An interest in folklore and ghost stories encourages reading, travel, interest in history and historical preservation, and tourism.
We often hear of negativity surrounding places associated with legends and lore: vandalism, trespassing, breaking and entering, drug use and underage drinking. The media loves to associate criminal activity with amateur ghost hunting, such as the break in at Ness Church in Litchfield, Minnesota.
Interest in folklore, ghost stories, and legend tripping, however, can have many positive effects. Those subjects can be (and usually are) a gateway to developing interests in other areas. These areas include, but are not limited to:
Reading: Reading was my first introduction to ghost stories. When I was a kid, I devoured every book I could find on the subject and spent countless hours at the library as a result. While there are plenty of reality TV shows devoted to the paranormal these days, literature is still the primary means of preserving and transmitting ghost stories. A child should be encouraged to pursue his or her interest in legends and lore through reading.
Travel: Most people will not want to stop at reading about local legends and ghost stories, they will want to explore those locations themselves. Parks, colleges, libraries, and museums are often the setting for ghost stories. In an age when kids spend most of their free time in front of a TV or their computer screen, they should be encouraged to get out and visit these places. Road trips to other towns and even states broaden horizons and expose the visitor to new people, cultures, and environments. Travel can also help develop a sense of independence and teach planning and map reading skills.
History: Some people are content to simply listen to a good story, but most want to know more. Why is a particular place believed to be haunted? Did a real event inspire the tales? This curiosity naturally develops into an interest in history. Many books of ghostlore also include extensive histories of each location. It is a fun and interesting way to learn about the past, assuming the information is accurate. I’ve found several instances where a ghost story was the only thing preserving the memory of a past event.
Preservation: Many local legends and ghost stories take place in cemeteries, historic buildings, and near monuments. While these tales do sometimes help contribute to vandalism, they can also have the opposite effect. Ghost tours and paranormal-themed events can help raise money to restore a historic building or cemetery. The stories can develop a fan base for a location, providing a pool of volunteers for cleanups and beautification. A person who is initially interested in the ghost stories at an old cemetery may become interested in learning about ways to repair and reset broken headstones.
Tourism: Last but not least, local legends and ghost stories are a good way to promote an interest in tourism. As states like New York have discovered, tourists interested in the paranormal are an untapped resource. Thousands of people each year visit allegedly haunted locations, and those people contribute to the local economy and consumer tax base (at bare minimum, they spend money on food and gas). In the process of visiting haunted places, the tourist may also discover other locations he or she is interested in seeing.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but I hope it has given some food for thought to skeptics and ammunition to those who wish to counter the media’s negative portrayal of people interested in folklore and ghost stories.