One fine morning last week Tallahassee finally experienced its first yearly sign of fall (a slightly chilled breeze). You know what that means – it’s time to start chugging pumpkin spice flavored everything and devouring gratuitous amounts of candy corn! Those jack o’lanterns aren’t going to carve themselves folks, and Halloween is just around the corner. Meanwhile, we at Special Collections & Archives would like to celebrate by highlighting some of our more spooky stories and poems.
Fall of the House of Usher – Based on the classic Edgar Allan Poe short story of the same name, this beautiful graphic novel features the work of P. Craig Russell, an award-winning illustrator and the first openly gay, mainstream comic book artist. Comic-book fans should also check out our Will Eisner collection of comic books and graphic novels. Those who enjoy Poe (or music) may also be interested in the opera version of this story, available via Special Collections and in the Allen Music Library.
The Pop-Up Book of Ghost Tales – This engaging children’s pop-up book includes everything from pirates to ghosts to vampires. It covers five classic Halloween stories in scary detail. Users who like the visual and tactile versatility of this work might also enjoy the Pop-Up Book of Phobias. If you like these stories, check out our copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
Witch Poems – No Halloween celebration would be complete without witches. This book highlights eighteen poems about witches, penned by various authors and accompanied by chillingly impressive illustrations from decorated artist Trina Hyman. Poetry lovers might also enjoy another book from our collection, featured as this article’s cover image, called Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your Sleep. Speaking of witches, don’t forget to check out our works on Scottish History and Witchcraft.
If these ghostly tales and spooky poems don’t scare you enough, then come on down to the Special Collections for a tour and we’ll show you our creepy clown statues. Just a fair warning – they tend to move around when no one’s looking.
For this year’s Halloween post, I wanted to share some of my favorite books from the rare book collection in Special Collections. I am not a Medieval scholar, but I do enjoy looking through the various books on animals, mythical or real, from the Middle Ages. Books of beasts, or Bestiary, went beyond use as a scientific observation of animals. Rather the descriptions included for each animal where meant as elaborate metaphors littered with colorful language. The most well known were written in Latin and included stories as well as illustrations.
Though we now know that a considerable amount of animals described in these books are mythical in nature, Bestiaries more importantly served to reinforce teachings on virtue and proper behavior. Each animal’s characteristics were tied to a purpose in the moral of each story. For example, ants, known for creating elaborate underground dwellings and working in unison, reflect on the importance of people working together for a common good. Graceful swans are described as singing a beautiful song before their death, or swan song. Given that these books were vested in Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition, it is understandable to see why Bestiaries were second in popularity to the Bible.
Drawing on the tradition of Medieval Bestiaries, contemporary works are meant to capture whimsy and intrigue. A Child’s Bestiary, found in our Shaw Collection of children’s book, was published in the late 1970s. The book’s purpose is to educate children on a variety of animals found in different countries. Each entry contains a humorous description or poem followed by a drawing of the animal.
There are also fictional Bestiaries based on popular media such as the magical creatures in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them from the Harry Potter book series. As well as a fantasy bestiary created by graphic designer Swann Smith for the MTV series Teen Wolf.
For further reading on Medieval Manuscripts in general, take a look at the research guide created by our Rare Book Librarian Kat Hoarn. There is also a fun website dedicated to sorting through metaphorical descriptions of the animals in Medieval Bestiaries.
Have you ever felt a slight chill while walking up the College Ave. hill, and it was much more than a midsummer sweat? Perhaps you’ve woken up in the middle of the night in Cawthon and seen a girl peering through your window (on the 4th floor!). Don’t worry – you’re not ill or in the middle of some sort of mental episode – you’ve probably just had a paranormal experience. FSU is home to several ghost stories, with wraiths purportedly haunting different buildings and landmarks around campus. While many students and alumni hold these stories near and dear to their hearts, keep in mind: they’re campus mythologies born of the imagination of FSU’s inhabitants.
The oldest ghost story originates decades before the institution was even founded. Written about in Tallahassee: A Capital City, Gallows Hill was constructed in 1829 as a place to hang Tallahassee’s most unsavory criminals, right about where the Westcott Fountain is today. The first and most famous execution to happen at Gallows Hill was of a mother convicted of killing her own child. Over the years, students have reported feeling chills and hearing strange sounds while traversing the Westcott Fountain at night. Another story from long ago involves the ghosts of the Confederate Cadets trained at the (briefly named) Florida Military and Collegiate Institute, one of FSU’s predecessor institutions. Members of the FSU ROTC have made claims that the ROTC parade grounds are haunted by the cadets, where they continue their drills and turn off the lights during showers.
For those who live in Cawthon Hall, they don’t have one ghost to worry about – they have two. One story told is about the ghost of Sarah “Tissie” Landrum Cawthon, the namesake of Cawthon Hall. Cawthon, the first Dean of the College Home (now known as Student Affairs) at FSCW was hired to oversee that students were consistently on their best behavior, and representing themselves as fine young women. She was described as becoming dismayed when students picked up more modern and revealing fashion, started drinking and smoking and public, and expounding more liberal ideas during the Roaring ’20s. In Haunted Halls of Ivy: Ghosts of Southern Colleges and Universities, it is said that her ghost moved into Cawthon Hall after its dedication, and she continues to look over the female students in the dorm. Some say that her new residency in Cawthon Hall occurred not-so-coincidentally when campus became co-educational and men moved into the dorm.
The other ghost of Cawthon Hall isn’t nearly as benevolent as the ghost of Tissie Cawthon. In 1971 the Florida Flambeau ran an article entitled “Is there a ghost in Cawthon Hall?” and speculation about new ghosts began. Legend has it that an FSCW student was sunbathing on roof of Cawthon when suddenly a thunderstorm rolled in. Trapped on the roof, the girl pounded on windows and doors, hoping for someone to let her back into the dorm, but she wasn’t discovered until after she had been killed by a lightning strike. To this day, students who live on the top floor claim they occasionally hear someone pounding on the window, crying and screaming, and sometimes will see a girl looking into the window from outside.
Happy Halloween from FSU Special Collections! The students at FSCW loved a good costume, and didn’t feel the need to wait until Halloween to dress up, often getting gussied up for class demonstrations, club initiations, or just because they wanted to have some fun. Please enjoy some photographs of FSCW students in costume!
If you like these photographs, be sure to check out our latest exhibit “That I May Remember: Scrapbooks of the Florida State College for Women 1905-1947” in the Special Collections & Archives Gallery, open Monday-Friday 10AM-6PM.