Tag Archives: legends

272 – Southern Gothic: Ghost Stories and Legends Featuring Steve Gorman of The Black Crowes

To say that the American South has a complex history is an understatement. To us in Wisconsin, it sometimes feels like a different country entirely and 99% of our touring experiences down there have been amazing. There is something to Southern hospitality and friendliness that makes it a pleasure for us to visit.

But the South also has its share of darkness. We live in a racially charged society. It’s not something our band, as three white people from the frozen North, have had to deal with much, but you don’t have to believe in ghosts to know that the specters of slavery and the Civil War hang over the place. And those are the focus of many of the ghost stories of the area. It’s part of the place, but it’s not the be all and end all of it.

The South has its own vibrant and beautiful culture. Part of what makes it great is the blending of all the cultures that has gone on to create art that’s really unique and incredibly popular.

Mike on the left on the bass and Wendy in the back on the violin, playing some Southern Rock in a band called Michael Alexander & Big Whiskey. Photo by John Flores.

Southern Rock for example is one of those artistic gumbos. A mixture of blues, folk, rock ‘n’ roll, and country music, it takes elements of several traditions, black and white, to make amazing music. Even in Wisconsin, when the opening riff to “Sweet Home Alabama” starts, people lose their shit. Women want to dance to it, men want to sing along to it. And one of the most successful Southern Rock bands of all time is The Black Crowes.

Steve Gorman on the far right with his band Trigger Hippy. Photo by Scott Willis.

Steve Gorman was a founding member of that rock ‘n’ roll powerhouse. It’s his drumbeat you first heard on “Hard To Handle”, their original hit (and we covered their version for years.) They sold over thirty million albums in their time but the usual rock n’ roll story of excesses and egos eventually imploded the group. He currently drums with a rock n’ soul band called Trigger Hippy and they are playing in Madison at the High Noon Saloon on November 13th. I interviewed Steve to preview the show (and click on this article if you’d like to read more about the concert) but he also gave me a ghost story, here’s him telling it directly:

Yes, I do have a ghost story. And I say that as a guy who always rolled my eyes at other people’s paranormal experiences and I still do! Despite the fact that I had one.

It wasn’t at a venue or a gig, but a friend’s house in LA. This was in 2003 and our neighbor was having a backyard cookout. I had a toddler and a baby and so did everyone else on the block so we were constantly all hanging in someone’s backyard. And when you live in LA you’re outdoors all year round which is why you wanna go there if you have babies, because it helps. People in Wisconsin can follow that train of thought real easily.

Year-round, your backyard is another room of the house. There’s no mosquitoes, there’s no humidity. It’s pretty great. For awhile anyway.

Everybody’s in the backyard, the grill’s fired up, we’re listening to music, it’s a really nice neighborhood get-together. It’s my buddy Jared’s house and I walked into the kitchen and I was standing at the sink and I realize that there’s a woman standing right next to me. And I hadn’t even noticed her, and I did that thing where I’m went, “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t see you” because I was crowding her by going to the sink… I think I was washing my hands.

I just looked to my right and I said “Oh, I’m sor…” but there was nobody there. And out of the corner of my eye peripherally I saw an older woman who was wearing a red bandana in her hair. An older lady with a red bandana with a pattern on it. And as I went to say “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t even notice you/” there was nothing there.

And it really impacted me. I felt something inside like, “Oh what the Hell was that?” Nine times out of ten I would have thought “oh, I’m seeing something” or my brain had a weird synapse misfire. But it really moved me.

And I walked outside and I went over to Jared my friend and I go, “I just had the weirdest thing happen.” And he goes, “What?” I go, “I was just in your kitchen and I swear there was this old woman that was standing next to me, but she just wasn’t there.” And my friend Jared goes, “Did she have a red thing in her hair like a bandana?” And I just stared at him in absolute disbelief. And I said, “Yeah.”

His daughter’s name is Sadie and he said, “Sadie sees that woman all the time.” And that’s a true story and I have goosebumps right now re-telling it. And I know the look on my face must have been great because he was like, “Dude, that’s alright, don’t worry.” And I was like “What the fuck, man?!” I thought I was losing my mind. He’s like, “It’s fine, she’s always in the house and Sadie just sees her.” So, great, me and a three-year old girl are connecting over this.

Steve Gorman, Drummer of Trigger Hippy and The Black Crowes

While the South creates amazing music, their unique history makes for some one-of-a-kind hauntings. In this episode, we talk about some famous stories and what makes ghost stories in the American South unique. Here are some of the topics we cover, in addition to hearing Steve Gorman tell his story for himself:

  • Haunted plantations across the South
  • Confederate ghosts in Nashville, Tennessee
  • The curse of The Bell Witch and An American Haunting
  • The pirate Jean Lafitte who haunts New Orleans
  • Why Madison, Wisconsin has its own Confederate ghosts

For this episode, we decided to do a version of the old English folk song, “The Unquiet Grave”. American folk music, particularly in Appalachia and the Ozarks, directly descends from the ballads of the English, Scottish, and Irish who settled The New World. In fact, the accent of Shakespeare’s time sounds somewhat more like an American Southern accent than it sounds like the accent of Ian McKellen or Patrick Stewart (as much as everyone loves those guys!)

“The Unquiet Grave” has been covered by everyone from to Joni Mitchell to Ween and it weaves the tale of a pair of lovers where one died too young. In some versions, it’s a girl who died, in others it’s the boy, but what remains the same is that they lay on their lover’s grave until the ghost appears to them. When the lover left behind begs for a kiss, the ghost warns that even a kiss from their lips would kill them and it’s not worth losing your life over lost love.

How cold doth blow the wind tonight,
I feel some drops of rain.
I never had but one true love
And in greenwood she was slain.
I’ll do as much for my true love
As any young man may.
I’ll sit and mourn all on her grave
For a twelve month and one day.

The twelve-month and one day being up
The dead began to speak.
“Oh, who sits weeping on my grave
And will not let me sleep?”
“‘Tis I, my love, sits on your grave 
And will not let you sleep,
For I crave one kiss of your lily-white lips
And that is all I seek.”

“My lips they are as cold as clay,
My breath smells earthy strong.
If you have one kiss of my lily-white lips,
Your life will not be long.”
“My life be’t long or short sweetheart,
But that is all I crave.
Then I shall be along with you
A-lying in my grave.”

“‘Tis down in yonder garden green,
Love, where we used to walk.
The finest flower that ere was seen
Is withered to a stalk.
The stalk is withered dry, my love,
So will our hearts decay,
So make yourself contented, love,  
Till God calls you away.”

223 – Robin Hood: Legends and Ghosts of a Mythical Hero

With a brand new Robin Hood movie coming out this week (which was originally called Robin Hood: Origins, I guess to make it sound like a X-Men movie or something), it’s time to talk about the famous bandit who fought against the tyranny of Prince John in Sherwood Forest and stole from the rich and gave to the poor. 

Me with the Robin Hood statue by Nottingham Castle, rocking BluBlockers at least a year before Zack Galifianikas brought them back in The Hangover

But that’s my version of Robin Hood and there are many. In the new movie, Jamie Foxx plays Robin’s Moorish commander and friend, taking place of Little John. But there wasn’t even a Saracen character (who were the Muslums defending the Holy Land in the Crusades) in the story until the 1980s when he was introduced in the Robin of Sherwood TV series (which also featured an awesome Pagan deer-god, Herne the Hunter.) Now, the fact that Robin Hood has a noble Muslim warrior buddy like Morgan Freeman is baked into the story.  

Sweet looking trees in Sherwood Forest

And Morgan Freeman is part of my generation’s record of the story. My Dad’s was Errol Flynn (and to make Kevin Costner feel better, his English accent wasn’t much better, he sounded more Australian than anything else.) But every generation gets a Robin Hood that is suited to the times, the story has changed and adapted with only a couple of constants: the government is corrupt (something that hasn’t changed from the Twelfth Century until today) and Robin Hood likes to hide out in the forest, but it might not even be Sherwood Forest!

Author K.C. Murdarasi has just released a book Why Everything You Know About Robin Hood Is Wrong that details even though the tales  take real figures like Richard The Lion-Hearted or King John and real places like Yorkshire and Nottingham. why our version of the story has no real basis in any kind of historical fact. We talk with her and discover:

  • When Robin Hood became a nobleman
  • When he started stealing from the rich
  • Who he could have been historically
  • Where Maid Marian came from (She’s French, what?!)
The Great Oak of Sherwood Forest, voted England’s favorite tree and the supposed hideout of Robin and his Merry Men

There’s also a paranormal element to Robin Hood’s legends and we cover these topics as well:

That’s a big tree, baby

For the song this week, we thought we’d take a Robin Hood ballad from the Seventeenth Century when songs were presented in large one-sheet broadsides, which are proto-newspapers that were developed after the printing press was invented. They would have news and ballads and were sold for a penny a piece. Often the songs would tell the tales of highwaymen and robbers who were about to be executed, but they also featured great heroes and legends like Robin Hood.

These broadsides were all collected by an American historian in the 1800s, Francis Child. He wanted to save the folk ballads of England and Scotland. Today, we’re singing an abridged version of one of the ballads, “Robin Hood And The Butcher”, where Robin pretends to be a butcher to lure the Sheriff of Nottingham into Sherwood Forest so then he can rob him. He even makes a “say hi to your wife” joke at the end!

You can take a look at the original broadside right here!

Come, all you brave gallants, and listen a while,
With he down, down, an a down
That are in the bowers within;
For of Robin Hood, that archer good,
A song I intend for to sing.
Upon a time it chancëd so
Bold Robin in forrest did spy
A jolly butcher, with a bonny fine mare,
With his flesh to the market did hye.
‘Good morrow, good fellow,’ said jolly Robin,
‘What food hast? tell unto me;
And thy trade to me tell, and where thou dost dwell,
For I like well thy company.’
The butcher he answered jolly Robin:
No matter where I dwell;
For a butcher I am, and to Notingham
I am going, my flesh to sell.
Now Robin he is to Notingham gone,
His butcher’s trade for to begin;
With good intent, to the sheriff he went,
And there he took up his inn.
When other butchers they opened their meat,
Bold Robin he then begun;
But how for to sell he knew not well,
For a butcher he was but young.
When other butchers no meat could sell,
Robin got both gold and fee;
For he sold more meat for one peny
Than others could do for three.
The butchers they stepped to jolly Robin,
Acquainted with him for to be;
‘Come, brother,’ one said, ‘we be all of one trade,
Come, will you go dine with me?’
But when to the sheriff’s house they came,
To dinner they hied apace,
And Robin he the man must be
Before them all to say grace.  
‘This is a mad blade,’ the butchers then said;
Saies the sheriff, He is some prodigal,
That some land has sold, for silver and gold,
And now he doth mean to spend all.
‘Hast thou any horn-beasts,’ the sheriff repli’d,
‘Good fellow, to sell unto me?’
‘Yes, that I have, good Master Sheriff,
I have hundreds two or three.
‘And a hundred aker of good free land,
If you please it to see;
And I ‘le make you as good assurance of it
As ever my father made me.’
The sheriff he saddled a good palfrey,
With three hundred pound in gold,
And away he went with bold Robin Hood,
His horned beasts to behold.
Away then the sheriff and Robin did ride,
To the forrest of merry Sherwood;
Then Robin he set his horn to his mouth,
And blew but blasts three;
Then quickly anon there came Little John,
And all his company.
‘What is your will?’ then said Little John,
‘Good master come tell it to me;’
‘I have brought hither the sheriff of Notingham,
This day to dine with thee.’
Then Robin took his mantle from his back,
‘I hope he will honestly pay;
I know he has gold, if it be but well told,
Will serve us to drink a whole day.’
Then Robin took his mantle from his back,
And laid it upon the ground,
And out of the sheriffe[‘s] portmantle
He told three hundred pound.
Then Robin he brought him thorow the wood,
And set him on his dapple gray:
‘O have me commended to your wife at home;’
So Robin went laughing away.

185 – The Oscar Love Curse: Legends and Lore of The Academy Awards

From Joan Crawford to Sandra Bullock, Bette Davis to Hilary Swank,  actresses who win Academy Awards are said to have been cursed in love shortly after. In fact, everyone from Forbes to National Public Radio to The Washington Post have talked about it.

For example, Emma Thompson wins Best Actress for Howard’s End in 1993 and by 1994, it’s revealed that Kenneth Branagh was fooling around with Helena Bonham-Carter on the set of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein a year later. They’re divorced in 1995.

Reese Witherspoon wins for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in Walk The Line in 2006, five months later she is divorced from her husband Ryan Philippe.

Renee Zellweger is dating Jack White (from The White Stripes) in 2004 and she wins Best Supporting Actress for Cold Mountain, several months later, they split up.

And those are just a few of the more modern examples. Hollywood breakups have been happening to Oscar winners since the Academy Awards started, but is there any truth to the “Oscar Love Curse”? And is it always women who are unlucky? What about the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor winners?

Hollywood Ghost Tour guide and WhatsYourGhostStory.com founder Scott Markus joins Wendy and I to get the facts behind the Oscar Love Curse and we also dish some more fun paranormal facts about Hollywood’s biggest night, The Academy Awards.

oscar love curse
1999 Gwyneth sure seemed happy, two months before her breakup with fellow Oscar winner, Ben Affleck

This week’s song is all about relationships collapsing and the feelings afterwards, it’s Sunspot’s ode to bitter breakups, “Eat Out My Heart”.

I’ve been waiting so long for you to call,
but now you’re finally here and I’m a wreck.
Worked out a little, even did my hair,
but I’m not the man I used to be back there.

I hope you have an ugly boyfriend,
I hope you’re working at a carwash,
I hope your life went down the drain and everything is not okay,
I hope your best years passed you up.

I dodged a bullet,
One or two since then,
You’re not the only one who still calls me up.
I’m still the jerkoff who listens to your problems,
I never told you all the times,
I’d wished you died in a car crash.

I hope you have an ugly boyfriend,
I hope you’re working at a carwash,
I hope your life went down the drain and everything is not okay,
I hope your best years passed you up, I hope your life sucks.

I’m eating out my heart.
I’m eating out my heart.

And I’m not happy for you,
That you’re a better person without me.
I’m so glad you decided to apologize,
When I’m too numb to care,
I’m just too numb to care.

I hope you have an ugly boyfriend,
I hope you’re working at a carwash,
I hope your life went down the drain and everything is not okay,
I hope your best years passed you up.