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Today is October 18, 2017

Mississippi Seen

These spiders aren’t spooky

These spiders aren’t spooky

I always called them spider lilies. Some call them pop-up lilies or surprise lilies. Or even “nekkid ladies” because they have no leaves on their stem. Whichever, they bloom on the eve of fall. Which is now. Photo: Walt Grayson

The spider lilies slipped up on me this year. They don’t usually do that. I normally start watching for them at least a week before they pop up. But this year I hadn’t even thought about them until all of a sudden I saw one blooming at the edge of the driveway a few weeks ago.

The spider lily is refreshing to me because they are sort of a punctuation mark toward the end of summer, blooming just before cooler weather and the state fair. Followed quickly by Halloween and then the holidays.

About this time last year I drove over to Merrihope in Meridian and did a story with Alan Brown. Alan has collected about 30 books’ worth of ghost stories including some good ones about Merrihope. I am of the opinion that the reason we have so many good storytellers here in the South is because we heard the old folks tell ghost stories at family reunions.

Reunions don’t happen as often as they used to. Too much else to do nowadays, I guess. Our “annual” family reunion became sporadic at best after the last aunt in my parent’s generation died. That’s too bad because our children haven’t heard the tales we heard when we were kids. Not only spooky ghost stories but also those about family history as well. And sadly, they don’t know their cousins like we knew ours, either.

I think my love for stories in general and ghost stories in particular came from family gatherings and tales the old folks told after supper at reunions. And since most of those gatherings happened in association with Thanksgiving or Christmas, I tend to like this time of year even if we don’t get together like we used to. And the blooming of the spider lily reminds me that this time of year is here.

The ghosts we have in Mississippi seem to me to be more of the type that go bump in the night than the kind that harm people like those featured in the movies. By the way, that’s one of the main reasons I don’t mind having a cat. When Miz Jo wakes me up in the middle of the night and asks me, “What was that?” I tell her, “It was the cat.” And roll over and go back to sleep. Nothing’s ever gotten us. Maybe it was the cat!

I have run across so many ghost tales here that I am almost ready to pronounce Mississippi as the Most Haunted State in the Nation. Vicksburg and Natchez have had night-time ghost walking tours in the past. Port Gibson came up with one this year. I’m sure other towns have had similar events as well as night-time cemetery tours, like the first one I heard of at Friendship Cemetery in Columbus put on by students from the Math and Science School. “Tales from the Crypt” started back in the 1990s by a teacher at the school, Carl Butler. The home where Carl lived in Columbus is haunted too, by the way. Natchez has their “Angels on the Bluff” tour in November.

I was cutting across the cemetery at the ruins of St. John’s church in Glen Allan during a cemetery tour one night and ran up on a bunch of Confederate soldiers, all dimly lit pale blue by a street light about 50 yards away. My first question to them was, “Y’all are really people, aren’t you?” They assured me they were. And then asked me, “Are you?”

And I looked down to see a patch of spider lilies blooming around my feet.

Walt Grayson is the host of “Mississippi Roads” on Mississippi Public Broadcasting television, and the author of two “Looking Around Mississippi” books and “Oh! That Reminds Me: More Mississippi Homegrown Stories.” Contact Grayson at walt@waltgrayson.com.

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