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A Spirited Story

According to a 2005 Gallup poll, 32 percent of Americans believe in ghosts. Most people know of at least one ghost story that has been told within their family, and many of us even remember living near a haunted house when we were young. Our folklore is rich with tales of haunted happenings.

Graveyard in rear of church near Summerville, S.C. 1938. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USF34-050640-E (b&w film nitrate neg.), LC-USZ62-131614 (b&w film copy neg. from print); Call No.: LC-USF34- 050640-E [P&P]. Catalog Record: Haunted Lane. 1889. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-49314 (b&w film copy neg. of half stereo); Call No.: LOT 3520-7, no. 8 [P&P]. Catalog Record:

Eldora Scott Maples tells the tale of the family ghost, Alex – short for Alexander the Great – who came to her father when he was 12 and kept watch over him and the family through the years.

“When my father was 12 years of age he heard a strange tap, tap one night as he lay in bed that sounded as if water was dripping from the top of the house down to a feather mattress. The tap, tap came repeatedly through a duration of a year or more before he recognized that some message was trying to be revealed. The tap, tap, tap, appeared so frequently that they soon ceased to be taps but were an insistent stream, then stopped when the usual tap, tap, tap, began as before. While in that lone room in the stillness of the night with blared eyes the constant tap, tap, never varying from sound except by frequency, my father decided that the visitor was a ghost.”

Her story is just one of many in American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940.

The Library’s American Memory Collection has audio clips of ghost stories being told, as well as ones to read in The Nineteenth Century in Print. Search for the term “ghost story” for an ectoplasmic experience.

If seeing is believing, you can search the Library’s online motion picture collections for movies on magic and ghosts.