to give lecture
on Kentuckys ghost stories
has spent years compiling tales
Helen E. McKinney
LA GRANGE, Ky. (September 2005) After penning six books
about ghosts, Dr. Lynwood Montell said, I neither believe, nor
disbelieve, in ghosts.
Montell has become somewhat of an authority on the subject, writing,
teaching and speaking across the state of Kentucky.
at 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. every Friday and Saturday night in September
and October from Hot Dog Heaven at 209 E. Main St.,
Tickets: $10 per person. The 1.5 hour tours are limited
to 13, so reservations are recommended.
Call (502) 379-2018.
He will speak in La Grange, Ky. on Sept. 21 at the Irish
Rover Too restaurant, 117 E. Main St., as part of the ongoing Lecture
Series sponsored by the Oldham County History Center and funded by the
Kentucky Humanities Council.
Montell said he became interested in the idea of writing a book about
ghost stories while teaching at Campbellsville College (now Campbellsville
University) from 1963-1969. My students and I collected ghost
stories and beliefs and stories about death premonitions from their
home counties in south central Kentucky, said Montell.
After leaving Campbellsville University, Montell spent the next 30 years
teaching at Western Kentucky University. He had retained an interest
in the stories he had collected while at Campbellsville University.
He taught a course in Venacular Architecture at Western, in which Montell
would take trips around the state to photograph various architectural
forms. He discovered many old, deserted houses along the Cumberland
River that reminded him of the contents of the ghost stories collected
by my students and me.
Montell drew fodder from these experiences to write his first ghost
book, Ghosts Along the Cumberland: Deathlore in the Kentucky Foothills.
The book was published in 1975 by the University of Tennessee Press.
So popular was this book that all copies of the fourth printing recently
sold out, said Montell.
As Montell goes around the state giving ghost story presentations, he
urges people in the audience to listen if someone wants to tell what
happened to them. To tell about a personal encounter with a ghost
has a healing quality for the person who witnessed it, he said.
He gives 10 to 12 such presentations a year.
Bill Matthews, editor of the magazine Back Home in Kentucky,
has called Montell, Kentuckys No. 1 folklorist and teller
of tall tales.
Apart from his ghost books, Montell has also written 13 additional books
focusing on life and culture.
The people who tell about their experiences firmly believe they
really happened, said Montell. While in La Grange, he will relate
the story of the return of a dead brother to visit his sister.
Montell grew up in a rural setting in Monroe County, Ky., filled with
family and community storytelling situations. After graduating from
a business college in Nashville, Tenn., he worked for two years as a
bank teller and then joined the U.S. Navy for four years.
He then attended the University of Kentucky, Campbellsville College
and Western Kentucky University and received a degree in history and
minors in Spanish and geography. During his last semester at Western,
Montell enrolled in a folklore course. After that, he knew he wanted
to become a folklorist and teach folklore courses.
He obtained his masters and doctorate degrees from Indiana University
in folklore, social and cultural history and cultural geography. Montell
also taught for three years as a visiting professor at the University
of Notre Dame and one semester at UCLA. I retired from teaching
in 1999 but loved every minute I was teaching, said Montell.
He has relied on oral history interviews and folklore methodology to
write his books. The Lynwood Montell Collection is housed at Cumberland
College and contains mid-20th century Cumberland College folk study
projects that complement his own research.
Montell is the father of Kentucky State Rep. Brad Montell. His favorite
memory of growing up in Tompkinsville is of going into town on Saturdays
and buying two Dovie hamburgers, a Pepsi-Cola, and going to the movies
for a grand total of 26 cents. Times have changed since then, but Montell
strives to keep oral history a vital part of Kentuckys culture.
Tickets to Lynwood Montells lecture are $15 for Historical
Society members and $18 for non-members. For more information, call
the History Center at (502) 222-0826.
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