Guests are invited to bring blankets and lawn chairs to the park Friday evening, where they can bundle up to listen to 10 storytellers perform bone-chilling ghost stories. Bloomington will celebrate its annual Festival of Ghost Stories at 7 p.m. Friday at Bryan Park.
The spooky event is presented by Bloomington Parks and Recreation and sponsored by the Bloomington Storytellers Guild and the Monroe County Public Library.
This year’s storytellers include Patty Callison, Christina Jones, Ginny Richey, Laura Clavio, Dana Duffy, John Stevens and David Matlack. This year, three new performers — Seth Mutcher, Jim Dallerall and Arin Stonecipher — will be storytelling at the festival for the first time.
Clavio — the coordinator of the festival — said the show has some of the best storytellers in the state. She’s excited to watch the performances of both new and experienced storytellers this year. This kind of performance, the spoken word recounting of ghost stories, is an exercise in imagination, Clavio said. Listeners are free to envision the story in their mind however they please — that element heightens the mystery of a ghost story, Clavio said.
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“A lot of people like to be scared a little bit,” Clavio said. “So those kinds of stories always people a little bit on edge and give them a thrill.”
Richey, a longtime member of the Storytelling Guild, said the earliest script for the storytelling event dates back to 1974, which was the first year Richey attended the event. Richey said she’s participated in the festival for several years since then and remembers countless cold nights spent telling stories in the dark.
Some ghost stories are funny, Richey said, while others are downright gory and horrific. Some storytellers decide to write and perform original ghost stories, while many tell folktales from around the world or local Bloomington legends. Stories about Bloomington’s mysterious quarries, ghostly IU dorms or the haunted Martinsville Stepp Cemetery often pop up in tales year after year.
“Certainly, there are stories that last,” Richey said. “You hear them and they take root in your mind.”
Ghost stories in particular satisfy a specific part of people’s subconscious, Richey said. She compared it to the thrill some people find on roller coasters: the joy in being scared.
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“Telling and listening to ghost stories has been a part of human culture for so many thousands and thousands of years,” Richey said. “When you listen to those stories, there is a weight all of this past in your unconscious.”
Richey said storytelling helps people to make sense of life around them.
“In a world that is frightening when you stop and think about it, what people want to do is make a story out of it,” Richey said. “A story has structure that the world doesn't have.”
The show is free to the public. In the event of bad weather, the storytelling will be moved indoors to the Monroe County Public Library Auditorium on Kirkwood Avenue. If moved inside, the event will be livestreamed on the library’s community access television station.
Richey recommends visiting the event in person, as there is something different and richer about hearing stories recounted in person, she said.
“It's a good lineup,” Richey said. “We've got great stories, and we just love to share them with as many people as possible.”