It was a winter many years ago when my mother shared two things with me. The first was a The Witch of Coös -New England ghost story disguised as a poem by Robert Frost. That was wonderful. The second was a paperback anthology of stories by Edgar Allan Poe.
It sticks out in my memory for several reasons. My mothers voice, reading loud so I could hear, as she read of the bones making their trip through the house in The Witch of Coos. The warmth of being bundled up in a blanket next to my mom as she helped me through some of the strange words in The Pit and the Pendulum and later the happiness of reading in bed until I drifted off to sleep.
I think I should point out that these stories never left me afraid. When I was ten I took a dare from some kids in town and crept out of the house to spend a summer night in the old graveyard down the street from our sandwich shop in Marshallton, PA. Some of the graves went back to the time of William Penn. I sat in the dark reading some of Jack London’s crazy horror stories by flashlight. No ghosts came to bother me, but I did see an owl and some deer. The only unpleasant part was the cold that comes right before dawn. I should have brought a jacket.
While we tend to center scary stories around Halloween, winter has always been my favorite time of year to curl up with a good gruesome tale. Autumn is so pretty, but winter is ugly and bleak with bare trees and howling wind.
My mother and I read every book in the Chester County and later Haverford Township libraries. We would visit the library once or twice a week and go home overloaded with books. We read everything we could get out hands on, but I always got a thrill when I came across something the was both scary and well written.
Algernon Blackwood, Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft stand out as the favorites of my childhood, and their stories are all available on the web in text or as audiobooks. If you are snowed in today, why not send a shiver down your spine?
If horror stories are not your thing, maybe introduce a kid to Robert Frost instead? I think a lot of my comfort with words, rhythm and melody is the direct result of my mother turning me on to poetry.
Doc Moonshine writes: This is an interview I recorded, during the station that I broadcast with’s previous incarnation. during this conversation, Patrick and I discuss what lead us to music, Patrick’s philosophy on banjo playing and on making music in general, and what sets his teaching apart. like any good friends, there are methods Patrick and I agree on and methods we don’t. but that doesn’t stop us having a good laugh and hopefully teaching you a thing or too.
It’s been a long day for me. I woke up at 0-dark-thirty with a hideous migraine.
Thankfully, Dear Old Dad picked up more of my migraine medicine and Pooka has been glued to my side. Right about now I just feel like I have been run over by a truck hauling pig manure – and that’s a big improvement from this morning.
When I started out on the banjo people were quick to tell me the limits of frailing/clawhammer/old-time banjo. in a lot of ways it was similar to the list of things my doctor said I would never do when I was diagnosed with epilepsy.
I proved the doctor wrong just like I proved the old-timers wrong. You can do ANYTHING with the technique of frailing!
Hello Pat and Patrick thank you for the inspiration. I was at your folk retreat a while back and also purchase several ukuleles from you ,,now. I have started a ukulele club at the local senior center. And this is some of the videos of one of our performances.