Tag Archives: PT Barnum

There Be Giants Here!

A Ghost Story by Mark Twain (1870)

Tuesday’s Tale of  Terror    August 6, 2013


I prefer to say as little as possible about this ghostly story. It is fiction but more than fiction. Let me just say that you can expect suspense, some creepy effects (clichéd to the point of being cute) and of course Mark Twain’s signature humor.

What you really need is a tidbit of background (history actually) so you can fully appreciate Mark Twain’s witty little fiction.

Do you believe in giants? A Biblical giant? Genesis 6:4 says, There be giants in the earth in those days. In Cardiff, New York, in 1869, workers were digging a well behind the barn of William Newell and they unearthed a gigantic ten-foot tall stone man. Religious fervor being what it was at the time—and the story of David and Goliath a favorite—people believed that the discovered “Petrified Man” was indeed an ancient giant in the earth. Curious residents arrived at Newell’s farm in droves to see the famous “Cardiff Giant.” Farmer Newell charged fifty cents to viewers of the 10-foot fossil.


Even P.T. Barnum wanted in on the action so bad, he created his own imitation giant for his circus, which drew far more people than Farmer Newell’s specimen.


No matter what scientists said at the time—pronouncing the giant stone man as a fraud, an elaborate hoax, an impossibility—the power of belief in Goliath and Biblical accuracy ran deep among the masses, inspiring belief that the giant was real. Today, the Cardiff Giant is on display at the Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown, NY as America’s Greatest Hoax.

So, I will leave you with these questions before you begin Twain’s A Ghost Story … Do you believe in giants? Would a giant believe in giants? Would a giant believe in fiction?

Read  A Ghost Story at Haunted Bay (15-minute read)


And do leave a comment as to what you think of this ghostly tale. Here’s what Twain said about fiction: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

One more thing, take a moment and view the only footage (very short silent film) of Mark Twain taken by Thomas Edison at Twain’s estate in 1909. Enjoy from the Smithsonian Magazine.



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The Story Reading Ape Blog

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Filed under fiction, ghost stories, Ghosts, Hauntings, short stories, supernatural, tales of terror, weird tales