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United States Folklore

How the Rainbow Was Made

    One day when the earth was new, Nanabozho looked out the window of his house beside the wide waterfall and realized that all of the flowers in his meadow were exactly the same off-white color. How boring! He decided to make a change, so he gathered up his paints and his paintbrushes and went out to the meadow.

    Guardian of Yosemite

      For many nights and many days, the guardian spirit of Tisayac watched over the beautiful valley of Yosemite. Often, the gentle spirit would drift invisibly among the good folk of the valley, and it was during one of these visits that she noticed a tall, proud man named Tutokanula. He was a strong leader who greatly enhanced the lot of his people, and Tisayac came more often to the valley so that she could watch him.

      Spirit Lodge

        The great chief Quaquahela lived in peace with his people on the banks of the River Styx where it entered the lake waters. Their lives were busy and full. The warriors hunted and fished, the women cooked and cared for the old and the young, and all lived in peace with the natural world around them.

        The First Tears

          Once long ago, Man went hunting along the water’s edge for seals. To Man’s delight, many seals were crowded together along the seashore. He would certainly bring home a great feast for Woman and Son.

          The Maid of the Mist

            She lost her husband and her hope at a young age, and the beautiful girl could not find her way through the sorrow upon sorrow that was her lot in life. So she stepped one day into her canoe, singing a death song softly to herself, and paddle out into the current. Soon the canoe was caught by the rough waves and hurtled toward the falls. But as it pitched over and she fell, Heno, the god of thunder who lived in the falls, caught the maiden gently in his arms and carried her to his home beneath the thundering veil of water.

            The Skeleton

            The Skeleton

              The boy had been out looking for work all day with no luck. When night fell, he was far from home. He decided to spend the night in an empty, rundown house. The minute he laid down he fell into a sound sleep. The boy was awakened quite suddenly by a thump on the roof. With a pounding heart, he sat up and lit a candle. A voice called out, “I’m falling down!”

              Vampire Hermit

                She was nervous when her husband said they were to stay in the abandoned house, for it contained the corpse of the hermit who once lived there, enshrined in a coffin in the loft. It was an old custom and one no longer popular among the Iroquois people, but the hermit had insisted upon it before his death. There was good hunting in this place, her man had declared, and so they moved in and she unpacked their few belongings in the front room, refusing to go up into the loft where the hermit’s body lay.

                Wraith of the Creek

                  When he left his tribe to work with the white lumbermen, he changed his name to William Cloud, and the lumberjacks started calling him “Cloudy.” They liked to hear Cloudy tell the story of the wraith that lived in the creek that powered the local log chute. The wraith was an evil creature that desired nothing more than to wrap its long arms around humans or animals and pull them down into the water to drown.

                  The King of Sharks

                    One day, the King of Sharks saw a beautiful girl swimming near the shore. He immediately fell in love with the girl. Transforming himself into a handsome man, he dressed himself in the feathered cape of a chief and followed her to her village…

                    Why Opossum has a Pouch

                      One evening, Opossum was playing in a field with her babies when Big Bat came swooping down and grabbed all of the little ones and carried them away. Opossum shouted and begged for Bat to bring her babies back to her, but he would not. Bat put the little opossums into a deep hole in the rock and watched over them there.

                      Why Opossum Has A Bare Tail

                        One day, Opossum was walking in the woods around sunset when he spied Raccoon. Now Opossum had always admired Raccoon because he had a beautiful tail with rings all around it. So Opossum went up to Raccoon and said: “How did you get those pretty rings on your tail?”

                        Black Magic

                        Black Magic

                          Mad Henry was a hermit who lived alone in a decrepit mansion at the edge of town. Rumors were rife about the wild-eyed man. Some folks said that he was a magician who called upon the powers of darkness to wreck havoc upon his neighbors. Others called him a mad doctor who could restore life to foul corpses from the local cemetery. No respectable citizen in town had anything to do with Mad Henry

                          Never Mind About them Watermelons

                          Never Mind Them Watermelons

                            Well now, old Sam Gibb, he didn’t believe in ghosts. Not one bit. Everyone in town knew the old log cabin back in the woods was haunted, but Sam Gibb just laughed whenever folks talked about it. Finally, the blacksmith dared Sam Gibb to spend the night in the haunted log cabin…

                            White Lady of Durand Eastman

                            White Lady of Durand Eastman

                              In the early 1800s, the White Lady and her daughter were supposed to have lived on the land where the Durand Eastman Park — part of Irondequoit and Rochester — now stands. One day, the daughter disappeared. Convinced that the girl had been raped and murdered by a local farmer, the mother searched the marshy lands day after day, trying to discover where her child’s body was buried…

                              turnabout is fair play

                              Turnabout is Fairplay

                                Everyone laughed at jumpy Uncle Phil, who believed the world was largely populated with monsters and ghosts and spooks and witches and werewolves. But he was considered harmless, and no one much bothered about the poor fellow. Until one summer when a new family moved to town with two naughty sons.

                                Piece By Piece

                                  There once was a crazy ghost over Poughkeepsie way that got folks so plumb scared that nobody would stay more than one night in its house. It was a nice old place, or was, until the ghost began making its presence known. It got so no one would enter the house, not even kids on a dare, and you know what they are like!…

                                  You Can’t Get Out

                                    One dark, windy night, the town drunk was meandering his way home after the bar closed. Somehow he got turned around and ended up walking through the churchyard instead of taking the road home…

                                    Tommy Knockers

                                    Tommy Knockers

                                      Tommy Knockers are the spirits of departed miners that help miners find ore. They also knock on the walls of the mines right before a cave-in. When you hear a Tommy Knocker knocking, it’s best to depart the area right quick. They have saved the life of many a miner who has been in a danger. Some folks say that the very first man to hear the sound is jinxed, but that is not always the case…

                                      Bear Lake Monster

                                        If you travel to Bear Lake in Utah on a quiet day, you just might catch a glimpse of the Bear Lake Monster. The monster looks like a huge brown snake and is nearly 90 feet long. It has ears that stick out from the side of its skinny head and a mouth big enough to eat a man. According to some, it has small legs and it kind of scurries when it ventures out on land. But in the water – watch out!…

                                        Ghost on the Tracks

                                          The train rumbled around him as he adjusted the throttle. The night shift was always the toughest, in the engineer’s mind. He had rumbled through Timpas a few minutes ago and was on his way to Thatcher. Not a bad stretch of road, and there was no better train in the entire Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad.

                                          Going Courting

                                            J. Dawson had two goals in life: to find a rich vein of gold and to find a bride. So far, he hadn’t had any luck either with the gold or the ladies. His smooth, eastern manners seemed rather sissy and irritating among the rough miners and rowdy residents of a wild western town. He’d courted the schoolteacher, the local farmers’ daughters, and even took to visiting a few of the other entertainers at the saloon. All to no avail.

                                            The Jersey Devil and the Hat

                                              I was putting the finishing touches on a nice big dinner – meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, pumpkin pie – when Charlie blew in the back door. He’d spent the day ice-fishing in the quarry, and I expected him to be in a jolly mood. But he stood there with his gray hair standing on end, his cheeks bright red with rage and his coat and pants covered with snow.

                                              I’m Coming Down Now!

                                                There was an abandoned house sitting in the middle of a fancy neighborhood in Calgary that nobody would go near. And I mean nobody! Now , my pal Albert was the agent in charge of selling that haunted house and he tried everything in his power to close a deal. But folks were too plumb scared to make an offer, even at rock-bottom prices.

                                                The Black Cat’s Message

                                                  I came home late one night after work and found my wife Ethel puttering about the kitchen with a big yellow cat at her heels.
                                                  “And who is this?” I asked jovially.
                                                  “This is our new cat,” said Ethel, giving me a hug and a kiss to welcome me home. “She just appeared at the kitchen door and wanted to come in. None of the neighbors know where she came from, so I guess she’s ours. It will be nice to have some company around the house.”

                                                  Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby

                                                    Well now, that rascal Brer Fox hated Brer Rabbit on account of he was always cutting capers and bossing everyone around. So Brer Fox decided to capture and kill Brer Rabbit if it was the last thing he ever did! He thought and he thought until he came up with a plan. He would make a trap! Brer Fox went and got some tar and he mixed it with some turpentine and he sculpted it into the figure of a cute little baby. Then he stuck a scarf and glasses on the Tar Baby and sat it in the middle of the road.

                                                    Dem Bones

                                                    Dem Bones

                                                      My granny was told as a child that Captain Kidd, knowing the law was on his trail, traveled up the Jersey coast looking for the perfect spot to bury his stolen booty. And he found it near a grove of gnarled, wind-swept pines on Sandy Hook. One moonless dark night, the Adventure Galley slid silently into harbor at Sandy Hook…

                                                      The Golden Hand

                                                      Golden Hand

                                                        He never paid much attention to the neighbors living on his city block until the day the pretty middle-aged widow moved in two doors down from him. She was plump and dark with sparkling eyes, and she always wore dark gloves on her hands, even indoors.

                                                        Sifty Sifty San

                                                          There was once a beautiful old house right on the edge of a lake, surrounded by woods. But no one would live there because a spirit calling itself Sifty-Sifty-San drove everyone away.

                                                          Fifty-Cent Piece

                                                          Fifty-Cent Piece

                                                            There is a story told in Troy and Albany about a couple returning home from a trip to New England. They were driving home in a carriage, and were somewhere near Spiegletown when the light failed and they knew they would have to seek shelter for the night…

                                                            The Hairy Toe

                                                            Hairy Toe

                                                              Once there was an old woman who went out in the woods to dig up some roots to cook for dinner. She spotted something funny sticking out of the leaves and dug around until she uncovered a great big hairy toe. There was some good meat on that toe which would make a real tasty dinner, so the old woman put it in her basket and took it home.