Terry Visger, storyteller extraordinaire

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – When the clock strikes 7 on the 13th day of the 10th month, the raconteurs and anecdotalists will gather at The Pump House Regional Arts Center to spin tales of the macabre altogether spooky. So, gather one and all, as the Bluff Country Tale Spinners present Tales of the Creepy and Scary!

Okay, that was probably too much meandering and not enough getting to the point. That is why I write human interest articles, and people like Terry Visger do the storytelling. She and other members of her group, The Bluff Country Tale Spinners (BCTS), are presenting “Tales of the Creepy and Scary” this Friday, the 13th, at The Pump House Regional Arts Center. A night of stories meant to leave you unsettled and on edge in, this, the season of All Hallows Eve.

Terry Visger is synonymous with storytelling in La Crosse. If there were to be a Mt. Rushmore of La Crosse Storytellers, her bright smile would be on the sculptor’s to-do list. She has been a member of the Bluff Country Tale Spinners (BCTS) since its inception in 1999. On their website, she is quoted as saying, “I believe storytelling is a powerful and important tool for all aspects of our lives: family, cultures, education, entertainment, business. We learn and remember things best when we learn through story and we have fun doing it. Story and storytelling have had a huge impact on my life and I feel it is important to keep this art alive and share it with others.”

Not surprisingly, she’s been telling stories for quite a while. When I asked her how long she’d been a storyteller, with a welcoming laugh and beaming smile, she said, “Well, my mother said I was a little liar.” However, it really became apparent how powerful storytelling can be when her husband was director of the YMCA Camp. She recounts how the counselors would get rambunctious boys to settle down in an instant just by saying “Once upon a time.” It wasn’t until years later when she filled in for an ill storyteller at an event that she realized she could tell stories professionally.  

And that is just what she does. She tells stories. Even in conversation, you see her eyes light up and her brain dance around telling you, the listener, this fascinating tale of whatever it is she is talking about. The kind of person that is just as charming and captivating telling you a harrowing tale of espionage and romance as she is relaying her favorite pot roast recipe.

Terry telling a spooky story at last October’s storyteller event

BCTS was formed by Dr. Phyllis Blackstone and Ms. Sara Slayton in 1999 out of a love and deep respect for storytelling. It’s hard to fully grasp how impressive it is that a local storytelling group has been around for 24 years. Imagine a fantasy football league that is older than your children. Except, instead of fantasy football, it’s your friends and neighbors sharing an art form that, as Terry puts it, “…brings communities together. If you want to understand another culture, it’s good to bring stories because you can see the ties they have. There are over 700 Cinderella stories. People have told them all over the world. We dream in story. It’s how we talk to ourselves.”

You can see Terry tell a story this Friday, October 13th, at the Pump House as BCTS presents “Tales of the Creepy and Scary” at the Pump House Regional Arts Center. Terry explains that spooky stories are her favorite and adds, “The good ones are the hardest to find. A good ‘creepy story’ has an ending you can’t figure out until it’s there. One that builds up and builds up and the tension is there until,” smack, “it really hits ya.”  

Terry will be joined by Michael Scott, Gwynn Calvetti, Steve Harden, Teri Wachuta, Peter Peterslie, Tom Williams, Kay Weeden and Jim Rodarmel as they spin yarns of the macabre and downright spooky.

According to Terry, you will hear an original story or two as well as some you may have heard of and some you will for sure know, “Folks might recognize my story because it dates back to the 1800s and was used in the Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Tom Williams will have an original tale and Micheal Scott is telling ‘The Barn Dance of Vernon County’ which might be original or completely made up… you never know with him.  And Steven Harden is doing The Raven from Edgar Allen Poe. Which is always a favorite. Especially with the way he tells stories.”

As a reminder, road construction has made traversing that area of town nearly impossible. If you plan on attending, really anything at The Pump House but especially, Tales of the Creepy and Scary, it’s best to turn on State Stree by the Charmont (from the south) or t by Division Street Dahl Auto (from the north). If you are traveling either way, gather up your courage (and a couple of friends) and join Terry and BCTS this Friday at the Pump House for Tales of the Creepy and Scary. Unless you’re too chicken.

Who: The Bluff Country Tale Spinners
What: Tales of the Creepy and Scary
Where: The Pump House Regional Arts Center
When: Friday, October 13th, 7 pm (doors 6:30 pm)