A crowd of about 400 showed to hear professional storytellers Donna Washington and Milbre Burch for the second annual Cape Girardeau Evening of Ghost Stories. The event took place at 7 p.m. Friday on the east lawn of Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus.
As the crowd filed in they were greeted with sound effects -- gongs, bass drums and thunder. But nature set the real scene. The dire, soupy skies fit the subject matter as if ordered up for the occasion, served against a glowing backdrop of bridge and big, big river.
The rain held off save for the occasional drizzle, but the cold didn't.
Donna Washington, an award-winning storyteller and artist who learned storytelling from her father, began the evening of tale-telling -- barefoot despite the cold -- with a some audience-participation tales that transfixed the children and had them gesturing right along with her.
Next was Milbre Burch. Also an award-winning artist, Burch mixed a style of poetry with story. She used rhythmic turns and beats to add variety to her tales.
Both presenters used inflection and story twists to elicit reactions from chuckles and guffaws to head-jerks and flinches, especially from the children. Shivers came not only from the temperature but from the stories, too.
The storytellers started the evening with lighter, funnier offerings. The scarier stories they saved for last, cautioning their listeners that they might be too scary for some children.
The event features different artists every year. Chuck Martin of the Convention and Visitors Bureau said he was pleased with Cape Girardeau's growing passion for this art form.
One reason, young Taylor Shivelbine said, is that, "It's fun."
Twelve-year-old Ryan May summed up what he liked about it in one word: "Suspense."