Category Archives: Folklore

On the ‘Facebook Messages Go Public’ Rumour

I just came about the recent rumour that Facebook messages that were once private now appear as public wall posts on your Facebook timeline. The account I read mentioned the messages from 2007-2010 being exposed, but I’ve read other versions since.

I’ll admit that I freaked for a second there. I was cold sweating at least a little bit as I took to my timeline to check for embarrassing messages from yesteryear. I found none of these, although I did find a few messages that had sort of a private look to them. Exactly the type of messages, I imagine, that the investigators have concluded are simply wall posts from a time when people would post more freely on each others’ walls.

I find this fascinating from an urban legend/folklore point of view. This does not appear to be an out-and-out hoax, and I think the investigators explanation is completely credible: it’s a case of misunderstanding. But the misunderstanding turned into an effective tale nonetheless and spread quickly enough to make the Facebook executives work up a bit of a cold sweat of their own, I’m sure. I’ve heard many warnings over the years about Facebook, but this is the most immediately appealing one. It’s one thing to be told that Facebook is selling your personal information – the potential purchasers of that information are relatively abstract things or institutions so even if there’s a damaging effect to this, it’s of the long-term kind, kind of like smoking or eating junk food. When your Facebook friends can suddenly see that indulgent back-stabbing chat you had in 2009 with your friend Gossiping Gretchen, then you’re screwed right now. I can totally imagine users shutting down their Facebook accounts simply because this possibility of an incriminating glitch has now been presented to them. No wonder the story is spreading – it’s like a social horror story.

I won’t venture into a long essay about how and why such a rumour would come about at this time, obviously I am not qualified to do so. I will say, however, that I  like that researchers such as Suzanne Choney acknowledge the folkloristic power of this false rumour as well as the implications of it, and I like that they take the opportunity to share a few thoughts on how our behaviour on Facebook has changed without us even noticing:

Here on the Tech team, we checked our own Facebook accounts to make sure. Indeed, older posts were showing up on our Timelines. But they were not the private emails, or direct messages, that are sent between Facebook users and are not visible to anyone else.

They were, however, a story from another time, a time when Facebook friends really were friends, and it was a smaller virtual community than it is now.

Of course, many of us shared our addresses, phone numbers and what now seem like very personal messages as wall posts because most of us a)  didn’t have more than 200 “friends” like we do now and B)  we didn’t know better then; Facebook was still a magical place and we were digitally naive.

Also, Facebook hadn’t yet become a behemoth, although it was on its way. In 2008, it had 100 million users. In early 2009, a headline from Mashable said: “Facebook Has 150 Million Active Users. Whoa.”

There are good reasons to be wary of what Facebook does and doesn’t do these days. Trying to navigate your own settings can be a headache; Facebook still does not make it as easy as it should. And late last year, Facebook agreed to settle federal charges that it violated users’ privacy by getting people to share more information than they agreed to when signing up for Facebook.

Most recently, Facebook’s partnership with Datalogix to work to show a direct correlation between the ads Facebook users see on the site and the products they buy is worrisome to privacy groups in the U.S.

This is probably a bigger issue right now. Those old posts? Let them serve as a reminder and cautionary tale going forward. If you are finding it annoying or upsetting to see those old posts in your Timeline, click on the pencil within the window where the messages are showing up, then select “Hide from Timeline.”

It’s like internet archeology, world wide web excavation. This false Facebook rumour exposes the fact that even just a few years back our online behaviour was markedly different, and we were more naïve. Both when it came to the commercial interests of the social network –  I’m sure there’s good sense in Choney’s advice to pay more attention to the relation between Facebook ads and your online shopping habits. But also when it came to the act of simply interacting socially online, freely and carelessly. Facebook was never a safer place, we just perceived it as such, and now we’ve grown wiser. Nobody with half a mind interacts freely and carelessly on Facebook  these days, what with their bosses and fathers and whathaveyou lurking about. I think twice, nay thrice, before posting even the most harmless little tidbit on Facebook, and it’s starting to feel more like work than pastime. I’ll admit that there was a brief moment when I read the above rumour that I felt a touch of relief, thinking that now I had he perfect excuse for deactivating my Facebook account, as I’ve been considering doing more and more often lately.

I don’t think I shall do that, not right now. For the time being, I find it to be an indispensable way of keeping in touch with a bunch of people that I would hate to lose, and I don’t think Facebook has outlived its purpose yet. For instance, how would I have heard of this incredible new urban legend if not through Facebook?

The Vale of Clwyd

Lately I’ve been nuts about Beethoven’s arrangements of Irish, Welsh and Scottish ballads, and they have been on repeat on my iPhone when I’m riding the train to work every morning for weeks now. My favourite is “The Vale of Clwyd”:

I’m especially enamoured by the cello which adds such a sense of gravity to the song. And there is just something about the lyrics  – banal, artless folksong lyrics as they are – that moves me. I like how the persona equals her beloved’s Henry’s mere presence with a state of blessedness. And I like the resigned outcry of the father when he can’t bear to discourage his daughter’s fervent wish any longer:

“‘How thou art sad!’ he cried/’But smile again, my darling child/for thou shalt be thy Henry’s bride.'”

Blogger “The Daily Beethoven” posts the lyrics in their entirety for those interested.

“It happened to someone who knows someone you know…You’re next” – Reviewing Urban Legend (1998)

I recently watched the 1998 horror movie Urban Legend. I don’t know what took me so long – I’ve been wanting to see it for a long time. I can actually remember the poster hanging on the wall of my high school cafeteria back when the movie was still in the theatres, or had just come out on VHS or whatever, and being intrigued by it. It’s not that I ever thought the movie looked particularly good, but as I’ve mentioned before I always loved urban legends, so I thought a horror movie based on the subject must be pretty interesting.

After having actually watched Urban Legend the idea of basing a horror flick on urban legend remains the best thing about the flick which, sadly, is not really all that well executed. Probably inspired by the wave of teen horror/thriller flicks that swept the world in the late ’90s (Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer), the movie focuses on a group of college kids at the fictional college Stanley Halls. The kids grow increasingly concerned as it seems a killer is on the loose on campus, killing college students, basing his murders on famous urban legends.

“Turn around, bright eyes”
Like I said, I really like that idea. Our culture has so many great gory legends, they seem to be almost begging to be filmed. And while the college setting was probably chosen chiefly because the movie was to be marketed to teenagers, I also like it that the urban legend horror flick is set in a dormitory milieu. Not only does the college campus serve as the frame of many a popular urban legend (like “Aren’t You Glad You Didn’t Turn on the Lights“, which is actually featured in the movie, and the “Our College Has No Virginal Women” one), college dorms also seem plausible as a setting for urban legends to get spread around.

The movie also has a compelling opening scene: A lovely co-ed is driving home one stormy night as she runs out of gas. She stops at a gas station but is unnerved by the creepy looking gas station attendant who happens to have a weird stutter. As he asks her to step out of the car and urges her follow into a locked garage, she freaks out and maces him, rushes to her car and drives off. Alas, as it turns out the poor attendant was only trying to warn her about a stranger hiding in her backseat. Once she’s back on the road, said stranger emerges, killing the girl with an axe. The plot will sound familiar to most people, and the movie pays great hommage to this famous legend, building up the suspense slowly. In a particularly nice move on the director’s part, the girl is listening to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in her car, featuring the repeated lyrics “Turn around… turn around, bright eyes”, which I find to be a fun, and not too obvious piece of foreshadowing.

I actually think that most of the murder scenes of the movie are pretty effective. It’s simply a thrill to see these familiar old tales acted out, and the “Scratching Noise on the Car Roof” is very nicely done and quite scary, as is the movie’s rendition of the Flashing Headlights tale.

Hey! It’s that Guy!
The piecing together of these scenes into a movie plot with real, fleshed-out characters, however, goes down less smoothly. Urban legend characters are traditionally vaguely defined archtypes who don’t need any real introduction: The Babysitter, The Killer, The Ignorant Tourist etc. Since the urban legend-teller will usually insist that these are people he knows or at least knows of, we will usually be able to relate to the characters even if we know very little about them. This aspect is of course lost in a movie, where we’re constantly aware that we’re watching a piece of fiction played out by actors. So an urban legend movie is  dependant on our being able to identify with the characters on screen, and this is a huge problem in Urban Legend. The casting consists almost entirely of secondary actors from 1990s tv-shows. Between Pacey from Dawson’s Creek, Toni from 90210, Gersten from Twin Peaks, and Jordan from My So Called Life the H!ITG-factor  gets kind of distracting, and none of the actors really have the presence required for the big screen. I suppose Tara Reid is the one household name among the cast, having starred in a Coen brothers film, but she hardly stands a chance at carrying the movie by herself. The actors also aren’t given much help from the director, Jamie Blanks, who fails to guide his audience sufficiently in the exposition of the film. It took me forever to even figure out who the protagonist was supposed to be, and I never felt that I got to know the characters well enough to actually care about them. I suppose part of this is due to Blanks wishing to keep his audience guessing – will one of the main characters turn out to be the murderer? – but it is ultimately disruptive as it prevents the viewer from truly identifying with anyone.

Coincidence and plot holes
And speaking of the whodunnit aspect of the movie, the big revelation falls somewhat flat. For a while it seemed that the killer would be revealed to be some kind of supernatural power, like a vengeful ghost, and I liked that idea: There is something ghostly in the repetitive, ephemeral nature of folklore. But then the plot took a turn that revealed the murderer to be alive and kicking. And not only is this twist not very interesting, it also reveals a motherload of plot holes in the story.

The thing is that urban legend deaths usually depend on a series of outrageous coincidents – indeed Snopes has an entire section devoted to freak deaths. The killings portrayed in Urban Legend are no exceptions: There is really no way a person could plan something like a reenactment of the Killer in the Backseat, for example. Even if one could plan for the victim’s car to run out of gas in a precise spot, how would one plan for the gas station attendant to have a speech impediment that keeps him from warning the victim? And even if one could plan that how would one plan for him not to have the presence of mind to write down his warning once his voice failed him? Etc. etc. This breaking down of the story perhaps seems nitpicky, but my point is that the plot holes could have easily been avoided: If the director and the writers had allowed for a supernatural explanation of the events, the prosaic planning of the killings would have been irrelevant.

Pop rocks, rollercoasters and remakes
And that’s  my general point with this review of Urban Legend. I know it must seem like a bit of a cheap shot for me to be dissing a b-rated horror/slasher movie from 1998 the director of which did not go on to enjoy a glorious career. But I wanted to review it because I do think that the movie showed some great potential and presented an interesting idea for a horror flick. The writers certainly knew their folklore, and the filmmakers had a fun, meta approach to the subject. In some of the movie’s more succesful scenes, urban legends are casually worked into conversation, thus demonstrating how great a power folklore has over our conceptions of reality: A college professor dares a student to consume the alleged fatal combination of soda and pop rocks, and a guy tries to get our protagonist’s attention by telling her that a woman was killed during the recording of The Ohio Players’ “Love Rollercoaster”. It’s funny and relatable and again; urban legends will never not be fascinating as a subject.

So, while I normally detest the whole “re-make” craze going on in Hollywood these days, maybe it’s time for a re-make of Urban Legend?

I would go see it. And were I to go to the movies by car, I would probably check the backseat twice before closing the car door. So obviously the 1998 movie has managed to do a few things right.

Top 5: Favourite lullabies in classical music

I meant to post this for Mother’s Day yesterday, but got delayed. Here it is now – dedicated to my wonderful mother who deserves a gold medal for having put up with me when I was a perpetually screaming baby who refused to sleep, ever. She has continued to be incredibly patient with me during the following 28 years, and I am eternally grateful to her.

5. “Sov du dyreste guten min” (Solveig’s lullaby) by Edvard Grieg

A lovely, tranquil lullaby. The Norwegian lyrics describe a mother holding her sleepy baby boy:

“Sleep, my most precious boy
I shall cradle you, I shall watch over you
The boy has been in his mother’s arms
The two have played together for all the life-long day

The boy has slumbered by his mother’s breast
All of the life-long day. God bless you, my joy!
The boy has been lying so close to my heart
All of the life-long day. Now he is so tired.

Sleep, my most precious boy.
I shall cradle you, I shall watch over you
Sleep, sleep.”

The sunny, peaceful atmosphere of the song is contrasted by the dramatic context of the song: It actually isn’t sung by a mother to her sleepy infant song, but to Peer Gynt by Peer Gynt’s beloved and faithful Solveig, to whom Peer returns after having lived through a series of fantastic adventures and a close-call encounter with Satan himself. Peer Gynt is most likely dying while Solveig sings to him, although this is left ambigious by Henrik Ibsen in his original play.

4. “Mädel, mach’s Lädel zu!” from Wozzeck by Alban Berg

Perhaps one of the most unsettling lullabies ever, if it can even be categorized as a lullaby. Wozzeck’s wife Marie sings this song to her young son while admiring a piece of jewelry that her lover has given her:

“Girl, close the shutters
A gypsy lad is on the prowl
He will lead you off by the hand
To his far-off gypsy land”

The lullaby perfectly sums up the general feeling of fear and uncertainty that embues Büchner’s Woyzeck  as well as Berg’s opera. This is exactly the kind of song haunted, doomed and just generally screwed-up Marie would sing to her (SPOILER ALERT!!1) soon-to-be orphaned son.

Also, it is an example of a 12-note aria that I actually know by heart. And by “an example of a”, I really mean “the only”. So.

3. “Sol deroppe” by Niels W. Gade / Peter Heise
The lyrics for this one was a poem written by Hans Christian Andersen as part of a series of songs about Agnete and the Merman. I have to say that I generally think that Andersen was kind of a clumsy poet – he was much, much better as a writer of short stories and fairy tales, which was of course the genre eventually brought him international acclaim.

But this song is really very lovely. It’s a lullaby, written for the character of Agnete, who is singing to one of the seven sons that she has had with the merman. A mer-child, if you will, but I’m not going to go into any speculations as to whether or not such a child would have gills or grow up to develop insane fish mating rituals because that would just totally spoil the romance. But the lyrics are really lovely, and I like how they subtely hint at the fact that Agnete is not completely at peace with her life under the sea – when soothing her child, she painstakingly compares every under-water phenomenon surrounding her to the phenomena of the world she used to live in on the shore:

The sun up there is sinking
Sleep, my child, and grow big and strong!
You shall ride on the wild mer-horse
The meadow grows so prettily beneath the wave

The whales with their broad fins
hover over you like great clouds
The sun and the moon shine through the water
You shall have both of them in your dreams

Hush-a-by! I bore you in pain
Be my joy forever, year by year
You have drunk Life by my heart
to my heart each of your tears will flow

Sleep, my child, I am sitting by your crib
Let me kiss your eyes shut.
When one day my eyes are closed
Who will be your mother then?

Original Danish lyrics here

Two different melodies exist for the song – one by Peter Heise and one by Niels W. Gade. I was unable to find an online recording of the song, but you can hear the Heise version here, and the Niels W. Gade version here. The gentle Heise melody works better as a lullaby, but the more sophisticaed version by Gade probably works better if sung as a lied, so I like them both.

2. “Dormi, amor mio” from Madame Butterfly by Puccini

I actually didn’t even think I liked Madame Butterfly until only last year. All that waiting…! And why would I even care about a painfully naive teenage girl and her asshat American faux husband? But then I saw it live in a theatre for the first time ever, and in a production that I really liked, and I was moved. I still think the main characters are absolute idiots, but I think that Puccini’s music more than makes up for this, beautiful as it is. My favourite part is the coro muto, but I also really like Cio-Cio San’s lullaby, sung to her aptly-named half-american toddler Sorrow:

Sweet, thou art sleeping,
Cradled on my heart;
Safe in God’s keeping,
While I must weep apart.
Around thy head the moonbeams dart:
Sleep, my beloved!

(Translation by R. H. Elkin via

Just like the earthly imagery mixed with that of the sea in Agnete’s lullaby, Puccini mixes the harmonies of Japanese folk songs with what appears to be religious lyrics of the western world when singing to her Japanese-American little boy, with whom she must soon (SPOILER ALERT!!!!1!) part forever. It never fails to make me sniffle.

1. “Bow thy corolla, thou bloom”by Carl Nielsen

We have already seen, in the Grieg lullaby, how sleep and death can be closely interwoven in a cradle song, and I think this is an important point. Any mother who has ever checked on her sleeping baby to see if it’s still breathing will recognise the fear of losing her child, and I wonder if the baby, too, doesn’t on some level fear that it will perish while sleeping? I struggled with insomnia from infancy all through my childhood; a stubborn, insistant insomnia that didn’t go away until I was in my teens and got overpowered by that obligatory adolescent fatigue and laziness. I later found out that severe childhood insomnia is a common trait among children who, like myself, were suffering while inside their mother’s womb due to a difficult pregnancy. These children fear sleep because they are afraid of letting go – they feel certain that they will die if they do.

This is why I’m so fond of this particular lullaby, in which the lyrics hint at the image of not just the cradling of a weary child, but the soothing of a person who is dying. This tendency becomes especially clear in the third stanza which, in an almost startling manner, features the image of a slumbering child as a comparison rather than as a description. The mention of the night drawing near coupled with the encouragement to humble prayer, too, always struck me as ominous, and the melody lingers somewhere ambigiously between the minor and the major, with a crescendo rising in the fifth to eighth bar of each stanza. Eventually, however, it’s the feeling of soothing, the prospect of peaceful sleep, that takes over, and my inner fearful, tired little infant loves this.

I know that an English translation of the song exists, but I have been unable to find it, so here it is in my own direct translation:

Bow thy corolla, thou bloom
Let it descend into the leaves
Await with closed petals
The blissful peace of night

The night, mild and quiet,
is  drawing near – oh, bow and pray
Sleep beneath golden stars
Sleep yourself blessed and sound

Sleep like a child that is rocked
Gently in its mother’s arms
Awaking only partly to sigh
with a smile its mother’s name.

Happy Groundhog Day! And Happy Candlemass.

It’s Groundhog Day! Happy Groundhog Day! This is exactly what I said to one of my colleagues today and he stared at me blankly. Then I told him the magical tale of the groundhog leaving its burrow and of Bill Murray who had to live through February the 2nd again and again for exactly eight years, eight months and 16 days (thanks, Wolf Gnards!), because that is how long it takes for a man to become worthy of Andie MacDowell’s sweet, sweet love. Then my colleague stared at me even more blankly, and then I felt compelled to say “Ta-daaa! There’s your useless piece of trivia of the day.” Then he laughed.

No, he was very cool about it, actually. And he had every reason to be staring at me blankly, because we don’t have the custom of the groundhog here in Denmark. Instead, we have something called “Kyndelmisse”, or “Candlemass” in English , on today, February the 2nd. Originally it marked the day when the church would initiate its candles, as well as the day when the Virgin Mary was able to go to the temple again after having given birth to the saviour. But that’s long forgotten in Denmark now, and the only reason anyone really remembers it anymore is that the holiday is mentioned in a popular song by poet Steen Steensen Blicher. Written during one of the coldest winters ever in Denmark, the winter of 1838, while the poet was gravely ill with rheumatism, the song describes the cold, hopeless winter landscape of early February, and I remember hearing it for the first time, standing in my kindergarten as a radio played. I thought to myself that song right there was the sound of winter. Beautiful, frail, and melancholic. And because of this, I’ve always thought of Candlemass as a landmark of sorts. February the 2nd is the ultimate desolate winter day, and from now things will only get better. From now on, Spring is near.

So I thought I’d share the song (music by Thomas Laub) with you, and here it is, in a piano version, along with my direct translation of the first and last stanza of the poem:

It is white out here
Candlemass ties its knot
Ruthlessly sharp and harsh
White below, white above
Thickly powered are the trees in the woods
As well as in my orchard

Fervently I’m longing
for Spring, but the winter gets harsher
The wind turns to the North again
Come, South-West wind, ye who conquer the frost
Come with your foggy wings
Come and release the bound earth!

“Danish Mother Seeking…” and Fast Women in Folklore

I guess since I’m Danish and a woman, I ought to comment on the infamous “Danish Mother Seeking…” video that the Danish tourist organisation VisitDenmark issued this month, in which a pretty blond Danish woman named Karen allegedly seeks the father of her infant son August whom she reveals to be a tourist whom she met during his stay in Denmark. Karen’s identity and her story were, of course, fake. If you haven’t already seen the video, you can watch it here:

I am deeply offended and disgusted by this marketing stunt, as is every Danish woman I know. The campaign has since been withdrawn by VisitDenmark who have also issued an apology for the video, but I still cannot believe that they actually went as far as to make this stunt in the first place. It is extremely demeaning towards women, and I find it utterly tasteless that a serious tourist agency would market Denmark as a country where you can go to have unprotected sex with promiscuous women.

The video got me thinking, however, about folklore and how there’s a tradition within (modern?) societies to boast of their only too willing women. We’ve in fact been doing that for decades in Denmark before Karen and her baby boy August came along, in the shape of an urban legend about a particular Copenhagen sculpture namely The Lure Players:


This monument showing too vikings playing the lure stands on a high pillar right overlooking the Copenhagen city hall square, and according to the legend, the lure players will start blowing their lures whenever a virgin (in the sense: virginal woman) crosses the square (in some versions it’s a virgin over the age of 18). The joke being of course that the lure players never do blow their lures (because they’re made of bronze…), thus indicating that Danish women are a promiscuous lot.

I always thought that this was a unique Danish legend, but I found out via, that I was mistaken. In the U.S.A. there are similar legends about a number of colleges, including one about the statue of a soldier who will shoot his rifle if a virgin walks by (and, accordingly, he is nicknamed ‘Silent Sam’), the statue of a university founder (Duke) who will tip his hat, and a pair of stone lions that will roar. The message is always the same: “Look! Ours is the most fun college – all our women are wild and willing!”

I’m not blind to the lure (heh) of such legends – I can see the joke, and legends about sculptures getting up and moving are always somewhat fascinating in a fairy-tale kind of way. But even so, I think it’s important that we at least consider the consequences of these attempts to equate a society’s appeal with how easy it is to get the women there to spread their legs. That we at least pause to consider what kind of gender roles legends this gives rise to. Especially when the tendency spreads beyond folklore and into the sphere of advertising and branding, as has so blatantly been the case with VisitDenmark and their viral marketing stunt video.

Mariager Mass of the Death – A Danish Ghost Story

I meant to post this for Halloween last year, and then I completely forgot about it. Here I go now then, slightly delayed:

I’m a sucker for ghost stories and eerie folklore, and I thus I really treasure a book I was once given as a present by a dear friend who knew of my folklore partiality. It’s called Our Old Churches and Convents (“Vore gamle kirker og klostre”), written by folklorist Gorm Benzon, and in a series of chapters it describes old churches and convents and, more importantly, recount old tales that are connected with the places. It’s such a fun read, and very inspiring if you’re ever to make a trip through Denmark and would like an alternative travelling guide.

Last summer, The Boyfriend, my parents and I made just such a trip across the country, as we went from Copenhagen to the North-Western coast of Jutland where my family always goes in the summer. On our way up there in the car, we passed closely through the town of Mariager, and thanks to Gorm Benzon, I suddenly remembered an old eerie folk tale that’s connected to this particular little Jutlandian town and their church, Mariager Church. I mentioned this to my father, and he decided that we should go see the church, and then I could tell the rest of the company the ghost story.

There’s something eerie about Mariager Church that’s difficult to describe. When my paternal grandfather was alive, he lived near Mariager, so my family has been there a couple of times before. My mother tells me that once when she and my father brought my older brother to see the church when he was two years old, he was horrified and started crying the moment they entered the church: He’d caught sight of the suffering, crucified Christ hanging on the wall. My brother was inconsolable, and they had to take him out again.

Visiting it last summer, I had to wonder if it was more than just the crucifiction representation that scared him: Maybe he picked up on a general atmosphere of something uncanny? There’s something in the very architechture of the church that’s slightly intimidating. Danish churches are usually quite small and mild-looking buildings – Fanefjord Church being an excellent example of Danish churches. Mariager Church, however, is different: It was originally (in 1445) initiated as a convent by Saint Brigitta, and while the building went through a thorough reconstruction in the 18th century, the sense of something ancient still clings to the place, along with an air of solemnity, and the imposant architectural style differs a great deal from your average Danish church:


It’s hard to make the church look intimidation on a bright summer day. I tried to accomplish the eeriness by means of a crooked angle. Not quite sure I succeeded. I hope you get the idea regardless. 

The church also houses a few historical gems in the unsettling department, most notably two figures carved in wood, preserved from pre-reformation times, showing Christ as a so-called Man of Pain (“Smertensmand” in Danish), comtemplating with pain his wounds from the crucifiction, and the Tomb of Christ, showing a life-sized Christ in a wooden coffin. Even when you walk down the aisle of the church, your path is paved with ancient grave stone memorials of once-important Mariager residents.

An atmosphere of death, suffering and times past embues the vaults of the church, and despite the beautiful summer weather we were having that day, my parents, The Boyfriend and I were all in the perfect mood for a ghost story when we assembled outside of the church after our visit there, so that I could recount the piece of folklore. The following was the story I told them, as well as I remembered it:

Once upon a time at Christmas, back in the day when it was still common to have Chrismas mass very early Christmas morning, a Mariager woman awoke on Christmas night. She lived alone and didn’t have a clock, and it was dark outside, but she decided it must be about time to go to mass, so she got up, wrapped her shawl around her, and ventured out into the cold wintry air.

When she reached the church she found that mass had already started; the music of a hymn reached her as she approached the church. Eager not to bring anymore attention to herself, she crept as quietly as she could into the church and hurridly found an empty seat for herself. But then she started noticing something strange: The hymn that was being sung was not one she recalled ever having heard before. Furthermore, she didn’t recognize any of the other church-goers surrounding her, although a number of them seemed strangely familiar to her. Even the preacher was unfamiliar to her and he, like everyone else in church, was alarmingly pale with deep, dark eyes.

She felt a tap to her shoulder and turned around to face the woman sitting next to her. To her horror, she found that the woman was none other than a neighbour who’d been a good friend of hers, but who had died several years ago. “Hurry out of the church the second the minister says ‘amen'” the deceased neighbouress whispered, “and take care to hang your shawl loosely, or else no one can save you!”.

The woman was terrified and wanted to get out of her seat straight away, but she found that she couldn’t move a limb. Now she started recognizing more and more of the churchgoers as people she’d known from Mariager who had been dead for a long time.

But the second the minister said his “amen”, the woman was able to to move again, and she got up and rushed to the door. She didn’t stop to look back, but she could feel all the dead church-goers pursuing her, reaching out for her. She hurried through the church door and let it fall behind her as she ran. The door caught her shawl, but since she’d hung it loosely, like her deceased neighbouress had advised her, she easily freed herself and ran on.

She made it back home and realized that it was only one a clock in the morning. In her alarmed state, she woke up her neighbours and told them her frightening story. They laughed at her, certain that she had either gone mad or dreamed it all up.

Except when the community went to church that morning, they found her shawl stuck in the church door. The part of the shawl that was inside the door was shredded to little pieces..

PS: In the interest of folklore, I actually asked my father to tell me the story as well as he remembered it, a couple of months later. Interestingly, he told me pretty much the story, except in his version the shawl was not shredded to little pieces, it was mouldy and falling apart. I liked this zombie-esque twist to the story a lot better than the rather odd idea of ghosts ripping up random material, and have actually decided to start using this version instead of the original one when I re-tell it. So I guess the story lives on as a piece of lore, with the eerie old Mariager Church lending inspiration to it, even in the 21st Century, and I kind of like that thought.