Storytelling: Donnamarie Emmert, "Haint Mistress"
September 28, 2011If Flora Joy is the "mother" of storytelling in our region, one of her offspring is Donnamarie Emmert in Abingdon, Va.
A graduate of ETSU's Storytelling Program, Emmert is the self-proclaimed "Haint Mistress" of Abingdon, where she has been telling about the town's ghosts and history along Main Street for 15 years.
Her Abingdon Spirit Tour has been featured in numerous travel periodicals. The Haint Mistress tells where the skeletons are buried....literally! She is most often found — especially as Halloween nears — leading visitors down Main Street for nearly two hours of storytelling. The spectral walking excursion through the town's historic district is just under a mile, but the mental journey takes you back through 200 years of history, local lore and fascinating ghost stories.
Named a Passionate Virginian in 2009 by Virginia Tourism, Emmert is also the resident Tour Master for Abingdon's historic Martha Washington Hotel.
The offshoot of these "haint tours" is Haunted Historic Abingdon, Vol. 1, a collection of ghost stories Emmert published in 2004; and she hopes to have its sequel released in 2011. Before she started the first tour, Emmert researched historic accounts of Abingdon and interviewed witnesses of the ghostly activities in their homes and businesses. Included in the book are historic sites such as The Tavern, Barter Theatre, and the Martha.
"Getting the history right is very important to me. I want people to not only be entertained by the ghost stories but learn about our wonderfully rich tradition here in Abingdon," Emmert says. "It takes lots of research to piece together some of our local lore. But one thing's for sure: Abingdon has a colorful past! The ghost stories are like the exclamation marks in our local history!"
• OCT. 14-15 & 20-30: Emmert will offer the Abingdon Spirit Tour at 7:30 p.m. Meet at the Martha Washington Hotel gazebo. $10. Not recommended for children under 10.