Let us begin with a ghost story. In 1872, fourteen-year-old Agnes McDonough announced that she was communicating with the spirit of her deceased father. She was part of a community of Irish Americans who settled in Virginia City, Nevada, home to the fabulous Comstock Lode and the Big Bonanza (giving its name to a famous television show). Crediting her father’s ghost, the young girl revealed insights about the afterworld, all scrutinized by a local priest who hoped to control the sensational aspects of the incident.
In the summer of 1960 at the age of five, I joined an honored folk tradition by telling my first Comstock lie. It was about a sex worker who had transformed into a legend of the Wild West.
alking deep into a mine, when the last gleam of sunlight is eclipsed by the next turn, reveals the overwhelming weight of being underground. When all signs of the outside world are gone, the bulk of the mountain above seems even more menacing as it threatens to crush the wooden supports that keep miners alive. […]
In a daring act, facing frightful peril, Mark Twain exploited a legend to launch his onstage comic career. With his future as a lecturer on a knife’s edge, Twain decided to open with a worn-out narrative that had seen better days. A disgruntled audience nearly drove him from the stage … until they understood his brilliant manipulation of their own folklore.
old! The very word fuels the imagination. And when that furnace is stoked, folklore is not far behind. Legends of lost mines are at the heart of traditions inspired by gold, greed and dreams of sudden wealth. Tales of mines won and lost are international, but they are especially common in the West of the […]