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.
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.
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.
The Folklore of Cornwall: The Oral Tradition of a Celtic Nation addresses everything from piskies – south west Britain’s fairies – to mermaids, harvest festivals, a corpse visiting his betrothed, and the giants long noted for making the Cornish peninsula their home. And amid all this are the spirits of the mines – knockers together with the tommyknockers, their New World descendants.