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Brave Women in "The Hainted House"


"The Hainted House." In Roberts, Leonard. South From Hell-fer-Sartin': Kentucky Mountain Folk Tales. U of KY Press, 1955. Rpt. Berea, KY: The Council of the Southern Mountains, 1964, pp. 40-41. A traveling man leaves his wife in a house that she doesn't know is haunted. Because she is the only one who hasn't been afraid of him, a ghost shows her where to dig for his buried chest. She sends her cowardly husband away when he returns in the morning. "He was afraid to come back, and there wasn't any use for her to have him around." This is one of four related ghost tales in this volume, section 9. The others are about boys. Roberts gives detailed notes on these and other tales he collected of type 326. Other ghost stories are in the section Myths and Local Legends.

"The Hanted House." In Roberts, Leonard (collector). Nippy and the Yankee Doodle, and Other Authentic Folk Tales from the Southern Mountains. Berea, KY: The Council of the Southern Mountains, 1958. Roberts' note calls this the story "the most often told one that I have collected in Appalachia. I now have twenty-five or thirty versions. It is Type 326, The Youth Who Went Forth, and well sets forth the two most common motifs for the presence of ghosts on earth: they cannot rest in peace when parts of their mortal remains have not been buried properly, and when they have left unfinished business such as hidden money and crime unpunished." A man who owns a large farm is killed by robbers who scatter parts of his body around the property, but cannot find his money. Renters say the house is haunted and move out, until a wife home alone finds the words in her Bible needed to keep the ghost from killing her. He names his killers, and gives his property and hidden money to the woman and her husband after they dig up his body parts and bury them in the cemetery. Roberts reprinted the tale as "The Hainted House" in Old Greasybeard: Tales from the Cumberland Gap. Illus. Leonard Epstein. Detroit: Folklore Associates, 1969. Rpt. Pikeville, KY: Pikeville College Press, 1980. Notes in this book give many international variants and describe the woman in Leslie County, KY who, in 1947, "told this story in the most effective way I have ever heard."

"The Irishman." In Carter, Isobel Gordon. "Mountain White Folk-Lore: Tales from the Southern Blue Ridge." Journal of American Folklore 38 (1925): pp. 340-74 (this tale on p. 373). Available online through library services such as JSTOR. A landmark article containing Jack tales told by Jane Hicks Gentry (1863-1925) and others, recorded by Carter in 1923. Carter comments on the decline of storytelling among mountain families who used to know them better, although they had not been recorded as ballads had been. This is one of six short tales told by Susie Wilkenson of eastern Tennessee. An Irishman comes to America and is directed to a house that no one wants to stay in. While he's in bed, a woman appears to him and tells that a neighbor had murdered her while her husband was away. She tells the Irishman to swear to this story and then he is accused, confesses, and is killed.

See also:

Jack and the Hainted House for similar tales with male heroes

"The Haunted House" in Chase, Richard. American Folk Tales and Songs, and Other Examples of English-American Tradition as Preserved in the Appalachian Mountains and Elsewhere in the United States.  Illus. Joshua Tolford.  New York:  Dover, 1956, rpt. 1971. A preacher, spending a night in a haunted house, speaks to the ghost of a murdered woman. After giving her bones a Christian burial, he uses her finger end-joint in the collection plate to catch her murderer. Then the ha'nt instructs him to dig for a bag of gold under the hearthrock. Chase notes that this tale from Wise County, VA has the basic form of a ghost tale that has existed since 300 A.D. or earlier.

Eight tales collected for the WPA in the section "Haunted Houses," in Virginia Folk Legends. Ed. Thomas E. Barden. Charlottesville: U of VA Press, 1991. "The Ghost's Little Finger Bone," similar to Chase's tale above, contains a ghost-girl who tells a preacher how to catch her murderer. "A Civil War haunt in an Old Log House" involves several women in a house haunted by a murdered woman. These two were collected by Emory L. Hamilton in Wise County, VA.

Pretty Polly - or - Mister Fox (related to "Bluebeard") depicts women dealing with female corpses and murderers in a strange house.

Compare with:

"The Story of a Boy Who Went Forth To Learn Fear" by the Grimm Brothers. Transl. and reprinted online from the Grimms' 2nd edition, 1819, by D. L. Ashliman. A younger son who is too dumb to get scared at anything endures a series of frightening events, some involving scary black cats, ghosts, and playing ninepins with body parts. He saves a haunted castle, marries the princess and gets a fortune, but he doesn't learn what the creeps are until his wife pours a bucket of cold minnows over him in bed. Some incidents are also similar to those in "Soldier Jack."

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