This semester, I’m teaching a fairytale-themed seminar class, and my students requested we read ghost stories for Halloween. Though I’m no ghost story expert, I’m still happy to oblige! One of the class’s course goals is to introduce students to different cultures, so I’ve made it a point to include tales from around the world in every week’s reading. I’ve also made it a point to have only free readings; students pay too much for textbooks already! But I ran into a surprising difficulty — almost everything I could find summarized a ghost story rather than told a story. I try to stick to original source material in this class versus summaries or retellings, but I wasn’t completely successful this time around.
With these things in mind, here are the ghost-related readings I’ve chosen for my students.
The Medieval Origins of Halloween by Michael Livingston. But wait, this isn’t a ghost story! Nope. I wanted my students to learn a little about the origins of Halloween. It’s a quick, interesting read, and you get to find out how Samhain is pronounced. Okay, not the most important information from it, but I’ve been mispronouncing it!
No discussion of international ghost stories would be complete without the Japanese yurei. The image of the footless ghost haunts pop culture, but that image has an interesting history, which is discussed in Japanese Folklore: Maruyama Ōkyo and the Ghost of Oyuki. Electric Lit also published an interesting piece on yurei — Yūrei: the Ghosts of Japan by Zack Davisson.
If you hear a banshee scream, then you know a death is soon to follow. Banshees hail from Irish folklore, and I found this great chapter from True Irish Ghost Stories, which contains lots of micro-stories about banshees, among other Irish death-warnings. I’m only requiring my students to read the section on banshees, but the entire chapter is interesting.
The last ghost story my students will be reading is La Llorona, a Hispanic tale, also known as The Weeping Woman. It’s one of my favorite ghost stories. The image comes from a mural by Juana Alicia in San Francisco.
While these are the stories I’m having my students read, I plan on reading The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury, which I’ve never read before. It’s on sale for the kindle for only $1.99 right now, if you want to grab it. I forgot to mention that I’m offering extra credit if my students dress up for Halloween and can connect their outfit to a culture outside of their own. Fun, right? I’m dressing up too, as a character from one of the fairy tales I’ve had them read. I’ll post pictures of the class after!
What are you reading for Halloween?