Storyteller brings scary tales to life


DUBOIS — In the late 1800s, Martin Garrison hiked with an ax in hand through the woods on his property near Noblesville to an abandoned cabin. He intended to demolish the cabin, but instead, he ran terrified from the cabin all the way back to his home, swearing up and down he’d seen ghosts.

Sally Perkins

The story, as newspapers of the time reported, was that two large apparitions and a smaller one appeared in the house. After a handful of people corroborated Garrison’s story, dozens of townsfolk descended on the cabin, determined to find out what was going on. In the cellar, they found a grave, according to newspaper reports.
More than a century later, professional storyteller Sally Perkins of Indianapolis came across those newspaper reports, and used them as inspiration for “Don’t Mess With the Dead,” a story she created for the Noblesville Ghost Train. Her original story was one of a handful of scary tales she shared with a small audience Friday night at Dubois Branch Library.

“People either love them or hate them,” Perkins said of scary stories.

Perkins started storytelling as a volunteer with Storytelling Arts of Indianapolis, an organization that tells stories to children at local hospitals. She discovered she had a knack for the job, and turned it into a career.

Now, she travels the country sharing historical wisdom and personal stories. Around Halloween, she brings out her favorite ghost stories.

Perkins is a master at bringing her stories to life, changing her voice and demeanor for each character and creating sound effects. Friday evening, she used her skills to portray humans, monsters and ghosts.

When she told the urban legend “Step, Drag,” for example, she used two hand-held sanders to create the sound of a ball and chain dragging across the ground. “Step, Drag” recounts the terror of four teenage camp counselors facing the ghost of a criminally insane prisoner over the course of a night.

For a story called “The Boohag,” based off a monster that feasts on human breath, Perkins let out an inhuman screech as she pantomimed the monster flying over a town.

For a story titled “The Empty House,” Perkins portrayed both a 90-year-old woman and a strapping young man, seamlessly switching back and forth between the two characters. Perkins’ “The Empty House” is an adaptation of a story by the English writer Algernon Blackwood, one of the most prolific ghost stories writers in the history of the genre.

“I think he writes some of the best stuff,” Perkins said.

For those in the audience, Perkins’ performance made it worth venturing into the rain. Mark Wilson of Cuzco and his sons, Aaron, 18, and Colin, 13, all left with smiling faces.

“I like storytellers, in general,” Mark said. “And it’s that season for scary stories.”

More on