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Old ghost stories are given new life during Halloween

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Emma Feuz
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The same ghost stories are told year after year around Halloween. In Utah, you might have heard of The Purple Lady at the Rio Grande Depot, or the Hermit in American Fork Canyon, or the ghosts that haunt Grafton. Utah State folklorist Lynne McNeill said these scary stories actually make us feel at home.

“You know you know somewhere when you know its ghost stories,” McNeill said.

 

Stories like these are not new. Utah State Special Collection’s Daniel Davis said they go as far back as we know.

 

“There have been ghost stories for many, many years,” Davis said. “I think back to the earliest recorded history, where the idea of interacting with someone who died and that they go on to a different kind of experience.”

 

Davis said even though these stories are old, we are the ones making them live on.

 

“I think a lot of ghost stories, it’s really about, it’s not necessary about the ghosts. It’s about you and me,” Davis said.

 

As we retell these ghost stories, McNeill said we also change them.

 

“We're not stuck just telling stories from hundreds of years ago,” McNeill said. “We get to keep them updated with stories of, well I heard someone who went to this spot and this happened to them, and that makes it really relevant.”

 

Davis said we start using these stories to explain people who are different from us. McNeill added that ghost stories often contain big themes. 

 

“Themes of family, motherhood, love, loss, anxiety, stress,” McNeill said. “I mean all sorts of things that we are all dealing with everyday.”

 

McNeill said we continue to embody these stories like visiting the weeping woman in the Logan cemetery or looking for the ghostly young girl at Moon Lake for a good reason.

 

“No story or legend trip or custom sticks around,” McNeill said. “Unless it is meaningful to us in some way.”

 

Emma Feuz is a senior at Utah State University majoring in broadcast journalism with minors in sociology and political science. She grew up in Evanston, Wyoming where, just like Utah State, the sagebrush also grows. Emma found her love of writing at an early age and slowly discovered her interest in all things audio and visual throughout her years in school. She is excited to put those passions to use at UPR. When school isn't taking up her time, Emma loves longboarding, cheering on the Denver Broncos, and cleaning the sink at Angies.