Stories deliver shivers in barn at Renfrew

October 26, 2006|by KATE S. ALEXANDER

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A cold wind blows through the aged wood of the Fahnestock Barn. Night is beginning to fall on Renfrew, and the lone barn atop the hill creeks with the edging chill.

Some of the children sitting in the dim light of the Colonial structure turn to look into the face next to them, searching for comfort. Others stare straight ahead.

"You can scream, but it won't help you," the lady in black tells the children sitting on hay bales, clinging to their mothers, fathers, aunts and friends. "Who knows what may be on the other side of your door."

Dressed in black, seasoned storyteller Jennifer Vanderau has come to tell ghost stories and to give extra zing to the chilly October night.


Wednesday's evening of spooky tales was sponsored by the Renfrew Institute, underwritten in part by Patriot Federal Credit Union, and all for the 136 people sitting elbow to elbow on the bales of hay, Renfrew representative Melodie Anderson-Smith said.

Beneath the black makeup and wig, Vanderau smiles as she tells her stories full of suspense and wit.

"I love to tell stories, to give kids' imaginations some fun," she says.

The kids gathered Wednesday claimed to enjoy the evening. After all, "she (Vanderau) tells good stories," 10-year-old Thomas Gorman explained.

The children even participated in some of the stories, reading along and playing parts.

"Did you see them reading along as you read the book?" Anderson-Smith asked Vanderau.

Eager to participate in the stories, the children's enthusiasm amused Vanderau.

"Broccoli," she says, recalling the response of one little girl when asked her greatest fear. "You can't write that stuff."

While some of the kids huddled in the Fahnestock Barn smiled at the fantasy of the stories, others found them representative.

"I've seen a ghost and some orbs," 11-year-old Chaney Houser said, adding, "but I'm not scared."

Back for her second year, Vanderau said she was "thrilled" with the evening and would return next year if invited.

Anderson-Smith said she, too, was pleased with the evening, the turnout, and especially the participation.

"Storytelling is becoming a lost art," Anderson-Smith said. "We need to listen to our community's stories."

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