I found my first book by Kathryn Tucker Windham, the legendary Alabama journalist and storyteller, in our public library here in Knobite Corner. I was around thirteen, I suppose, a wide-eyed young thang, fascinated already with stories of the returning dead, and with never a thought that, one day, I’d be a blogger and–ahem–ghost writer myself.
Mrs. Windham’s books about ghosts were a mere seven volumes among many she wrote during her career, but those seven–especially the first six (the seventh was comprised of favorite material from the others)–have been major influences on me and my writing.
That first one I found in the library was 1973’s 13 Georgia Ghosts and Jeffrey. (Jeffrey was the poltergeist who haunted Mrs. Windham’s home in Selma, Alabama.) What captured and held my attention, then as now, was her very matter-of-fact way with a story; the very matter-of-factness in the stories made them supremely eerie and dramatic, as did the illustrations done by various artists for each volume, and also her own photographs of some of the sites she wrote about.
My dear friend, professional storyteller and fellow crochet maven Shelly Tucker, had met Mrs. Windham a few years ago at a storytelling festival. Shelly and I made a pact that, someday–maybe when I could get over my paralyzing stage fright and actually stand in front of an audience and tell stories instead of just writing them–, she would let me tag along on one of her storytelling gigs and introduce me to Mrs. Windham, a great lady in the southern tradition–as Shelly described her, “the epitome of southern charm–you’d adore her.”
Sadly, time ran a little short for us. Yesterday, Kathryn Tucker Windham passed away at her home in Selma. She was ninety-three, and a storyteller to the end.
The article linked above (thanks to Shelly for the link) is a fascinating profile of a fascinating lady, and comes with a video that tells about Jeffrey, all in her distinctive slow Alabama drawl.
May she rest well. . .may Shelly and I and others who share our passion for a good story carry on the tradition well. . .
and, just maybe, may I get my wish to sit at her feet and listen to her stories, over on the other side.
This afternoon, though, with clouds hanging sullenly over Knobite Corner, rain threatening, and the day generally dull and perfect for a ghost story, I’m gonna settle in with her books, to celebrate a life well lived and stories well told. 🙂