Author to share local ghost tales at North Tier Library
For Tom White, ghost stories are much more than just tales woven for a fright, although that part is fun.
Stories such as the ones he'll share at the Ghosts and Legends of Western Pennsylvania program at Northern Tier Library on Oct. 24 can also convey history, tell of fears and concerns at various stages in history and serve a societal function as well as give people pause before turning out the lights.
“People do like to be scared, but there's also the supernatural part of it,” he said. “In the modern world you'd think that would be going away, but it's more popular than ever. Not to bash science and technology, but the technical and scientific world can tell you how and why things work but they don't parlay meaning to anything. People look for meaning in the supernatural just like they did 500 years ago. People like to seek that out and encounter such things just for the idea that there's something else beyond what we know.”
White is an adjunct instructor of history and university archivist at Duquesne University who has made a second career of tracking down and researching local legends, particularly as they pertain to the supernatural. He has written and/or contributed to a number of books including, “Supernatural Lore of Pennsylvania: Ghosts, Monsters and Miracles,” “Forgotten Tales of Pittsburgh,” “Forgotten Tales of Philadelphia,” “Forgotten Tales of Pennsylvania,” “Haunted Roads of Western Pennsylvania,” “Ghosts of Southwest Pennsylvania,” and “Witches of Pennsylvania.”
For the program at the library, his stories will likely include local highlights such as the ghosts that stalk Blue Mist Road in North Park, the whispering dead beneath the Black Cross in Butler County, the haunted Quaker church near Perryopolis and tales of hauntings in Pittsburgh's steel mills.
Diane Illis, director at Northern Tier Library, said they've hosted White before and she owns several of his books.
“He knows his stuff, and he knows a lot of stuff,” she said. “I asked him once about something he hadn't mentioned and he said, ‘Oh yeah,' and told me all about it. And he did that with a couple different people. A lot of people, when they do these ghost stories, it's more urban legends, but he goes more in depth because he's an academic and researches the things he's talking about.”
White, who's been researching such tales for the past 17 or 18 years, says he tries to keep his stories in the PG/PG-13 range, but will read a room to determine how scary he can get with his scary stories. One thing he really enjoys is hearing others' personal accounts and perspectives.
“It's fun to give people a chill or a scare, but I enjoy conveying stories and I think everyone loves mysterious things,” he said. “They make life so much more interesting.”
The program will run from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 24 and is free, but registration is required. Visit northerntierlibrary.org or call 724-449-2665 for more information.
Karen Price is a Tribune-Review contributor.