Haunted dorms, mysterious demon dogs and front porches touched up in a shade of “haint blue,” tales of ghosts and the unexplained have been woven into the fabric of High Country folklore for ages and continue to be passed along today. Soon, a presentation by Trent Margrif, a senior lecturer at Appalachian State University, will help shed light on phenomena generally described as “ghost” and the folklore associated with them. The online event will be hosted by the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum via Zoom and will also be made available on YouTube for individuals not able to view the live showing.
An historian by trade, Magriff has spent over a decade working in the preservation field and has had the opportunity to explore hundreds of abandoned structures, an experience that at times has left him scratching his head.
“I’ve been in about 400 abandoned buildings doing documentation work or something similar and I would say that there are things that I have experienced that I can’t really explain,” said Margrif.
Magriff’s personal experiences motivated him to dig deeper into the history of the subject, exploring the roots of the phenomena and why stories of ghosts have continued to be passed down generation to generation.
“Unfortunately, there’s a long legacy of putting certain individuals in their place through these stories,” said Margrif. “Sometimes it’s a woman who has a child out of wedlock, or gets stood up at the marriage altar, or her husband goes off to war and she’s unfaithful. The stories teach a lesson to keep societal norms in place.”
Aside from acting as social buffers, the stories at times take on religious aspects and at times play into cultural norms, with people longing to connect to their deceased ancestors or link themselves to the past events.
“It’s simply trying to reconnect with people from the past whether that’s family members or other connections,” said Magriff. “People sometimes equate this to religious backgrounds and different cultures too. Whenever I have an international student in class, these things are part of their normal accepted culture. Whereas here we kind of make a larger deal about it.”
According to Margrif, at times the stories themselves change or reinvent themselves completely as they are passed down from generation to generation. However, the local legend or ghost story you hear may have a sliver of truth to it.
“I think a lot of it is like the game telephone that we play as kids. You may say one thing, but by the time the message is relayed to the twentieth person it’s a whole different story,” said Margrif. “Ultimately if you trace it back there may be some kernel of truth to it, but over generations it becomes embellished or exaggerated.”
To learn more about the subject of ghosts and regional folklore, check out the BRAHM’s “Haints and Haunts: Near and Far” presentation on Thursday, Oct. 29. The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. via Zoom with a recording of the lecture becoming available on YouTube after the event.
Those interested in “Haints anf Haunts” can visit https://www.blowingrockmuseum.org/calendar/haints-haunts. For more information about the BRAHM or this event visit https://www.blowingrockmuseum.org/ or call (828) 295- 9099.