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United States Folklore

Storm ship of the Hudson

Storm Ship of the Hudson

    It was noised about New Amsterdam, two hundred years ago, that a round and bulky ghost ship flying Dutch colors from her lofty quarter was careering up the harbor in the teeth of a north wind, through the swift waters of an ebbing tide, and making for the Hudson.

    Ghost Land

    The Ghost Land

      The young wife of a chief’s son died, and the young man was so sorrowful he could not sleep. Early one morning he put on his fine clothes and started off. He walked all day and all night. He went through the woods a long distance, and then to a valley. The trees were very thick, but he could hear voices far away. At last, he saw light through the trees and then came to… Read More »The Ghost Land

      The Banshee of the Badlands

      Banshee of the Bad Lands

        “Hell, with the fires out,” is what the Bad Lands of Dakota have been called. The fearless nomenclature fits the place.

        Kayuta and Waneta

        Kayuta and Waneta

          Waneta, daughter of a chief, had plighted her troth to Kayuta, a hunter of a neighboring tribe with which her people were at war. Their trysts were held at twilight on the farther shore of the lake from her village….

          The House Accursed

          The House Accursed

            The house was called the Isle of Pines, after a buccaneers’ rendezvous in the West Indies, and the owner made no attempt to conceal the strange plunder and curious weapons that he had brought home with him.

            Resurrection Mary

              There was a dance that night at the Oh Henry Ballroom, so he slicked back his hair, jumped into his red convertible and cruised down Archer Street, hoping he’d meet a pretty girl. He was a shy fellow who found it hard to talk to girls. Bolder men always danced away with the prettiest girls before he got up enough nerve to say hello. But tonight, would be different. Tonight, he would sweep one of… Read More »Resurrection Mary

              Bloody Mary Whales

                Old Man Whales was an evil man who loved money more than anything in the world, except his wife.

                A Case of Blue Denim

                Blue Denim

                  I asked my friend to come to my seaside cottage with me one weekend in early spring. I wanted to have it set in order for the summer, but I felt a trifle nervous at the idea of entering it alone.

                  A Blow in the Dark

                  Blow in the Dark

                    Farmer Manheim sat brooding in his farmhouse near Valley Forge, as his daughter, with a hectic flush on her cheek, looked out into the twilight at the falling snow. She was worn and ill with a fever brought on by exposure incurred that very day in a secret journey to the American camp, made to warn her lover of another attempt on the life of General George Washington, who must pass her father’s house on his return from a distant settlement.

                    Ghost of Misery Hill

                    The Ghost of Misery Hill

                      Tom Bowers, who mined on Misery Hill, near Pike City, California, never had a partner, and he never took kindly to the rough crowd about the place. One day he was missing. They traced his steps through the snow from his cabin to the brink of a great slope where he had been prospecting, but there they vanished, for a landslide had blotted them out.

                      Mark of the Spirit Hand

                      Mark of The Spirit Hand

                        Andover, New Jersey, was quaint and quiet in the days before the American Revolution. It offered few social advantages there was more gathering in taprooms and more drinking of spirits than there should have been. Among those who were not averse to a cheering cup were three boon companions, Bailey, Hill, and Evans, farmers of the neighborhood. They were discussing matters of belief over their glasses that one of them proposed, in a spirit of… Read More »Mark of The Spirit Hand

                        One Last Revel

                        One Last Revel

                          “Young man, I’ll give you five dollars a week to be caretaker in Printz Hall,” Mr. Quidd said angrily to fiddler Peter Matthews, on an autumn evening.

                          The Trapper's Revenge

                          The Trapper’s Revenge

                            About a mile back from the river stood the cabin of Nick Wolsey, who, in the 1800s, was known to the river settlements as a hunter and trapper of correct aim, shrewdness, endurance, and taciturn habit. For many years he lived in this cabin alone, except for the company of his dog; but while visiting a small settlement in the wilderness he was struck with the engaging manner of one of the girls. He repeated the visit; and thereafter he found cause to go to the settlement frequently. At length won the maid’s consent to be his wife.

                            Pray for your soul!

                            Pray for your Soul

                              He was a jolly, round little man with a cherry red face and a button for a nose. He sat every day in the front window with a bottle of whiskey at his side, and he would beckon folks over to the windowsill, put up the pane of glass and tell them his latest riddle or story. 

                              The Night Riders

                              Night Riders

                                Among the Berkshire Hills, more than a century ago, lived Francis Woolcott, a dark, tall man, with protruding teeth, whose sinister laugh used to give his neighbors a creep along their spines. He had no obvious trade or calling, but the farmers feared him so that he had no trouble in making levies: pork, flour, meal, cider, he could have what he chose for the asking.

                                The Old Clock

                                The Old Clock

                                  She lived alone in a rickety house in White Plains, and the only thing of value she possessed was a tall clock, such as relic hunters prize, that ticked solemnly in a landing on the stairs. The neighbors avoided her, for she was eccentric and not fond of company. But Polly was not always a recluse. The old clock, if it could speak, had a sad tale to tell of its owner. A tale of love…and despair.

                                  Two Ghosts

                                  Two Ghosts

                                    There lived a hunter in the north who had a wife and one child. His lodge stood far off in the forest, several days’ journey from any other. He spent his days in hunting, and his evenings in relating to his wife the incidents that had befallen him. As game was very abundant, he found no difficulty in killing as much as they wanted. Just in all his acts, he lived a peaceful and happy life.

                                    Osseo, Son of the Evening Star

                                    Osseo, Son of the Evening Star

                                      There once lived a man in the north, who had ten daughters, all of whom grew up to womanhood. They were noted for their beauty, but especially Oweenee, the youngest, who was very independent in her way of thinking. She was a great admirer of romantic places, and paid very little attention to the numerous young men who came to her father’s lodge for the purpose of seeing her. Her elder sisters were all solicited in marriage from their parents, and one after another, went off to dwell in the lodges of their husbands, or mothers-in-law, but she would listen to no proposals of the kind. At last she married an old man called Osseo, who was scarcely able to walk, and was too poor to have things like others. They jeered and laughed at her, on all sides, but she seemed to be quite happy, and said to them, “It is my choice, and you will see in the end, who has acted the wisest.”

                                      Origin of Corn

                                      The Origin of Corn

                                        In times past, a poor man was living with his wife and children in a beautiful part of the country. He was not only poor, but inexpert in procuring food for his family, and his children were all too young to give him assistance. Although poor, he was a man of a kind and contented disposition. He was always thankful to the Great Spirit for everything he received. The same disposition was inherited by his eldest son, who had now arrived at the proper age to undertake the ceremony of the Ke-ig-uish-im-o-win, or fast, to see what kind of a spirit would guide him through life

                                        Wampus Cat

                                        The Wampus Cat

                                          They say that the Wampus cat used to be a beautiful Indian woman. The men of her tribe were always going on hunting trips, but the women had to stay home. The Indian woman secretly followed her husband one day when he went hunting with the other men. She hid herself behind a rock, clutching the hide of a mountain cat around her, and spied on the men as they sat around their campfires telling sacred stories and doing magic…

                                          Gollywhopper's Eggs

                                          Gollywhopper’s Eggs

                                            Well now, when old Johnson came to town, I knew there’d be trouble. That Yankee Peddler was a scoundrel if ever I saw one. But I was laid up with my rheumatism when he arrived, so I couldn’t do anything about it.

                                            Wendigo

                                            Wendigo

                                              The storm lasted so long that they thought they would starve. Finally, when the wind and swirling snow had died away to just a memory, the father, who was a brave warrior, ventured outside. The next storm was already on the horizon, but if food was not found soon, the family would starve.

                                              Bloody Mary

                                              Bloody Mary

                                                She lived deep in the forest in a tiny cottage and sold herbal remedies for a living. Folks living in the town nearby called her Bloody Mary, and said she was a witch. None dared cross the old crone for fear that their cows would go dry, their food-stores rot away before winter, their children take sick of fever, or any number of terrible things that an angry witch could do to her neighbors.

                                                Raw Head and Bloody Bones

                                                Raw Head and Bloody Bones

                                                  Way back in the deep woods there lived a scrawny old woman who had a reputation for being the best conjuring woman in the Ozarks. With her bedraggled black-and-gray hair, funny eyes – one yellow and one green – and her crooked nose, Old Betty was not a pretty picture, but she was the best there was at fixing what ailed a man, and that was all that counted.

                                                  Cherokee Rose

                                                  Cherokee Rose

                                                    We lost everything after the treaty was signed. The white men wanted the Indian’s removed, and so we were Removed. We lost our homes, our sacred lands, our way of life. We were thrust out by greed, and our hearts broke on the long, long journey west. We only had the few precious belongings we could carry, and many of us were not even given time to fetch that much from our homes before we were forced into camps and then marched west.

                                                    Rabbit Plays Tug of War

                                                    Rabbit Plays Tug-of-War

                                                      Now Rabbit had a favorite place on the river where he always went to drink water. It was on a bend in the river, and two Snakes lived there, one on the upper side of the bend and one on the lower. Rabbit soon learned that neither of the Snakes knew that the other Snake lived there.

                                                      Rainbow Crow

                                                      Rainbow Crow

                                                        It was so cold. Snow fell constantly, and ice formed over all the waters. The animals had never seen snow before. At first, it was a novelty, something to play in. But the cold increased tenfold, and they began to worry. The little animals were being buried in the snow drifts and the larger animals could hardly walk because the snow was so deep. Soon, all would perish if something were not done.

                                                        The Heron and the Hummingbird

                                                        Heron and the Hummingbird

                                                          Heron and Hummingbird were very good friends, even though one was tall and gangly and awkward and one was small and sleek and fast. They both loved to eat fish. The Hummingbird preferred small fish like minnows and Heron liked the large ones.

                                                          How Selfishness was Rewarded

                                                            A young warrior came to the coast with his wife and mother one summer and settled in the place where Sitka now stands. It was a summer of hardship for the family because the fish stayed away from the coast and the game had moved far away over the mountains. The warrior set traps and laid nets in the water and wandered many miles hunting for food, but he found nothing. The family had to eat berries and green sprouts and dig for roots to eat. Even so, there was barely enough each day to keep the family going.

                                                            Pele’s Revenge

                                                              Ohi’a and Lehua loved each other from the moment they first saw each other at a village dance. Ohi’a was a tall strong man with a handsome face and lithe form. He was something of a trickster and was first in all the sports played by all the young men. Lehua was gentle and sweet and as fragile as a flower. Her beauty was the talk of the island, and her father was quite protective of his only child.