a paranormal story unto itself: Listening to someone read a 50-year-old book about ghost stories via technology that was not even available back then. Might actually give you goosebumps. Make sure to turn up the volume real loud.