Back when I was trying to gain traction by getting a book published, I made it a habit to attend Writing to Get Published classes, How to Get Your Novel Published classes, Becoming a Professional Writer classes, and any other workshop, seminar, or lecture that fit the bill. My community college offered a great many of these, as did local libraries and conferences. I realized I needed to stop going to them when I attended one such class (the last one) and found that I knew more about getting published than the instructor did. Bummer.
Here's the paranormal parallel. I have been seeking out and collecting ghost stories pretty much since the fall of the Roman Empire (or so it seems) and I guess that I may have gotten to the same point as I once did with the writing/publishing classes. I recently attended a lecture on ghosts in the Chicago area. A number of these lectures are offered every October, so I signed up for this particular one weeks ago and dutifully attended, notebook and pen in hand.
Chicago ghost stories are pretty well-known, some of them even nationally. So the lecturer discussed Resurrection Mary, the Eastland Disaster, the Iroquois Theater Fire, the Great Chicago Fire, and Bachelor Grove Cemetery, among others. He was very entertaining, knew his stuff, had a great presentation, and encouraged attendees to speak up and add their own experiences when related. The best part about it was when he talked about going to the actual sites to see about these hauntings for himself. In the end, though, all of the stories were familiar from other classes, books, lectures, and collections. I wasn't disappointed, just a little sad that I seem to have hit that same wall I did when I was looking to get published.
There have to be ghost stories in Chicago that I'm not aware of yet. I know they will likely involve private residences and personal experiences, but I guess in the end, those will be the only ones I won't already know about. I think that hearing what someone else has lived through or been haunted by is absolutely the BEST. That's one of the reasons I ask people for a ghost story whenever I can. I hear some terrific stories that way.
As for the famous stories, I guess some of the old familiar ones could be fascinating if told a fresh new way. For instance, How Seeing Resurrection Mary Turned My Life Around or My Miracle at Bachelor Grove Cemetery. But at the moment, I'm looking for new stories. If they do revolve around public places, so much the better. Then I can go and look around freely instead of driving by and wishing I could ring a doorbell and ask the residents if their house is haunted.
Some of you who read this blog and also follow my Facebook posts have been really generous in sharing your own -sometimes terrifying- stories and I really appreciate that. Thank you. However, if anyone local ever feels like hosting a ghost story evening, where we can congregate face-to-face and concentrate on scaring the bejeezus out of each other, that would be totally amazing. At least, I think so. If you read my books, you'll know what I mean when I say that we could have our own ghost story night!
But back to lectures about spirits. I have registered Jim and myself for an evening of ghost stories taking place the night before Halloween. (He would have come to the last one, but it was during the day and thankfully, one of us is employed!) I am wondering if the stories at this next session will all be local Chicago ones that I already know, or if the presenter will include the smaller, personal, and sometimes more disturbing stories in his or her lecture. Fingers crossed on that. I will write about it, I'm sure, after the fact, regardless of how it turns out.