In this monthly segment, I will provide a list of books I think anyone interested in folklore, ghost stories, the unusual & the paranormal would enjoy. Most of these can be found on Amazon.com, often at discounted rates, or at your local library. Each list of books will be arranged by topic and will be accompanied by a short description highlighting some themes and commonalities. Enjoy!
- Edmonds, Margot and Ella E. Clark. Voices of the Winds: Native American Legends. Castle Books, 2009.
- Erdoes, Richard and Alfonso Ortiz. American Indian Myths and Legends. Pantheon: 1985.
- Jones, David and Brian Molyneaux. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Indian Mythology. Anness, 2010.
- Lake-Thom, Robert. Spirits of the Earth: A Guide to Native American Nature Symbols, Stories, and Ceremonies. Plume, 1997.
- Smith, Philip. Favorite North American Indian Legends. Dover Publications, 1994.
For reasons I have yet to figure out, many Americans, particularly those interested in the paranormal, believe that American Indians possess some kind of unusual or supernatural connection with spirits and otherworldly forces. This is certainly how they are portrayed in popular culture, and especially in horror movies like Wolfen (1981) and in television shows like X-Files. However, every human culture, if you go back far enough, shares similar cultural elements – shamans, natural medicine, beliefs in nature spirits and animism, etc. From a folkloric perspective, there is nothing unusual about the diverse variety of American Indian cultures when compared to others in the human community.
That being said, it is important for anyone who is interested in the legends and lore of North America to understand that there were people living on this land long before Europeans arrived. Peoples from as far back as the end of the last Ice Age roved across the plains and forests of the Midwest. Wherever we live today, there is a chance that something of those ancient peoples is buried beneath us. The books listed above give a pretty good overview of the beliefs, legends, and myths of the American Indian tribes that were the heirs to these pre-Columbian cultures. By understanding these legends, we can demystify American Indian culture and help bridge the gap between us by recognizing our common humanity, which can be found in our love for stories and in the mysterious aspects of our existence.
Interested in the ghostly legends and lore of Illinois? Check out Michael Kleen’s book Paranormal Illinois. Paranormal Illinois presents in-depth and original research on some of Illinois’ most unusual tales, including the phantom lady of Kennedy Hill Road, the headless horseman of Lakey’s Creek, and the ghost of Ange Milner. Chapters on Archer Avenue, Manteno State Hospital, Ashmore Estates, Airtight Bridge, Devil’s Gate, and other infamous places present information and interviews never before seen in print. Fun, informative, and greatly entertaining, this painstakingly researched book leaves no ghost unturned.