Ghostly night

The warm autumn evening in a park overlooking the Mississippi River was perfect for "An Evening of Ghost Stories: Where the River Turns a Thousand Chilling Tales." A crowd estimated at 1,000 turned out in the park area of Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus to listen to two professional storytellers relate funny stories for the children and spooky stories for everyone.

It was a special night, perhaps even more special than organizers had anticipated. The weather was great for an October night. The lights on the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge were bright. The grass under the giant beech tree was freshly mown. Luminarias lined the sidewalk from the River Campus parking lot to the riverside park and along the paths in the park. Families -- Mom, Dad, the children -- turned out in droves, lugging lawn chairs and blankets and snacks. The river overlook at the foot of Morgan Oak Street was close by. Neighborhood houses, many of them renovated in recent months, were decoratively lit -- all against the backdrop of the historic buildings on the River Campus.

And there were the stories. Some of them required audience participation, and the children loved it. The professional storytellers, Lyn Ford and Dan Keding, kept the large outdoor audience's attention for nearly two hours.

Yes, there were a few distractions: A freight train toot-tooted its way through downtown. River barges and tows went up and down the river. The whine of truck traffic on the bridge occasionally drowned out the stories. But what a magnificent view. What a magnificent evening. What a magnificent turnout.

The ghost storytelling was an offshoot of the storytelling festival held in Cape Girardeau last spring that received such good reviews. Now the autumn ghost stories may become an annual event. They would be a welcome addition to the community lineup of things to do.

Hats off to the many organizers and volunteers who worked so hard to prepare the park and assist the crowd in finding a comfortable spot to sit, especially Marla Mills of Old Town Cape, Chuck Martin of the Convention and Visitors Bureau and Dr. Joel Rhodes of Southeast Missouri State University.