Credibility! Tall tales stretch credibility with exaggerated realities. There are many kinds of tall tales, from the fisherman’s brag to the guru’s revelations. One person’s miracle is another person’s tall tale—and visa versa.
Some characters are extraordinary and tales naturally flow about them or from there lips. All of us have met someone, somewhere along the line who was a great storyteller, stretching and manipulating reality. At least during the time you are listening, talented storytellers make you believe the incredible. An hour, or a day later, the story disintegrates. The ghost disappears. The rainbow fades. And all that’s left is a pleasant echo or an unpleasant feeling of having been manipulated.
Many years ago, I found myself visiting a ‘haunted mansion’ on Long Island. No, I don’t mean one of those Halloween-themed, theatrical experiences. I mean a mansion on the shore of Long Island reputed to be haunted. It was after a friend’s wedding and a friend of the groom was the caretaker, and sole occupant, of a beautiful if not particularly comfortable, art deco estate from ‘The Great Gatsby’ era.
He was living in a small portion of the main building and was there to help with renovations and, if I recall, to make sure that water leaks and other minor problems didn’t destroy the value of the place. From the moment we arrived, in a convoy of cars from the wedding, he became a peculiar host.
“The place is haunted,” he stated with little fanfare. “Be careful when you go to the bathroom.” This was met with nervous giggles, as the girls tripped off into the darkness to use the toilets.
I did not see a ghost. But I never shook the feeling that someone was watching us. The damp, the darkness, the sense that the place was not really ours, and the caretaker’s absolute lack of irony was a volatile combination. Years later, I look back on that adventure and realize his genius. With few words and even less physical evidence, he managed to put the fright into my well-educated, sophisticated college buddies.
By telling his tall tale with total sincerity, he made us believe…