Monday, June 13, 2011

“Dear Mrs. Windham, it’s all your fault.”

--Elizabeth Parker’s dedication to Mobile Ghosts: Alabama’s Haunted Port City

Mrs. Windham, I can blame the following on you:

  • a deep and abiding obsession with ghosts
  • a deep and abiding love of Southern folklore
  • a library of some 260 "ghost books" including a number of your titles
  • countless hours reading ghost stories
  • a love of St. Simons Island's Christ Church and its magnificent and haunted cemetery
  • an all-consuming blog
  • a conviction that storytelling can change the world
and
  • the desire to become a storyteller and change the world.


I blame all these things on you and for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Kathryn Tucker Windham, one of the foundations upon which Southern ghost writing is based, passed into the spiritual realm yesterday afternoon. Mrs. Windham dreamt of being a reporter in a time when proper young ladies did not do such a thing. Undeterred, she became a noted reporter and columnist, shattering a glass ceiling for millions of other women in Alabama and throughout the South. She published her first book of ghost stories in 1969, documenting and enshrining many notable Southern hauntings. Her dedication to telling and preserving these tales inspired countless young people including myself.

I first heard Mrs. Windham’s story of “The Eternal Dinner Party” in Savannah’s Bonaventure Cemetery told by a professional storyteller at the local library here in LaGrange. Soon after, I received a copy of 13 Georgia Ghosts and Jeffrey, which contains this story, as a birthday gift from my grandparents. This book has remained a beloved treasure on my book shelf ever since. When I started this blog last year, I opened with a story I first heard from her.

I’d like to imagine that as Mrs. Windham passed over yesterday afternoon that she paused under the sprawling, moss-laden oaks of Bonaventure Cemetery. It was during a dinner party in a magnificent plantation home here at the end of the 18th century that a fire broke out. The hosts, undeterred by their personal disaster, calmly continued the party outside lit by the light of the burning house. At the end of the night, a toast was made:

“May the joy of this occasion never end,” the gentleman proposed. It seemed a strange toast on such a night.

The guests drank the toast and then, following the lead of their host, they shattered their glasses against the trunks of the Bonaventure oaks.

And here at Bonaventure people passing late at night still hear distinctly the sounds of a dinner party in progress: the clatter of dishes, the tinkle of silverware, the voices and laughter of guests, and then the shattering of crystal glasses.

Hearing these festive sounds, the passers-by nod and say,

“It’s still going on, the eternal dinner party at Bonaventure.”

Mrs. Windham, enjoy the party.

 “Alabama legend Kathryn Tucker Windham dies.” Montgomery Advertiser

3 comments:

  1. Oh wow, Lewis. What an awesome tribute. RIP Mrs. Windham.

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  2. What a wonderful tribute. I will have to read Mrs. Windham's book. I love Mobile and go there often. I lived there for three years and I would love to learn more about its wonderful ghosts!

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  3. Great tribute! I too loved Mrs. Windham!

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