Wednesday, October 26, 2011


(Or: how to get out of telling jump tales on the professional level.)

As my friend Sara always says: if a kid is young enough to be dressed as fruit, you should not scare them.
A pack of fifth graders, however, yelling "tell us a really, really, reeeeeaaaaally scary one!!!"... is fair game.

I was scheduled to tell stories today in the library of the ETSU University School. Since this was our last meeting before Halloween, and because they chewed my ears off last week about the Golden Arm, I arrived prepared for everything and anything.
Or so I thought.

First of all, I had a fool-proof plan for NOT telling the Golden Arm (as I have already mentioned in my previous post) - I had the Mummy's Hand ready. I told the kids I am an archaeologist, which, of course, was the most awesome thing in the world in their eyes, so now they wanted to hear about archaeology. I told them some funny little details about the exavations I worked on, and strange things archaeologists tend to find (like a huge German soldier's skeleton in a Roman girl's coffin). The conversation got so edutaional it made my eyes well up with pride (I am just getting acquainted with State Standards...). We talked about archaeology, and history, and I told them how you can tell if a skeleton a boy or a girl (they loved that). Then I slowly shifted the conversation into the story of Sir Hamon and the mummy's hand. At first it is just a weird, slightly funny tale about a hand in a box, and the kids expressed their opinions about both the gift and the archaeologist. Here we got educational (sorry, I mean, Eduactional) again and talked about Egyptian burials and why people were mummified. They knew a surprising amount of details about that (well, I guess it's not all that surprising). Then the story slowly started to sound creepy, especially because I put a great emphasis on it being something that really happened (we know the story from Sir Hamon's journal, so there). To my grown-up (archaeologist) brain the end of the story comes as no spurprise at all - the ghost of the princess shows up to take back her hand. But to them, it was te creepiest, scaries story ever, even if it was not a jump tale. It worked.
The story seemed to drag on forever - it tied into the grave of King Tut and the pharaoh's curse, and since they had not heard about either of those, it was time for more Educashun (and a few creepy legends). Once we exhausted that topic, they startes whining again, demanding a second "reeeeeeally scaaaaaary" story.

The library grew very quiet by then (the older had kids left), so I decided to tell them a well known urban legend called The Stolen Cross, that I heard from my grandfather countless times as a child, in the local colors of my family and the village they live in. It is not a jump tale either, just a creepy story about a guy who steals a cross from the graveyard at night, and when he puts it back he pins his shirt to the ground and thinks the dead had caught him and dies of a heart attack.
Well. I got as far as putting the cross back into the ground; I was describing the man's dread when he felt an invisible force pull on his shirt, [whisper] and he could feel the fabric being pulled down into the grave by what felt like cold... cold... hands...


... and in that moment, the fire alarm went off!!!

I have never seen a group of kids so scared in my life! They fell out of their chairs, they screamed bloody murder, they jumped up and they all ran out of the library (which was just as good since we needed to leave the building anyway).
I could not stop laughing. I found them again on the lawn outside the school where they surrounded me and wanted to hear what happened next; some of them were already running around like crazy telling friends and teachers what just happened, and re-telling the story right there. Class was officially dismissed; I will need to finish that story next week when I return.

The best part? They all think I planned it! It certainly was the most perfect timing anyone could ever imagine.
That's just how awesome I am. I can tell a jump tale when I don't even want to. So there.

(Still giggling randomly as I type)