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Bloomington's Fiendish Festival Of Fright

For The Kids In All Of Us

The Festival of Ghost Stories has been spooking Bloomington for over 30 years. A partnership of the Bloomington Department of Parks and Recreation, the Monroe County Library and the Bloomington Storytellers Guild, the event is popular with kids and parents alike.

Lisa Champelli is a 15-year veteran of the Bloomington Storytellers Guild and one of the many librarians telling stories at this year's event. "You think of some of the traditional places for telling spooky stories – at sleepovers, slumber parties, around the campfire where you're gathered friends and family," she says. "It's this chance to get the shivers running up your spine while you still know that you have safe contacts near by."

Memories like this often are from childhood, but it should be emphasized that The Festival of Ghost stories is meant for older school-aged kids.

A Flair For The Dramatic

It's no coincidence that many of the storytellers are also librarians. There is a deep tradition of storytelling among librarians that goes back to the early 20th century. This sort of telling is different from read-alouds, Josh Wolf explains. "The big distinction here is learning a story and then telling it, not word-for-word, but just as it comes to you."

Librarians might look through collections for ideas, or write their own stories, but most often they adapt folktales. It gives them the opportunity to put their own spin on a particular tale. Stephanie Holman is the children's librarian at the Elletsville Branch of the Monroe County Public Library, and she did just this with the folktale "The Golden Arm."

It's a classic tale where a man marries a woman mostly because she has this golden arm as a prosthetic. When she passes and she's buried, he steals the arm from her grave. She comes back from the dead to retrieve it, and gets it – and him!

After researching many different versions, she rewrote the bare-bones story, taking inspiration from all the various sources and adding some personal touches.

"Why did she have a golden arm? What was he like that he married her? How did she die? What did he do to get that arm? What was it like to retrieve it? I want more details!"

A Teller Is Only As Good As Her Story

All agreed that picking a story that really speaks to you is first and foremost for being a successful storyteller, but good storytellers also create an atmosphere, build tension, and tickle their audience's imaginations.

Wolf adds that ghost stories are the hardest of all stories to find. "If it's not really scary, it's going to be funny! But how far can you push it?"

"You're really communicating your own imagination to other people who are creating that world for themselves," says Mary Frasier, a children's librarian at the Monroe County Public Library. "But the best tellers are people who really look to the essence of a story, that aspect of a story that's compelling in a real, fundamental human sense."

For More Bloomington Storytelling...

  • Visit the Bloomington Storytellers Guild on Blogspot

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