Ghost Story/Joke – Maryland

“Ok, so this really happened to me one night when I was babysitting for these children.  It was the middle of winter and I was sitting in the family’s house, and in Maryland in winter it’s pretty cold, and it had snowed heavily the night before.  I was sitting on the couch and I was watching TV with the kids but their parents had told me that they should be put to bed by ten o’clock so I helped them into their beds and continued watching TV.  The TV room was positioned as such so that the couch I was sitting on was facing the TV and there was this glass sliding door to my left.  So I was in the middle of watching a movie and I look outside and I see this really old looking man standing in the snow outside and he appeared to be holding what looked like a sickle, like for cutting grain.  So immediately I start freaking out, I’m thinking where are the kids and I hide under my blanket and call 911.  The police answer and I tell them that there is this old man standing outside my door with a sickle and they say that they’ll be right over.  About 5 minutes or so later they arrive but there are no footprints outside or any whereabouts to the location of the man.  Then the police show me a trail of muddy footprints leading through the house and right behind the couch and they told me, ‘Sir you are very lucky.  The man you saw standing outside was a reflection in the door.  He was actually standing right behind you’.”

After Zach tells this story he then says that he actually made it all up and that it isn’t true.  That is how he said it is supposed to be told.  Zach says that he does not remember where he learned the tale but that he has been telling it for probably a little under five years now.  He said that the best time to tell the story is typically late at night when there is a group gathering of less than ten people and he said he likes to tell it with the lights off.  This all adds to the spooky suspense of the story.  He said to tell the story, one can add specifics to make it sound even more believable, and perhaps change the hometown depending on where the person is from.  He also said it is good to tell it in a living room, especially if there is a glass door and it is night time.

The whole point of telling the story is to lead the audience on long enough to make them think that you are actually telling a scary story, when the whole time you are just leading up to a trick ending.  I am not sure where or what category this fits into folklore, however, it seems to be a mix between a joke, ghost story, and legend.  The reason that it is so believable is the amount of detail that the teller puts into the story itself.  I also believe that popular culture has had an effect on the degree of how frightening the story is.  Movies such as “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and “Scream” depict characters with hooks killing people in their own homes.  Although I don’t know the origin of the story I would venture to say that it was inspired by ideas from movies such as these.