vilajunkie (vilajunkie) wrote in sluagh_aotrom,

A Humourous Haunted House Tale

Here's a short but fun tale from Mary E. Lyons' Raw Head, Bloody Bones: African-American Tales of the Supernatural (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1991). It's a book for kids, but full of great notes on African and African-American folklore, as well as an extensive bibliography on African folklore, African-American folklore, and African-American history. kimuro, you should definitely add it to your high school library's folklore section. Anyway, here's the story:

The Ghost and the Watermelon
South Carolina Sea Islands

Long, long time ago there live a family of people on a hill in a little cabin, and all died but the father. After about two weeks time the father had to move. So there was an old lady by name of Nancy, and she had an acre of watermelon. And there was an old man by name of Joe, and he love watermelon very much.

So he said to Miss Nancy, "Miss Nancy, dear, if I go and spend a night in that old haunted house, will you give me a load of watermelon?"

"Oh, with all my heart!" reply Miss Nancy.

"You lose a load of watermelon," say Mr. Joe.

So that night Mr. Joe went to the house about twelve o' clock. Mr. Joe was a man who did not believe in ghost. He said that there was not anything in the world by the name of ghost.

That night about twelve o' clock he was sitting by the fire, thinking how he was going to eat the watermelon and how he was going to sell some. Just about half-past twelve up jump a ghost and sit beside him. And said to Mr. Joe, "Oh, here we are, just we two!"

Mr. Joe's eyes grew big, and his hair upon his head rise. And he said, "Won't be but one in a minute."

Through the window he went, and took half of the window along with him. He run and run until he run six mile. And he saw a rabbit going along the road, and he said to the rabbit, "Get out of the way! Get out of the way! And let someone run who can run!" He run until he butt into a willow tree in the road, and killed himself, and didn't get the watermelon.

He step on a pin, and the pin bend,
And my story is end.

There are countless haunted-house stories. Sometimes the main character is a preacher, but always he is a comic figure who says something funny as he runs away from a ghost or bloody head or corpse. Such tales are told like a joke. The point is to make fun of the character, not to be scared by the story.

A rhyme or saying at the beginning and end of a story is called a formula. The use of formulas comes from Africa, where one story ends, "This sad event occurred in our country long, long ago." Such an ending helps the listener pretend that the story is true. Many African-American folktales end with a similar comment or rhyme:

FLORIDA: "'Bout that time a flea needed a haircut, so I left."
SURINAME: "And so the story came to an end. Bato! I was there!"
LOUISIANA: "As I was there when all that happened, I ran away to relate it to you."

(Psst, kimuro, can you add "american" to the tags? You still need to check the option that lets users post tags, not just you.)
Tags: african-american, american, ghosts, haunts, humour
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