Most any small town is the perfect place for sitting next to a camp fire and listening to a good story about Vermont ghosts. At least it was “back in the day”, but now all that seems to have been relegated to the past.
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Just a few years ago, it was an eagerly anticipated event at Halloween time to visit a local bookstore and pick up Joe Citro’s latest book about ghosts, haunted houses, unusual people, places and things in Vermont. Speaking to Joe recently, he mentioned that he had just plain ran out of subjects to write about. Also, book stores are having a tough time and publishers are reluctant to print too many books. A perfect storm that probably helped drive the stake through the heart of the Vermont ghost story.
Just about anything that comes out in print these days is a re-hashing of stories that seem hauntingly familiar (pun intended). In other words, if you pick up a new book on Vermont ghost stories, Joe has probably “already done that” before.
Times are changing and people are too. Are ghost stories not so scary anymore?
Fast forward to 2015, where Vermont is no longer the bucolic paradise that attracted visitors from near and far. Vermont now has a major drug problem in every corner of the state from the larger cities down to the smallest towns. Jobs are scarce and don’t pay enough for most people to make a living so the choice is taking on two jobs or getting on the welfare rolls. All of this trumps the fear factor of what now seems like trivial ghost stories and old Vermont bugaboos. Let’s face it, ghosts are pretty tame stuff when real life fears such as losing a job or being robbed by drug addicts are in the news, almost every day. As my aunt used to say, “Don’t worry about dead people, it’s the living you should be afraid of“.
Is it because people have become desensitized to ghost stories?
With shows like The Walking Dead becoming so popular, maybe people have moved on to more exciting fare. For a while, TV shows like A Haunting were very popular until they began to lose ratings, exacerbated by cheaper production values and gross exaggerations. Probably the biggest offenders were the reality type, ghost hunting shows that were either “much ado about nothing” and even blatantly rigged. If anything, these shows proved that ghosts do not exist. None of them really came up with the goods that we were all waiting to see. No definitive proof, just a lot of overly dramatic music and people talking (or swearing) too much. If I were a ghost, the so-called ghost hunters would frighten me away. Crap!
Another factor in the demise of the Vermont ghost story is the rapid urbanization and culture changes taking place in Vermont. Remember the movie Funny Farm or the TV show Newhart, poking fun at the quirky, sarcastic, comfortably numb Vermont natives? To be honest, Vermont used to be a simple place and some people never ventured 10 miles away from their small, hometowns.
To some, Burlington, VT was considered “the big city” that people were afraid to drive to because of “all that traffic and the goings-on”. That’s changed a lot too. Many of the creepy old buildings that stood vacant for years, fueling the imagination and conjuring up stories of hauntings and ghostly events, have been torn down. Replaced by drug store chains or the latest dollars store, etc. Refugees are pouring into every corner of Vermont and could care less about local history, legends, or ghost stories.
Vermont culture is rapidly changing and evolving into something else. It certainly “ain’t like it used to be” and it probably never will be again. That’s a Vermont ghost story in itself.