In North America, legends of haunted places often claim they have been built on an “Indian burial ground.” Indigenous burial ground urban legends are so widely shared they’ve become a part of popular culture. Writers used them repeatedly as a literary device in horror until they became a comedic cliché and eventually a meme.
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.
This article is about clowns. If you have clourophobia you might want to look away now. Not many forms of entertainment have their own phobia, yet there seems to be something about clowns that gets deep into our psyche.
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.