Book Review: The Ghost Orchid Ghost and Other Tales from the Swamp

The Ghost Orchid Ghost and Other Tales from the Swamp, by Doug Alderson. 3 out of 5 stars, mostly due to aggravation over wasted research time. This book is classified as folklore. In the Library of Congress data and everything. This is not folklore.

It is, instead, a collection of invented campfire tales. You know, the kinds of things people tell at sleepovers and summer camps. Spooky stories. A few of which are based on folklore, yes. But. Not. Folklore. Not even tales of someone’s modern-day spooky and inexplicable encounters. Total, modern fiction.

Given that I was specifically looking for Florida folklore for book research, this makes me a mite cranky. (It’d be much worse if I bought the book. Fortunately this was a library borrow.)

I may also be more than a little freaked out by one of the tales in there, “Mosquito Crazy,” which belongs in the SF horror type category up there with The Fly. Read at your own risk.

After that one (the 5th out of 19) I just skimmed the rest of the stories to read the Author’s Notes at the end of each one. That’s where any folklore or Florida-specific info was. Some of that was interesting, such as details on how cypress was logged, or bits of Seminole and Miccosukee history I didn’t know.

The very first tale, though, is of interest for anyone who compares folklore and monsters across the world. “Ghost Baby” is the tale of a baby found crying that gets heavier and heavier, and starts to change….

Folklore researcher W.K. McNeil apparently found such stories associated with people from Latin American cultures. But if you’re familiar with Japanese folklore, you probably recognize the konaki-jiji, and are wondering how the heck did that get to Latin America?

That’d be interesting to track down, if someone knew how to go about it. Did that monster come to Central and South America with the Japanese diaspora of the 1800s-1900s? Or was it already there, making this a creature that crosses cultures, like vampires? The Swedish mylingar and the German Wiedergänger can also follow a similar pattern.

All things considered, if you want to tell scary stories in the dark, you might want to borrow this book. It has information on how to tell stories verbally, what sound effects you might want, what body language to use to convey the story to an audience. But folklore?

This is not folklore. Darn it.

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14 thoughts on “Book Review: The Ghost Orchid Ghost and Other Tales from the Swamp

  1. So, sounds like someone at the Library of Congress who was doing the sorting didn’t understand the difference between “tales that have historically been told”, and “tales made in the style of those that have historically been told, but created brand new and without the actual historical usage”. Do they count Filks as “folk music”? Do they count LotR or the Silmarillion as mythology?

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  2. 🤦 *sympathy* I hate it when they miss-categorize books. If the librarians are tired, I can and will cut them slack. Otherwise? *bangs head on wall*

    ….Okay, I can’t keep it to myself anymore. Darn, another comment that doesn’t fit the thread. 🤦 I have info on Uryuu as presented in the Kabaneri game. From what I’ve read I like your take better, but I can’t help wondering how knowing where he is in-game might affect the direction of “Track.”

    I’ll see myself out now.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. To be roughly fair to the classification, campfire tales are actually folklore and studied in the same way. It’s just not what most people would call folklore. (Also, I’m not sure how much is actually spread by people anymore rather then facebook and the like. Though I’m sure someone, somewhere, still believes that Bubble Yum is made of spider eggs.)

    Also, I would get really frustrated myself, because it sounds like it’s a fiction book masquerading as local folklore, which *argh*. Give me the stories without all the moralizing and having people add on what they think should be there.

    Though there’s always less difference then I think, given I first heard The New Mother as a campfire tale and was really surprised to hear someone had written it…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. All folklore was a made up story at some point.

    It’s like unaged wine, just let it sit on the shelf and in a few years it’ll be folklore.

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    1. Beg to differ.

      It is like the difference between a sample, and the population the sample is drawn from.

      (Apologize if the metaphor is incomprehensible.

      Also, all metaphors are wrong, some metaphors are useful. 🙂 )

      Not all fiction is going to catch the interest of the public enough to repeat. It is possible to tell a fictional story that is too strange or incomprehensible for anyone to want to repeat it, or for them to remember it as told.

      Folklore has a mad logic to it, such that retellings within that culture are relatively consistent.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. So in other words, folklore is memes.

        We used to have vampires, now we have LOLCats.

        If a given book isn’t folklore it’s because it isn’t popular enough.

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      2. Books are a little long for folklore, the way we often train memory these days.

        To keep that length stable in retellings, you tend to need poetry or song, and a population accustomed to memorizing and reciting those.

        Possibly I’m just unusually flaky.

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  5. The most terrifying not-ghost story I know is about mosquitoes. It kind of mixes similar elements from Highlander(Immortals) and Naruto. I can write it in here if you want. It was told to me as a Native American legend from the local area, not sure if it’s an actual legend or just a story attributed to them.

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    1. Actually, not Highlander, just a fic someone wrote of a ghost story Methos told. I forgot it wasn’t canon for a minute.

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