It’s Halloween month, but this is real. The photo below of the Classics Library’s book stacks was taken by Mike Braunlin a few years ago. However, only after looking at the photo recently, did he discover that in addition to the books, he had captured a real “live” ghost. The upper torso of the ghost can be seen flush with one of the book cases in the back while one of its arms can be seen closer to the camera and its legs on the floor. The ghost is clearly browsing the stacks. The profile of its head, chin, nose, eyes is just below the row of lights and its left shoulder and left arm are raised towards the stacks. Light is illuminating its torso. It may be carrying a book bag. It wears dark trousers, its right leg is straight and its right foot lies flat on the floor. Its left leg is bent backwards and it touches the floor with the toes of its left foot. Its sex and age cannot be definitively determined although it is tempting to think that it is John Miller Burnam himself, forever laboring to complete his monumental Palæographia iberica.
It was not Mike’s only encounter. One early morning, still dark outside, he was in a stairway in the Library when he heard a raucous laughter engulfing him. Mike was alone in the Library and he could hear the laughter coming from all directions in the stairway. Scared out of his wits, he ran to the apartment of a grad student on McMillan telling her about his harrowing experience and asking if he could relax there for a while. That grad student was his future wife, Susan, so the ghosts may in fact have been responsible for bringing them together. And ghosts who live among books must be benevolent, so instead of being fearful, the Classics Library’s staff have decided to embrace their resident bibliophile ghosts.
A real ghost?
A fake ghost?
The Classics Library aims to be a welcoming and inclusive place for all!
Mike insists that our new security gate is either a portal to Another Dimension or a gate whose ultraviolet rays might very well prevent Covid, at least in cats.
We are looking forward to a graduate student organized “A Very Blegen Halloween” with Desk Decorating and Costume Contests, and Party on October 29, followed by a library organized Movie Night!!!
Happy Halloween UC Classicists!
by Kellie Tilton
“I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him.”
– The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
From witches to aliens to monsters to ghosts, the UCBA Library has you covered for all your horror-related reading needs. Catch up with Edgar Allen Poe, read up on hauntings of college campuses or expand you horror film knowledge and more with books on display until Halloween.
By: Kevin Grace
Infernal Gods, who rule the shades below,
Chaos and Phlegethon, ye realms of woe,
Grant what I have heard I may to light expose
Secrets which earth, and night, and hell inclose.
The verse comes from an 18th century book in the Archives & Rare Books Library that purports to document true accounts of the supernatural, most of them from the Scottish highlands. Of course, every country and culture has its own ghosts and witches, and Scotland has a wonderfully rich heritage of “long-leggedy beasties.” Which notion, of course, points to the spookiest of goodnight prayers, the Scots’ traditional plea for safety in their beds:
From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night
Good Lord, deliver us!
This small poetic digression aside, our book of spectres and succubi came from the press of Robert Taylor of Berwick-on-Tweed. Berwick was one of those towns caught between the Kingdoms of Scotland and England during the frequent border wars, but finally became a part of England in 1482. Located in Northumberland, it is the northernmost town in England, but centuries later it still maintains a strong Scottish identity. Taylor was active as a printer in Scotland and England from 1717-1779, and is credited with setting up the first printing press in Berwick in 1753. In 1775, he published The History of Witches, Ghosts, and Highland Seers: Containing Many Wonderful Well-Attested Relations of Supernatural Appearances, Not Published Before in Any Similar Collection Designed for the Conviction of the Unbeliever, and the Amusement of the Curious.
One wonders a bit about that “Not Published Before…” statement in regard to Taylor. Copyright was still a fluid concept in some English courts, and Taylor sometimes stood accused of pilfering from fellow printers. Ten years after History of Witches was printed, Taylor would lose a lawsuit brought against him by another printer on his publishing of a poetry book, The Seasons by James Thomson. Nevertheless, the full weighty title gives weight to the content. These were ghost stories intended to frighten the reader. And, to put the fear of God in the souls and minds of non-believers who, in the words of Taylor, say such tales “are the invention of enthusiasm, and a crazy disordered imagination.” There are 86 stories in his gathering, several of them from the Continent and many of them accounts of witches, of “second sight,” and of appearances by apparitions. There are titles such as “The Daemon of Glenluce, in Galloway, in Scotland” and “The Dream of Lauchlan McKinnon.”
The tradition of witchcraft and ghosts in Berwick was a very long one. In 1590, there were notorious witch trials in North Berwick that lasted for more than two years and involved more than 70 accused people. According to the trials, the witches held their covens on Auld Kirk Green near the harbor. Taken to the Old Tollbooth in Edinburgh and tortured, many of the accused were forced to confessed to consorting with the Devil. The trials became quite famous and William Shakespeare even adapted some of the supposed “rituals” brought out in court for his play Macbeth.
All in all, Taylor printed a lovely little book! The copy in the Archives & Rare Books Library (call number SpecCol RB BF1411.H4 1775) is from the Robert Clarke Collection, the first collection of books that formed the University of Cincinnati Libraries and it has been nicely rebound in red cloth. Taylor finished his preface to the book with this statement: “Let the aetheists, if there are any, the deists, free-thinkers, and infidel rakes read it and tremble.”
And we conclude here with another little verse:
Say, can you laugh indignant at the schemes
Of magick terrours, visionary dreams,
Portentous wonders, witching imps of Hell,
The nightly goblin and enchanting spell?
Photos from the UCBA Library’s Myth Manor…part of UCBA College’s 2013 Halloween Bash.
Visit the UC Blue Ash Library on Halloween Day to explore myths, legends and lore. Be sure to give us a ghoulish smile and we’ll give you a treat!
Keep track of the creepy:
By: Kevin Grace
Well, ‘tis the season for that old Scottish prayer: “From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord deliver us!” Yes, we are in our Halloween days in this month of spectres and the quickness of the night, of harvests and the dying away of nature, and, of things resurrected. So it is appropriate to turn our attention to a subject such as Victor Frankenstein’s monster.
This month’s “50 Minutes-I Book” lunchtime series in the Archives & Rare Books Library will be about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. We’ll take a look at some special illustrated versions of her tale and consider what the book tells us about science and literature in the early 19th century. Please bring your lunch and conversation, along with a nightmare or two if you wish, and join us on the 31st.
By: Molly Gullett
As work proceeds on the Southwest Ohio Folklore Archives, there are a few papers that are certainly appropriate at this time of year. In November, 2002, student Mathew Z. Keller submitted his contribution to the archive with an account of UC’s Wilson Auditorium. Superstition and mystery are as linked with theatre as performance itself and there are many superstitions associated with theatre. Of course, there is “break a leg” instead of “good luck,” and the ominous effects of saying Macbeth backstage. Perhaps less known is the superstition to never whistle anywhere in a theatre because it signifies that a play will be ending soon. Another ritual is to leave a ghost light on in the belief that it would convince spirits of the theatre that they had not been forgotten. Like most, UC’s theatres are also riddled with superstitions and legends which comprise their lore. Continue reading