Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Green Ribbon

I posted this creepy short story a while back, but I was thinking about how Halloween really meant something back when I was in grade school and it unlocked a memory. 

OCTOBER was the start of an uncontrollable excitement.  The decorations went up above and on both sides of the giant chalkboard.  Paper cut-outs of pumpkins and autumn leaves and acorns got hung.  And they'd devote entire hours to the construction of Halloween crafts... like those cool little napkin ghosts with tissue-ball brains.

There was this one strange/cool teacher who was so incredibly pale and thin, like a living Edward Gorey illustration...

Picture her like this, but with a long, thin neck.

On a particular day in October, she turned the overhead lights in the classroom off.  Then she began to read The Green Ribbon to a room of young jittery Halloween-starved children. 

She was a soft-spoken woman, but one we all kinda feared/respected.  Very elegant in her movements as I think about it.  So we hung on every single word...

Once there was a girl named Jenny. She was like all the other girls, except for one thing. She always wore a green ribbon around her neck.

She puts her hand to her neck, and I swear to you she's WEARING A GREEN RIBBON.

There was a boy named Alfred in her class. Alfred liked Jenny and Jenny liked Alfred. One day he asked her, "Why do you wear that ribbon all the time?" "I cannot tell you," said Jenny. But Alfred kept asking, "Why do you wear it?" And Jenny would say, "It is not important."

At this point we're fixated on that ribbon.  Wondering where this is all headed.  And TRULY unaware that this gentle teacher is telling some sort of ghost story.

Jenny and Alfred grew up and fell in love. One day they got married. After their wedding, Alfred said, "Now that we are married, you must tell me about the green ribbon." "You still must wait," said Jenny. "I will tell you when the right time comes." Years passed. Alfred and Jenny grew old. One day Jenny became very sick. The doctor told her she was dying. Jenny called Alfred to her side. "Alfred," she said, "now I can tell you about the green ribbon. Untie it, and you will see why I could not tell you before."

This story is STILL exciting and cool and wonderful....and even now it's shockingly impressive that something so short can have such incredible tension and suspense...  We're all holding our breath with curiosity...  We're dying to know what happens.  (It's important to note that I have fallen for every M. Night Shyamalan twist in all of his films...)

The teacher begins to slowly undo the ribbon around her neck with her long pale fingers, which now might as well be ghost fingers...


Slowly and carefully, Alfred untied the ribbon, AND JENNY'S HEAD FELL OFF!

We all went completely and absolutely NUTS.
Also worth noting that severed heads and the concept of a headless body really scared me as a kid.  So the trauma of that event was permanent and incredible.

Oh the glorious old days of Halloween in grade school.  REAL Halloween.  With pumpkins, ghosts, witches, and devils. 






12 comments:

Jay's Shadow said...

This should be read every Halloween, just like night before Christmas.

Willow Cove said...

Man, I have never heard that story! And what a great teacher. Lucky.

K.O. said...

I love EVERYTHING about this post!!!
What an amazing ghost story! Beyond cool that your teacher treated your class to such a frightening tale.
And I totally share the same nostalgia for "grade-school October"--the tissue/cotton-ball ghosts, the classroom decorations.
Thank you for taking us back there. Pure magic.

girl6 said...

Omgggggg..i am always asking people if they remember this story & no one does. i remember it slightly differently tho. i think i came across it in one of those scholastic paperbacks?..with a collection of other ghost stories. in the version i read..her husband is TOTALLY obsessed with the ribbon (like Edgar Allan Poe..Tell-Tale Heart "eyeball" style) & sneakily unties the ribbon one day while she is sleeping AND..of course her head falls off, rolls across the floor with the wife wailing something like..i told you i could nevvvvvverrrrr remove the ribbon!!! man..that head roll vision with the wailing really got me. filled me with a dread. there was another story (with a taxidermied dog) in that book that REALLY fucked me up too. brrrrrrrrrrrr. i can't remember the name of the story or the title of the book either. i keep hoping to find that book at a flea market or on ebay someday. dag. so good!!!

Halloween is taking a beating. SO are The Days of the Dead. i was near the greeting card section in Macy's the other day & i noticed a display sign (i guess from the greeting card company) advertising that Halloween is October 31st & it was surrounded with graphics of a sugar skull & marigolds. sorry..that's not right. totally unfair to both holidays.

& Halloween decorations are so crapped up in general. everything is a version of a version of a version. there are some artists tho that get it right. people like Rhode Montijo still get what Halloween is about. his stuff is sweet..cute & STILL old school badassery. Halloween can be both cute & or spooky. but, i'm just seeing a lot of whatever thrown out there.

lady M said...

I remember those days - I will have to share a story told to my 4th grade class on my blog. Those were the days when we went to school in costume. Had a Halloween party in the afternoon. Trick or treated all the way home from school, had early dinner and were back out by 6 pm.

VenomStorm said...

So I teach 6th grade, which is just on the edge where Halloween stops being cool. So I try to keep it fun and interesting for them. Its their first year of middle school, so a lot of the cutsy grade school stuff is over, plus I’m not that kind of teacher. But I love Halloween. Your stories inspired me to decorate my room more and more. It used to just be a pumpkin (I was afraid of PC blowback) but I started adding Beware caution tape last year and this year I found awesome vintage Happy Halloween signs. I want to put up paper ghosts and pumpkins and stuff too. I teach history, so I dont really have time to read them stories, maybe I’ll convince the English teachers to do it. Last year we did make mummy apples on Halloween which was fun and somewhat relevant. I’m also thinking of playing “This is Halloween” on my computer during transitions.

Jeannine520 said...

I've never heard that story before but I'm gonna try it on my kids Saturday night after we get back from "Nightmare Island", green ribbon and all. Thanks for sharing.

Karen said...

If anyone is looking for the book this version appears in....
https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Other-Scary-Stories-Reading/dp/0064440907

Vintage Seance said...

Damn! The Green Ribbon is already scary enough for any kid, but to have it be told to you like that - what a treat! I wish my grade school teachers did that! I know they always made an effort to get us into Halloween, or sometimes spook us but never on that level - loved it!

Cole said...

I, too, remember the version where the husband could not wait. He buys her beautiful necklaces hoping she'll take off the ribbon, it drives him mad, and he rips it off in the night. Pretty sure it's a 70s era publication of the story, and IIRC might have even had a record that accompanied it. I could have sworn it was one of the read alongs we had.

I was raised by a writer. As such, I was rarely fooled by twists and turns, since we spent walks literally talking about stories as we went. That bag of leaves is hiding a body, etc. I learned real young about tropes to expect. But, I did have one of those teachers as well. I well remember him deciding to tell us a story on Halloween. But, this wasn't a STORY. He was telling us something that happened when HE was a kid. Long, slow build up. Drawing us maps of his home town. How his house was situated. Running into the odd person who starts chasing him, finding his doors locked so he races to the back, tries to scramble up into a window and this guy starts pulling on his leg! Just as he's pulling ours...

I never forgot that. He'd made the whole thing up on the fly. I marveled at that skill.

I'm proud to say I've now become the teller of tales, and much to the chagrin of my brothers, my nieces and nephews always pleed for the camp fire tales during our late August family camping trip.

And they never sleep afterword.

FatRanza said...

Rot,
I first heard a version of this same story in a collection of Halloween tales on a record back in the 60's or early 70's. Halloween was beyond magical in those days and schools were not afraid to celebrate it openly. Thank you kindly for the flood of memories!

The Gill-Man said...

I do remember those days fondly, when Halloween was something that was celebrated in schools, and kids got to wear costumes to class. Teachers told ghost stories, and classrooms were decorated with witches, black cats, pumpkins, skeletons and all sorts of spookiness. Sadly, those days are now gone, and kids don't have the same experience anymore. My dream is to eventually own a haunt, where I could also have an old-school Halloween carnival for kids. The magic of the High Holiday needs to be preserved