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"Jack and the Hainted House" and other Haunted House Tales

Jack Tale Players 2011
Stephenson, R. Rex
. "Jack and the Hainted House." In Nellie McCaslin. Creative Drama in the Classroom, editions 4-8. 8th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2005, p. 173. In story form with guidelines for dramatization. Seven little witches scare Jack during the night when he is traveling and is locked in a house, but Jack runs them off. They bring him a dead body that tells Jack he had been killed by a robber and there is gold hidden in the fireplace that Jack should share with the dead man's sons.
Jack Tale Players

Stephenson, R. Rex. "Jack and the Hainted House," in story form with introductory article by Joe Kennedy. Roanoke Times & World-News 31 Oct. 1992:  Extra 1. 

The Jack Tale Players of Ferrum College performed this great scary story many times as a separate tale, using actors' bodies to create the parts of the enchanted house that frighten Jack (at Rocky Mount, VA Farmer's Market, 2011, in photos). See The Jack Tales Facebook pages for photos of summer enrichment camp performances directed by Stephenson, and a video excerpt of this tale.

As a published script, this tale is combined with "Hardy Hard Head" in R. Rex Stephenson. Jack's Adventures with the King's Girl. Orem, UT: Encore, 1999. Reprint by Eldridge.

"The Hanted House." In Leonard Roberts (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 s 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 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 Hainted House." In Leonard Roberts (collector). Old Greasybeard: Tales From the Cumberland GapIllus. Leonard Epstein. Detroit: Folklore Associates, 1969. Rpt. Pikeville, KY: Pikeville College Press, 1980. pp. 72-75.

"The Haunted House" in Richard ChaseAmerican 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 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 tale that has existed since 300 A.D. or earlier.

"Down Come a Leg." JTA-3060. Collected by Richard Chase. Reprinted with full text in AppLit. When body parts fall down the chimney, a man staying in a haunted house asks for the head and demands to know what it wants. After he buries it, he gets to keep the dead man's six hundred dollars from under the hearth, in addition to a ten-dollar reward from the owner of the house.

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 's Little Finger Bone," collected by Emory L. Hamilton in Wise County, VA, is similar to the tale above published by Chase. Several others in this section are also from Wise County.

San Souci, Robert. The Boy and the Ghost. Illus. J. Brian Pinkney. New York: Trumpet Club/Simon & Schuster, 1989. The middle child of seven children, hating to see his rural family working so hard, sets off for the city to earn some money. After he shares his soup with a poor man, the man tells him of the treasure in a haunted house everyone fears. Thomas watches a giant red-haired come down the chimney and assemble the parts of his body (as in Chase's "Down Come a Leg," above). Since Thomas greets him without fear, the shows him where to dig up a pot of gold and thanks brave Thomas for setting him free. As instructed, Thomas gives half the gold to the poor on his way home. His family moves into the big house on the hill and lives happily. Although neither the text nor the illustrations emphasize a mountain setting, San Souci's sources are two short "negro stories," from western Virginia and southern Alabama, published in 1898 and again in Journal of American Folk-Lore in 1906. San Souci notes that stories of s guarding hidden treasure are found around the world.

"The Three Ghosts." In Isobel Gordon Carter. "Mountain White Folk-Lore: Tales from the Southern Blue Ridge." Journal of American Folklore 38 (1925): pp. 340-74 (this tale on pp. 373-74). 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. A man who is directed to a haunted house is approached by three women who say their brother murdered them because they were to have the house. They give him a handkerchief, a gold piece, and a walking stick that makes anyone answer him if he points it at them. At a "fine house" where he stays, these objects make all the women fall in love with him and help him select the third daughter as his wife.

Related Appalachian Tales:

Brave Women in the Hainted House - more haunted house stories that feature brave women

Soldier Jack, Tailypo, and Jack and Mossyfoot contain night-time hauntings and scary creatures.

"The Hainted House." In Leonard Roberts (collector). South From Hell-fer-Sartin': Kentucky Mountain Folk Tales. U of KY Press, 1955. Rpt. Berea, KY: The Council of the Southern Mountains, 1964. 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, a shows her where to dig for a chest. She sends her cowardly husband away when he returns in the morning. This is one of four related tales in this volume, section 9. The others are "The Boy That Never Seen a Fraid," "Johnny That Never Seen a Fraid," and "The Boy That Couldn't Shiver and Shake." Roberts gives detailed notes on these and other tales he collected of type 326. Other stories are in the section Myths and Local Legends.

"The Haunted House." In John A. Burrison, ed. Storytellers: Folktales and Legends from the South. Athens, GA: U of GA Press, 1989, pp. 83-84. Collected in Cedartown, Polk County, West Georgia, in the Appalachian foothills. In both this short tale and "When Bozo Comes," told by Leo Drake, an African-American storyteller from Alabama (pp. 156-58), the man who stays in the haunted house simply ends up being scared away.  In Drake's tale, a series of big creatures like cats scare him off.

"Never Mind Them Watermelons." In Linda Hager Pack. Appalachian Toys and Games from A to Z. Illus. Pat Banks. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2013. p. 8. In alphabet format with details on traditional toys and games from the mid to late 1800s. Under "eerie stories" is a painting of a woman telling stories to children and a reprint of this story, from S. E. Schlosser (author of Spooky South); he retells this Alabama tale at It's also listed as an African American tale at In the tale, Sam Gibbs believes in ghosts only after agreeing to stay in a haunted cabin after a blacksmith offers him a cartload of his favorite fruit, watermelon. A creature like a devil scares Sam away. He runs faster than rabbits and lightning while the creature chases him, tells the blacksmith "Never mind about them watermelons," and spend the rest of the night under his bed. The book also includes an Iroquois legend of the corn husk doll, as well as instructions for making an apple doll, rules for hoop and stick, and examples of jump rope rhymes. O is a poem about being outside. Includes a glossary, Author's Note, Illustrator's Note, list of Places to Visit (mostly museums), a list of Recommended Appalachian Books for Children, and bibliography.

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, s, 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."

Medearis, Angela Shelf. The of Sifty-Sifty Sam. Illus. Jacqueline Rogers. New York: Scholastic, 1997. Picture book with poetic text, haunting watercolor illustrations, and humorous details. Dan, a chef, uses soul food to tame a in a haunted house in the East Texas woods, earning a $5000 reward offered by the realtor. The hungry assembles himself piece by piece after coming in from the lake.

"Dauntless Little John." In Diane Goode's Book of Scary Stories and Songs. New York: Puffin Books, pp. 38-41. Italian tale retold with colorful, comical illustrations by Goode. Dauntless Little John stays in a lodging (the only room available) although no one else has come out of it alive. Parts of a giant man come down the chimney starting with a leg, as in "Down Come a Leg," in AppLit. The giant takes John to a palace, where he gives him a pot of gold and the palace, with two other pots going to the friars and the poor. Goode's notes point out that the Spanish "Tinker and the " is perhaps the best known tale of this type (p. 64).

Last update: 7/26/15
Links checked 7/28/13
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