To kick off the beginning of Halloween weekend, Michele Navakas and Patrick Murphy, co-directors of the Miami University’s Literature Program, hosted a reading of ghost stories on Thursday, Oct. 26.
This is the second year the ghost stories reading has been held.
“We do different stories every year,” Murphy said. “Last year, I dressed up as Grendel from ‘Beowulf.’”
The performances have also been used to recruit people who might be interested in becoming English majors or minors “if not totally frightened off."
Students were invited to sit around a fire in Western Lodge, supplied with caramel apples, apple cider, popcorn and an assortment of other snacks. Halloween-themed music played as students mingled and prepared for the performance.
The main lights were turned off in the lodge and replaced with orange string lights, ghost projections and light from the fireplace, creating a spooky and smoky atmosphere. Plastic Halloween-themed whistles were passed out, along with a tray of fun-size candy bars.
The performance began at 6:30 p.m. with a flash of blue fire. Navakas and Murphy read stories by flashlights in the dark lodge, shadows casted on their faces. They began with an excerpt from “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson, read with dramatic acting, props and sound effects from the loft above the seating area.
The sound effects continued with a reading of “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allen Poe. In the middle of a dramatic reading by Murphy, thudding sounded through the ceiling, and Sam Fouts, a senior creative writing and literature double major, appeared above to shock and laughter. Referring to the rising smoke from the fireplace, he joined the reading and continued the sound effects, but not before throwing down a fake body.
After Fouts’ surprise appearance, the reading was “completely improv,” Murphy said.
The performance continued with excerpts from “The Sentence” by Louise Erdrich, “Dark Matter” by Michelle Paver and “Windeye” by Brian Evenson.
The theatrics of the reading increased until the grand finale, a reading of “Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad” by M. R. James, which included whistle sound effects performed by Murphy. This story was about a professor who found a whistle on the beach and translated the writing on the side of it. Due to the professor’s “nerdy” nature, Navakas jokingly asked Murphy if the character sounded familiar.
With cohesive storytelling and a balance between funny improvised moments and bone-chilling stories, the ghost stories reading was an engaging and entertaining start to the weekend.