Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Appalachian Folk Tales, Ghost Stories, and Blood Creek

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 12, 2018

The first fantasy stories I can remember were stories told to me by my father, Jim Murphy, when I was living in West Virginia. I don’t talk about him much, because he and my mom split up when I was only five years old, and I rarely saw him after that. But one week, he decided to tell me bedtime stories, and he repeated what I later discovered to be old folk tales.

The stories he told me were about a guy named Jack. He wove them into a single narrative, although they were originally completely separate stories. But in my mind, he was Jack Seven-in-a-Whack. Jack Seven-in-a-Whack took on bandits, giants, and witches who could turn into cats and poison a stew by sopping their paw in it. I loved those stories, even though my father only told them to me once. It’s strange how little I remember of that time period in my life – just flashes – but I remember loving those stories that I heard once.

Fast forward many years later: I married and was living in Utah, the home of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. The two evening events they did at the time were “Ghost Stories” and “Laughin’ Night.” My wife and I loved the ghost stories night, although very few of the professional storytellers they brought in felt confident telling spooky stories. But there were a few who were just amazing, and told some great folk tales from all over the world… including stories from Appalachia, Louisiana, and the Ozarks that at least felt somewhat familiar to me.

The genesis of the whole idea that became Blood Creek coming from a discussion in the car on the way home from a particularly powerful Ghost Stories night. I was thinking about the Jack tales from my childhood, and the great stories that had presented that night, some of the urban legends my wife had been researching (since she’s also a storyteller), and some recent TV shows. Things began to gel in my head.

I did some more research on the Jack tales, and discovered a lot of new ones, learning that many of them originated in Europe, but had changed when they came to North America. One of the few ones people remember is “Jack and the Beanstalk.” But Jack (in all his incarnations) had quite the number of adventures here in the U.S., particularly in the southeast through the 1700s and 1800s. He once captured Death in a bag. He went to magical kingdoms through magic portals (sometimes hidden under a bed). He battled giants, wild boars, evil dwarves, witches, and even a unicorn. Sometimes he married a princess. Sometimes he was a good-hearted idiot who only knew enough to follow the advice of old crones or the king’s daughter. Sometimes he was pretty clever on his own. But he always had gumption.

Then there were other regional tales, lacking Jack but still full of fascinating monsters, legends, and creepy stuff. There’s an incredible (if disjoint) mythology that fused stories the colonists brought with them from their own cultures, the native American tales, and many new legends and cryptids that appeared on their own. It’s a seriously ripe setting for story!

Blood Creek Witch takes place in a tiny little community not unlike the one from my childhood, deep in the hills and hollers of West Virginia. Like the old Jack tales, there are elements of coming-of-age adventures. And of course, there’s got to be plenty of fantasy… magic, monsters, mayhem, much of it inspired by classic ghost stories and Jack tales. Of course, I write lots of pulpy adventure stories, so that’s an unavoidable but happy part of the mix.

The book comes out tomorrow – you can find it at Amazon and other sites, in both eBook and paperback versions. I hope you find it unique yet familiar, and most of all fun to read!

Blood Creek Witch at Amazon

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