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Essayist Shares Spooky Tales for Halloween

NewsHour Guest Essayist Julia Keller shares some graveyard tales for Halloween.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And finally tonight on this Halloween, guest essayist Julia Keller of the Chicago Tribune takes a not-so-scary walk through a cemetery.

  • JULIA KELLER, NewsHour Essayist:

    When I was a child growing up in West Virginia, my friends and I spent a great deal of time playing in the cemetery. We'd run along the winding blacktop path or weave our way amid the oblivious old trees.

    Sometimes we would stop and, in hushed solemn voices, we would read the names on the tombstones, names that, because they come in capital letters, seem to plead with the living to be spoken aloud on this Earth just one more time.

    Few adults, however, hang out in cemeteries. Oh, we stop by when we think we ought to, prodded by a guilty conscience or a widowed grandmother. We show up on Memorial Day or Veterans' Day, bearing flowers and a fading memory of the person before whose grave we stand. But visiting a loved one's grave can be a bit awkward. Where do you look? What do you say?

    Our vague unease with cemeteries reveals itself in familiar ways. This is the Halloween season. Trick-or-treat.

    This is the time of year when you can walk in any Wal-Mart and come out with a cardboard tombstone and a glow-in-the-dark plastic skeleton. It's almost as if we try to cut cemeteries down to size, to get a little revenge on these places that frighten and mystify us, by turning them into entertainment, by coming up with silly stories about ghosts that rise with the evening mist.