WFU hauntings conference looks at stories of ghostly lore

A ghost supposedly lives in Hanes Park in Winston-Salem. Another one named Lydia allegedly appears on North Carolina Route 70 near an overgrown, graffiti-covered bridge in Jamestown. These urban legends and other folklore related to the literature of “haunting” will be among the topics discussed at Wake Forest University’s Multicultural Hauntings Symposium April 29 from 4:30 p.m.- 8 p.m. in Tribble Hall’s DeTamble Audiorium.

Admission to the symposium is free and open to the public.

“Everybody’s interested in ghosts,” said Stephanie Hawkins, Wake Forest visiting assistant professor of English, whose freshman seminar class will present this interactive conference on the cultural phenomena of ghosts, spooks, haunted houses and the belief systems surrounding them. “This is a forum in which the students can make their classroom experience real and show that what they do in class matters within the Wake Forest community and beyond,” said Hawkins.

Thirty students will present their research projects in an entertaining, student-led conference that includes multi-media presentations. The conference will include two one-hour sessions with a refreshment break in between. The students are divided into eight panels with four students per panel. Each panel session, which focuses on a different topic, includes four 10-minute student presentations and a 20-minute question- and-answer period. Participants can attend the panel of their choice.

Panel topics include the Jersey Devil, the supposed mythical creature of the New Jersey Pinelands that has haunted that area for the past 260 years; Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”; the famous, haunted Winchester Mansion in San Francisco, Cal.; African American tales of voodoo; and regional stories like that of Lydia, the beautiful young girl, dead since 1923, who appears to travelers near a Jamestown underpass and asks passersby who stop to take her to her house in High Point.

This event is offered as part of the university’s theme for the 2003-2004 academic year “Fostering Dialogue: Civil Discourse in an Academic Community.” The theme is dedicated to the exploration of how free people with passionate interests and beliefs can communicate openly without turning dialogue into discord.

For more information, call Stephanie Hawkins at 336-758-3914.

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