There’s a chill in the air, and it’s got nothing to do with the climate (in my town, we’re still experiencing highs in the 80s). It has everything to do with a certain haunted holiday at the end of the month. I’m a big horror fan year round, and I love this time of year especially because everyone is eager to get in on the scary fun.
In our latest #hyperlib chat, Stacie Ledden encourages libraries to resist the impulse to be insular: to look outside the industry itself to see how other industries and fields are behaving and how they are innovating. This may sound like a lot of work and it certainly can be, but there are also ways to easily bring this innovation into your own library- starting with what are your passions, and what are your staff passionate about? How can you bring that into the library?
A Haunted Library Tour
How that looked for me was the Beale Library’s Haunted Library Tour. I thrive on scary stories, enjoy creative writing and planning, and wanted to bring this all to a Halloween program after dark for adults at the library. It started as an idea for something small- one evening three years ago with guest storytellers throughout library with 30 attendees max. What it turned into is a multi-night, multi-tour event complete with scare actors, set pieces, soundscaping, and an original script that spanned the last three Halloweens (not including this one) and hundreds of attendees. You can see photos from last year’s theme, a summer camp run by an immortality cult, here, and a trailer for the year prior’s theme, Dr. Frankenstein’s haunted library, here.
I’m immensely proud of this work and my team, but make no mistake, this was absolutely a labor of love. I would not have pulled several 14 hour days for just anything! I think stories, experiencing and telling them, are what keep many of us going through dark times. They certainly are for me.
A New Type of Storytelling
This year looks different. I’m no longer working for the library, and though I’m still planning events they aren’t in person anymore. Appropriately for the season, these memories are haunting me right now. I miss the stress and excitement of pulling off events like these. But there is much to be learned about immersive storytelling virtually from theatre companies around the world.
No Proscenium is a site that shares news of upcoming immersive theatre and so much of it is at our fingertips now that we’ve been forced to go virtual. I invite you to take a seat around the online campfire as the world swaps chilling tales to keep you up at night:
- The Tower of Terror: Six Stories of Horror – An immersive site to explore and experience on Halloween night. Pay-what-you-can.
- The Empty Space’s HAUNTED BAKERSFIELD – Local storytellers and actors tell true accounts of ghost stories in Kern County. $10.
- Dark Dial Haunted Radio Hour – With live soundscaping provided by a DJ, we present three tales of terror adapted for the small screen: The Monkey’s Paw, The Tell-Tale Heart, and The Yellow Wallpaper (that last one adapted by me). Pay-what-you-can.
- The Japanese Ghost Painting Introduction – Like most immersive theatre experiences I’ve done in the past month, I know absolutely nothing about this one, just that it comes highly recommended. But that’s part of the adventure! $33.
The More, The Scarier!
Scary stories pair well with libraries, it’s true. Perhaps a partnership with a local theatre company could bring new people into the library and create a unique immersive experience. As Professor Stephens reminds us in Challenged but not Dying, The Public Libraries are More Relevant than Ever, libraries struggle against the status quo of what we’ve “always done,” that fear response that shuts down change. Perhaps it is time to embrace the fear and show the public just how much fun being afraid can be. Consider adding horror programming to your library!