Haunted: The Travelling Talesman

“Half term: what a lovely idea”!

No! Not what you might think! Ice cream? Camping trip? Seaside? Wild water swimming? Visit the zoo? None of the above… But an online treat on Monday 26th October for families, friends, grannies and grandpas – plus anyone else who wanted to join in.

Yes! It was “Haunted” an evening of scary storytelling on Zoom, presented by Arts Destination South Molton and told by The (Virtual) Travelling Talesman, Cliff Eastabrook Esquire. Cliff appeared on our screens in full Victorian garb, with his eyes dramatically darkened, and his naturally flowing locks and abundant beard adding to his authenticity as a gent from bygone days.

Forty or so devices tuned in – accompanied by their owners (and in some cases, their four-legged friends) – either in pairs or alone, so there was goodly audience to be regaled, shocked and even amused, by haunting tales from around the world. The Talesman encouraged us to express our feelings on screen, to listen and interact vocally with “Oohs”, “Aahs” and “Oh! Nos” – and lots of enthusiastic appreciation, so real life clapping.

“The Dauntless Girl” appeared twice in an English rural setting – maybe even Devonshire! She proved to be an excellent role model for young women by outwitting not only the local farmer, the church sexton and a betting accomplice of theirs, but also by talking a ghostly young man down from his poltergeist antics, reburying his bones in a proper place of rest in the churchyard, and managing to bag herself his real-life gold fortune into the bargain. 

In contrast, Cliff told us two tales from Japan. One spooky one about a blind musician playing his lute in a graveyard of a tribe vanquished in battle by the musicians’ tribe, being surrounded by the flickering lights of the spirits of the dead, and nearly losing his life in the process but keeping it with only the loss of his ears. The diabolicum  – a sinister-looking musical contraption, invented by the Talesman himself – was played throughout, taking the part of the blind (now also deaf) lute player. In the second, a beautiful woman died at the hands of her jealous husband, who had ruined her face with a pair of sheep shearing scissors (actual props bought in South Molton!). She has roamed Japan maiming people in a similar way ever since.

Alison Verney