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Storytelling in the News

Video: WV Spectral Heritage (storyteller Jason Burns) discusses the ghost of WVU's Elizabeth Moore Hall -WV Storyteller Jason Burns, founder of the West Virginia Spectral Heritage Project, discusses the ghost of WVU's E. Moore Hall, including the US Civil War history and university connection with the spirit!

Headline: West Virginia's Spectral Heritage (storyteller Jason Burns) investigates WVU ghosts - Storyteller Jason Burns of WV Spectral Heritage and WVSG, discusses the WVSH's investigations into the allegedly haunted buildings of West Virginia University

Headline: WV Storyteller Jason Burns leads WVU's 1st Annual Walking Ghost Tour - WV Storyteller Jason Burns created, researched, and conducted the very first walking ghost tour of the Downtown WVU Campus. 

Adam Booth Wins Tell! Fredericksburg "Away We Go" Storytelling Competition
September 2010
Fredericksburg, VA - Storyteller Adam Booth has won the Tell! Fredericksburg,"Away We Go Competition - a summer storytelling event featuring true tales of adventurous travels.  Adam won with his story, "Give Me a Break!".  You can hear his story via the podcast at Tell! Fredericksburg.

Remembering Joe Hutchison, Founding Member of WV Storytelling Guild
Joseph McKee Hutchison III, 76, of Morgantown died Saturday, July 26, 2008 at his home. He lived most of his early life in Charleston, WV and graduated from Charleston High School. He attended and graduated from Muskingum College in Ohio in 1953--where he met his wife, Ann Ringer. After a Masters Degree from WVU, he was a professor of recreation at WVU until he retired after 40 years of service. Joe died of cancer.

He was the director of the National Youth Science Camp, which he helped start in 1963. He helped start and was active in the West Virginia Storytelling Festival that is held each year at Jackson's Mill. He was also Treasurer of the West Virginia Botanic Garden. He loved WVU athletics and served as a statistician at WVU home basketball and football games. He served as a trustee and ruling elder for First Presbyterian Church of Morgantown, where he has been a member for 50 years. 

Friends will be received at First Presbyterian Church, 456 Spruce Street, Morgantown from 4-8 pm Friday, August 1, 2008 and again from 10-11 Saturday until the 11 am service.


King of the Liars Tickles Library Crowd
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Bill Wade/Post-Gazette

Rich Knoblich, of Wheeling, W.Va., past winner of the West Virginia Liars Contest, tells his stories at the Northland Public Library.

If Rich Knoblich is to be believed, there are outhouses in West Virginia that have plasma televisions hooked to satellite networks, a car mechanic who doubles as an emergency room diagnostic technician and the possibility that chili and moonshine can be used as an alternative fuel source.

But that's just the thing: Mr. Knoblich can't be believed. And he's the first to admit it.

There are fibbers and liars, and then there is Mr. Knoblich -- an award-winning teller of tall tales who so easily weaves such obviously made-up stories that his audiences can't help but laugh.

Mr. Knoblich was at the Northland Public Library on Monday evening to promote his new book, "Talking 'bout the Relatives."

The book is a collection of stories, many involving his real-life friends and family members.

As part of his presentation, Mr. Knoblich shared some of his best-loved tall tales, including a few that have won him ribbons at the West Virginia State Liars Contest. He took first place in 2002 at the contest and has had five second-place and two third-place ribbons in the same contest during the past few years.

The West Virginia humorist has compiled 17 of those best-loved stories into a book.

"You've heard of mature themes?" he asked the audience. "Well, I do immature themes, and that's all there is to it."

Mr. Knoblich told his audience about the time he was invited to host a comedy roast in the Caribbean. He said it was the middle of winter, and he'd waded through waist-deep snow to get to his mailbox just to retrieve the invitation.

The invitation included a one-way ticket to the roast. But Mr. Knoblich said he decided to cash that ticket in and find his own transportation. A birch plank and slingshot later, Mr. Knoblich said, he catapulted his way to the Caribbean, "Wile E. Coyote style."

But once he got there, he discovered it wasn't a comedy roast, but rather a "health convention.... for cannibals."

The cannibals consisted of Wall Street types who were learning how to cheat investors, he said, drawing laughter from the 40 people in attendance.

He decided to stay when he was invited to relax in the hot tub ...until he realized the hot tub was an oversized kettle designed for cooking, with Martha Stewart stirring the pot.

"It was right about this time, I started to get a little bit suspicious," he said. "So I pulled out that invitation and looked at it again, and it turns out they didn't want me to host a comedic roast. They wanted to roast a comedian. And it suddenly occurred to me why my plane ticket was one way."

Mr. Knoblich went on to describe throwing money into the air from his cashed-in plane ticket to distract the Wall Street cannibals, then making a hasty exit.

The only thing more unbelievable than that story was the one he told next, about his Aunt Annie and her chili-and-moonshine alternative fuel source.

He said the fuel never made it to the public, thanks to Washington big-wigs who put a stop to it.

"This is why, to this day, when you pull up to the pump, you have to pay through your nose for someone else's gas," he said, laughing.

Amy Strickland, a 14-year-old student at Carson Middle School, attended Mr. Knoblich's presentation. She had heard him several times before, including at the Three Rivers Storytelling contest and the West Virginia Liars contest when he won his first-place award in 2002.

"I really love storytelling," she said. "I have an interest in it, but it's mostly just for fun."

Mr. Knoblich's book is available online at Arcadian House Publishing and selected outlets through the West Virginia Book Store.

Shari L. Berg is a freelance writer.
First published on April 6, 2008 at 12:00 am

Wednesday, January 30, 2008:  WV Storyteller Published
     The new title from Mountain Girl Press, Self-Rising Flowers, includes a story by West Virginia storyteller Granny Sue. Price of the book is $12.95, and can be purchased by contacting Granny Sue at susannaholstein@yahoo.com

December 8, 2007: Boos One of 36 ‘Notable’ Women Honored

(Scroll to the bottom for WVSG mention)

By Linda Comins
POSTED: December 8, 2007
Former Triadelphia resident Karla Boos, founder and executive director of Quantum Theatre of Pittsburgh, is one of 36 notable women in the arts being recognized in Pittsburgh as “Founders, Pioneers, Instigators.”

Boos, a graduate of Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy in Wheeling, attended Bethany College before studying in Pittsburgh and at the California Institute of the Arts. Her theater company, Quantum, has received national and international recognition for its innovative productions.

A new book honoring Boos and the other women was released Nov. 30. The book was created as a memento of the Women in the Arts Festival (2007-08), which was organized by the New Hazlett Theater in Pittsburgh and launched this past June.

New Hazlett Theater officials stated, “The book gives voice to the words and wisdom of 36 of Pittsburgh’s notable women in the arts. These women are honored in particular because their accomplishments have had effects beyond themselves, beyond their own personal hopes and dreams, and have served to inspire others. As founders, pioneers and instigators their words resonate for all fields, for both genders and for all ages.”

Upcoming events in the year-long festival include two symposia, “Creativity: Making Work. Making Community,” featuring discussions and sessions with leaders in the arts in Pittsburgh and the mid-Atlantic region Jan. 18-19, and “Feminism, Grrl Power, The Arts, the Arts Industry,” scheduled for June.

Sara Radelet, executive director of the New Hazlett Theater, commented, “This year’s festival events center on women in the arts and especially recognizing the accomplishments of Pittsburgh’s impressive women arts leaders. This group has founded, stabilized and continues to drive much of what is noted in our region’s cultural environment. Each generation sets the foundation for the next generation and we hope to recognize what their energy has provided for us in Pittsburgh.”


Fans of Wheeling native Aaron Galligan-Stierle, who’s making his Broadway debut in the role of Papa Who, were thrilled when “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” returned to the Great White Way to resume its limited holiday run.

“The Grinch” musical, of course, was the first of the Broadway shows affected by the recent stagehands’ strike to resume production, after a New York State Supreme Court judge ordered the reopening of the St. James Theater. In the Nov. 22 edition of The New York Times, staff writer Campbell Robertson wrote a hilarious account, in the style of Dr. Seuss, of the court case.

On another New York theatrical note, Academy Award winner Frances McDormand, a Bethany College graduate who worked with Oglebay Institute’s Towngate Theatre early in her career, is a cast member for the 52nd Street Project’s “Don’t Tread on Me,” which ends a three-day run at the American Theatre of Actors today, Dec. 9.

According to an item in The New Yorker magazine, the 52nd Street Project, a not-for-profit organization, is presenting “nine plays by playwrights ages 9-12, performed by a cast that includes Frances McDormand.”


Storyteller Rich Knoblich of Wheeling related that a storyteller with local ties has been honored by the West Virginia Storytelling Guild for tales based on the Mountain State’s traditions and values.

Knoblich said voting, by members of the guild, for the 2007 Bob McWhorter Storytelling Award resulted in a tie, so sharing this year’s honors are Suzi “Mama” Whaples and the late Paul Lepp, whose parents reside in Glen Dale. Lepp’s award will be presented to family members, Knoblich said.

Lepp was a six-time winner of the West Virginia Liars Contest sponsored by the state Division of Culture and History. “Though Paul died in 1998, his influence on the quality and hilarity of the contest continues,” Knoblich commented.

Lepp’s brother and fellow storyteller, Bil Lepp, has collected Paul Lepp’s tales and supplemented the lies with some of his own. These stories can be found in a book, “The Monster Stick: And Other Appalachian Tall Tales,” published by August House Publishers in Little Rock, Ark.

The Storytelling Guild adopted a clock to symbolize storytelling achievements. “The award represents the ageless art of storytelling from the past into the future,” Knoblich explained. The Bob McWhorter Storytelling Award clock derived its name from one of the founders of the West Virginia Storytelling Festival held each October at Jackson’s Mill in Weston.

Linda Comins can be reached via e-mail at:

The Braxton County Monster (aka Flatwoods Monster)

Flatwoods ‘monster’ might be turned into a movie

By Mannix Porterfield
Register-Herald reporter

Move over, Mothman?

If the money comes in to finance a movie, you might not be the only weird West Virginia creature memorialized on film.

An independent filmmaker in Los Angeles says he would gladly handle a movie about the Flatwoods Monster — provided someone can put up sufficient financial backing for the project.

It was back on Sept. 12, 1952, that the 12-foot metallic oddity, emitting a sulfuric odor, horrified a gaggle of children and adults on a summer evening, after a fiery streak was spotted in the sky along a steep hillside in Braxton County.

A legend was born, unleashing torrents of speculation and inspiring a book by Frank Feschino, a star player in a Sept. 7-8 gathering in Charleston devoted to unidentified flying objects.

Using their own funds, Thomas Dickens and his partner, David Burke, are completing a feature-length film titled “Alien Gray Zone-X,” due to be released no later than next summer.

“This could be a great motion picture that could be done that could basically compete with Hollywood films,” Dickens says of a possible Flatwoods movie.

Dickens spoke glowingly of “Alien Gray Zone-X,” using such superlatives as “amazing” and “groundbreaking” to describe it.
“And that’s not just because of the special effects, but there’s a lot of human drama to it,” he said.

“There’s a love story and a lot of great fight sequences that use stunt people trained in fighting. There’s a message to it. Most films, and I don’t want to give away our ending, kill the aliens, but ours is different.”

Given the funds, Dickens would do the same for the Flatwoods Monster.

“I would love to do this movie,” he said. “My partner is interested. However, at this time, we don’t have the budget to do it.”
If he ever gets such a project launched, Dickens wants to work with Feschino as a part of his team for technical advice.

Feschino believes the monster was a space alien, part of a contingent engaged in a fiery sky battle with U.S. Air Force jets off the Atlantic Coast. The author also is convinced that UFOs continue to buzz the Braxton County area, since it is on a direct flight line to the White House and the regional terrain affords ample space in which to conceal craft.

“Basically, we would do everything,” Dickens said. “Write the script. Do pre-production. Design the creatures. Based on a true story, we would use the best research and witnesses to get the idea what this creature would look like. But we have to get a budget. We would be able to do the entire film.”

Dickens hopes to attend the September summit at the Capitol Theater in downtown Charleston, coming less than a week shy of the 55th anniversary of the Monster’s appearance. This also is the 60th anniversary of the Roswell incident.

Promoter Larry Bailey is promising attendees “hard evidence” to show UFOs are piloted by extra-terrestrials.
If a Flatwoods Monster film were made, Dickens said, he would envision some scenes on site, provided landowners are willing to grant access, including a depiction of what Feschino feels were aerial warfare between alien craft and U.S. jets.

In fact, that is the theme of Feschino’s latest book, “Shoot Them Down.”

Richard Gere starred in “The Mothman Prophecies,” a film dedicated to a moth-like creature said to roam an abandoned plateau near Point Pleasant in the area of an abandoned TNT site left over from World War II.

Unlike Mothman, a precursor to the 1967 collapse of the Silver Bridge that claimed 46 lives, no violence has been linked to the Flatwoods Monster.

A 17-year veteran of the film industry, Dickens says he strives to compete with Hollywood productions in quality.

“We don’t want to make anything that looks low-budget,” he said.
“We use people who look very professional. We use people that look like they have universal appeal.”

Bailey says he has attracted so much interest to his UFO gathering that he might expand it by adding a Sunday matinee, since the Capitol Theater has a seating capacity of only 660. As things stand now, Friday’s show runs from 6 to 10 p.m. with Saturday billed from 3 to 7 p.m.

An art contest supervised by Heritage Towers will reward children for the best depictions of UFOs or aliens.

Besides Feschino and Flatwoods eyewitness Freddie May, the two-day event will feature lectures by world-renowned UFO expert Stanton Freidman, who says the government has engaged in a cover-up since the 1947 incident in Roswell, where many believe the Air Force concealed the bodies of aliens after their craft crashed in the New Mexico desert.

Since the first Register-Herald story was published about the gathering, Bailey said he has been besieged by media outlets across the nation, including live radio remotes in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, Calif., Brownwood, Texas, Bridgeport, Conn., and Lincoln, Neb.

“We’re getting contacts from everywhere,” he said.
Eventually, the summit could evolve into an annual event, rivaling that of Roswell, now a mecca for UFO believers, Bailey says.
Skeptics are welcome, but they could find themselves hard put to counter Freidman, a nuclear physicist who has appeared on a number of cable television networks, the promoter says.

“Stanton has won two debates,” Bailey said. “They were with people that were scoffing or trying to tell everyone the UFOs were just meteors. He has some hard evidence that he uncovered under the Freedom of Information Act. That’s some of our hard evidence.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

Copyright 1999-2006 cnhi, inc.

Unfold The Universe With Storytelling
23 May, 2007 l 0030 hrs ISTlMARGUERITE THEOPHIL
In early cultures the world over, the storyteller had a special place. Before written language was used, historic, religious, and cultural knowledge was passed from generation to generation orally, and as the keeper of all this collective knowledge, the storyteller was one of the most important people in the community.
A story from Kazakhstan shows the value placed on storytelling and storytellers: It was the seventh day. God had finished making the world. Tired but happy, he suddenly realised he had forgotten to give human beings their brains. Calling some angels, he handed them jugs filled with this important 'ingredient' and said, “Go quickly, and make sure you give all humans their brains”. The angels flew down to Earth and found so many people, there were not enough brains to go round! So they made sure they gave each one a little.
God looked down on creation and was really sad to see wars, poverty, hunger selfishness and tears. "I think i know why", he declared, "human beings have only got a bit of brain each". So God created a few more people, making sure he filled their brains right up to the top. He filled those brains with sparkling words -- stories, songs, poetry and music. These were storytellers God sent down to Earth, to tell and sing wisdom into foolish human hearts.
While some stories can be deliberately told to perpetuate a narrow world view, most traditional stories can provide the 'larger context' within which we are invited to move beyond conflict. Conflict comes from a limited view that looks like you and i are separate. Story has the capacity to hold differing perspectives in the same story, and offer the wide-angle view that invites us to transcend our differences. Most significantly, even if it doesn't solve our differences; it creates something that's bigger than our differences. In the power to tell a story lies the power to shape our reality, to alter our perceptions, to create new worlds of experience.
The best storytellers are those who also listen, because inputs can come from many sources. In Stories From The Mountains and Beyond, Granny Sue reminds us: "...We must first hear stories from some source, whether it be another person, a book, our own inner voice, or the physical world around us. We need to be listening and aware to hear the stories being gifted to us daily... stories told with a glance, in a song, in children playing a game. Stories in the wind in the trees, birds calling, water trickling over rocks, the soft swish of snow falling...". All these have stories for those willing to listen.
David Spangler says, "We are a storytelling, story-loving species. Let someone be spinning a good tale at a gathering and watch a crowd collect to listen... If, as St John says, in the Beginning was the Word, then the Story followed directly after, unfolding the universe from the imagination of God. In emulation of the divine, we have sought to duplicate that moment of creation by being storytellers, too".
Reading a story is wonderful, but being in the presence of a storyteller who gifts you a story from her heart is a truly wondrous experience. A kind of 'field' is created between the storyteller and listeners that creates a space to learn, change and grow.

Susanna "Granny Sue" Holstein

Tuesday, May 22, 2007 5:36 PM EDT

Arts Council receives summer storytelling funding

MIDDLEPORT - A grant has been awarded to the Riverbend Arts Council to be used for developing a summer program of storytelling programs in Dave Diles Park in Middleport, and Lottie Jenks Memorial Park in Mason, W. V.

The award for a program titled “Stories at the River's Edge” is from the Ohio river Border Initiative, and is a joint project of the Ohio Arts Council and the West Virginia Commission on the Arts. It will be carried out in the two towns across the river from each other in July.

Donna Wilson of Middleport, long involved in storytelling across the area and the organizer of Tellebration which takes place here in the fall, is coordinating the grant program. She is securing professional storytellers to present a series of four programs geared for family audiences.

The programs are scheduled on Wednesdays, beginning on July I I and every week for the following three weeks. A schedule for each day includes 10:30 a.m. performance in Middleport and a 1:30 performance in Mason. Performers will present their programs at both locations on the same day, allowing access by audiences in both West Virginia and Ohio, according to Wilson.

Artists for the series include:

July 11 - Adele Browne from South Bloomingville, Ohio. A storyteller for over 20 years, Adele is listed with the Greater Columbus Arts Council. She is a member of many professional storytelling organizations and has performed widely across Ohio at schools, libraries, community events and festivals.

July 18 - Susanna "Granny Sue" Holstein is from Jackson County, W. V. She has been performing for over 10 years, and is well known to audiences across West Virginia. She has performed at national storytelling conferences and festivals and presents a wide variety of workshops for teachers, librarians and storytellers. She has several publications and a CD.

July 23 - Suzi "Mama" Waples is best known as the founder of the "Mountain Women" storytelling group. She and her group members traveled extensively on the East Coast, as well as in Ohio, Kentucky and other southern states, presenting hundreds of programs for schools, libraries, conferences and festivals.

August 1 - Wilson, who is coordinating the summer program, has been telling stories for over eight years at schools, churches, libraries, senior centers and conferences across Ohio. She has produced Tellabration in Meigs county for five years on the weekend before Thanksgiving. She is a member of Storytellers of Central Ohio, W.V. Storytellers Guild, Ohio Order for the Preservation of Storytelling and the national organization, National Storytelling Network.

Wilson said that in addition to the grant funding Mason City Library, Meigs County Regional Library, Riverbend Arts Council and the W.V. Storytellering Guild have also pledged financial support for the project.

“The events will be in the grassy areas of the parks, so those attending should bring lawn chairs or blankets. We're also asking that children be accompanied by an adult,” said Wilson who can be contacted or more information at who invites 740- 992-7830.