The Music in the Woods

Informant: The informant here is an Irish Catholic girl from Beverly, Massachusetts, a small town made out of the original Salem settlement and as such a traditionally superstitious area.

The one that scared me the most when I was little and even now – my grandfather told me this – and apparently when he was a little kid, in my town, which is not Salem but was in the original settlement, there was a slew of child abductions. And all of the families told the police that they heard music outside their house that night. And they didn’t recognize the tune and they couldn’t tell where it was coming from. And so there were all these stories about fairies in the wood. And actual fairies are terrifying, they’d tell stories about them abducting people and replacing them with other people but anyways. As the story goes, these kids went missing and in the summer, you can still hear that music but now you can hear the voices of little children singing along. And when I was a kid I freaked out because I thought I could hear the voices too.
I heard that story my grandpa, who was born and raised in Beverly, Massachusetts.
Why did that stick with you?
Probably because he told it to me when I was a kid and I live in the woods that those stories all supposedly come from. When I was a little kid I thought that was gonna be me. And still I can’t drive through the roads – the only road – through those woods and I still have to keep my doors locked. I drive down this one street and I still get shivers sometimes. It’s a pretty old story, at least eighty or so years old.

Analysis: This story achieves its resonance through its unsettling nature. The image of children mysteriously vanishing is terrifying to both a guardian’s parental instincts and to a child’s sense of self-preservation. The reference to fairies – not in the modern, mass culture variety, but the original, more European fairies, who were oftentimes menacing figures – gives the story a darker mystery than a simple disappearance would. The nature of New England – shadowy, forested, and very, very old – causes scary stories such as these to be more naturally resonant than they would be anywhere else in the nation.