Confessions of a Halloween Storyteller

 by Terrance V. Mc Arthur

I’m Terrance V. Mc Arthur. I am a librarian, and I’m a storyteller. A lot of people think that means I sit in front of a group of children and read to them. That’s a story reader. Sometimes I do that, but most of the time I stand, prowl, stomp, and leap around as I tell tales that I know as well as most people know their phone numbers. In fact, I know them so well that they never sound quite the same, twice.

I go batty over Halloween!

For two decades, I have told stories at Halloween time in libraries around Fresno County. This year is different. Boy, is it different! This year, when the libraries are closed for in-the-building programs, The Fresno County Public Library presents Spooooky Story Concert online, from Saturday, October 24, to Saturday, October 31. You can find the programs on the Fresno County Public Library’s Facebook page and on its YouTube channel.

Terrance filming his Spoooky Stories

Other people tell Scary Stories at Halloween. I tell Spooooky Stories. Why? Because many of today’s children have seen horror movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre by the time they are eight years old. Even scarier than that, they have seen the Evening News! I can tell them the most horrifying, blood-curdling, ghastly story I know, and they will look at me with scorn and say “That’s not scary! That’s why I say my stories are spooooky. 

There are several kinds of stories I tell. The first part of the program is made up of what I call Spooky Gigglers. They start out sounding like bad things are going to happen, but when you get to the end—you laugh. It’s like a joke with a punchline. These are funny stories that people tell around a campfire, stories like “The Stalking Coffin” or “The Ghost With One Black Eye.” 

The next level of October stories I tell are traditional folktales, old, old, old ones that have been told and retold for centuries. Some of them are “Jump Tales” like “The Golden Arm,” where you jump at or grab someone in the audience to make them scream. It’s hard to grab someone through the internet, so I don’t include Jump Tales in this virtual concert. There are some old songs that have that chilling quality that fits the Halloween season.

Urban Legends are of recent vintage, although they may be based on ancient folktales. Sometimes they are called FOAF tales (Friend Of A Friend) because the teller claims it really happened, but not to them—to a “friend of a friend of the cousin of someone I met on a bus.” “The Knife in the Grave” and “The Choking Doberman” are examples. They often build on fear of strangers and foreigners.

The last group of stories I tell at Halloween are ones that I don’t recommend for children. They are more intense, reaching deeper into our fears and terrors, and some of them are ones I’ve written, like “The Most Horrible Thing.”

This year, the Spooooky Story Concert includes ten stories for a dark night, but none of them are the ones I mentioned in this article. Maybe I’ll tell them next year.

So, find the Spooky Story Concert on Facebook or YouTube, turn the lights down low, and spend a frightfully fun time with stories that go bump in the night.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Librarian in Fresno County, California. He is also a storyteller, puppeteer, magician, and maker of pine needle baskets. On top of that he writes stories that range from rhymed children's tales to splatterpunk horror. He's an odd bird, but he's nice to have around.


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