Hauntings on the Hill: An analysis of Marlboro College ghostlore
As with all forms of folklore, the ghostlore of Marlboro College is ultimately a form of cultural communication. In his book Interpreting Folklore, seminal folklorist Alan Dundes states that “[Folklore] provides a socially sanctioned framework for the expression of critical anxiety-producing problems as well as a cherished artistic vehicle for communicating ethos and worldview” (9). Throughout the vast tapestry of Marlboro ghostlore, we see these functions in action. Whether social, residential, or geographical in nature, each and every ghost story represents specific anxieties within the Marlboro student body.
Whether social, residential, or geographical in nature, each and every ghost story represents specific anxieties within the Marlboro student body. Some of these may be anxieties around college in general—noisy roommates, doomed relationships—while others are specific to Marlboro itself, particularly the narratives that focus on the school’s isolated location. By sharing these ghost stories, Marlboro students find a safe and entertaining way to bond over the shared anxieties of college life, to “educate and amuse” one another, as Elizabeth Tucker puts it (12).
Ghostlore helps students embrace the idea of college as liminal space, transforming the “strange exotic island” that is the campus into a “mysterious and magical [place]” where “anything can happen” (Bronner 21, Tucker 6). Through ghostlore, the Marlboro student body grows closer as a community, ensuring that, much like their ghostly subjects, these stories will continue to haunt the Marlboro campus for many years to come.