Urban legends may be sensational re-tellings of history, and they muddle the facts surrounding a haunted location. Each person adds something new … scarier … to the tale. And that makes it more difficult to get to the truth.
The Scoop On Urban Legends
Before I start writing about famous ghosts and haunted places, I wanted to take a moment to tell you about urban legends. I love them by the way, but it does make my job harder when it comes to research.
These tall tales and witness reports obscure the truth: Urban legends are hard to prove. Names, dates, places, relationships and motivations get jumbled up over the years. You don’t know if you have the right names, the right events or the right dates when you follow up on them.
People continue to give the legend more emphasis than the facts. That’s because urban legends make better stories than the truth.
Most stories are just that, a story, and should remain entertainment. However, you can use these stories as a lead into your research.
How To Do Haunted History Research With So Many Urban Legends
First, you proceed like any historian would research a subject. That means you try to find artifacts (or things coming directly from the haunted location or suspected ghost) and see what the facts point to. You look to find evidence that supports the leads. If you can’t, then reject them and find a new point to research.
For example, I researched Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery (near Chicago) and the stories of mobsters dumping hits in the pond. This is a lead. The stories say over 20 dead mobsters got dumped (another lead).
Next, I went to the Chicago Tribune archives to find reports of bodies in the pond. The newspaper did have reports of murdered people dumped in the area. Next, I checked if those victims were mob hits. In many cases, they were not, but a few were (this supports the leads).
At this point, I would look into the identities of the deceased people; who may killed them; and, if there’s something that could indicate these people haunt the cemetery … or someplace else.
Near the end, I switch to develop a chronology to write the narrative.
You would repeat these steps to prove or disprove your leads.
Now, you can mention the urban legends as part of the haunted spot’s lore. Just remember that’s all it is, folklore, and label it for your readers.
I’ll write a post on conducting haunted history after I finish a few articles.