The History of Tales of the Crypt

Susan Taylor Barham taught English at Parkview Arts and Science Magnet and was the original teacher contacted by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP) to start the “Tales of the Crypt” program at Mount Holly.

Knowing that Ms. Barham brought her students to Mount Holly Cemetery to read the poems from Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, the sexton told the AHPP officials that they might want to contact her about the idea.

Barham enlisted the support of Judy Goss, a creative writing teacher and theatre specialist at Parkview, and Fred Bussey to assist in the project. Thinking we would be doing this as a one-time activity at first we plotted out twelve sites and solicited student performer-writers to assist. Leigh contacted the Arkansas Arts Center.

The costumer at the Arkansas Arts Center loaned us costumes which were placed across a bench. The performers were told to find something that would fit.

The three hundred people that were expected turned into over twelve hundred and the evening lasted until about eleven o’clock rather than the eight-thirty expected finish time. The City of Little Rock accepted the project and it has now continued eighteen years and this past year was to be the first that Susan was not physically present. Even in 2012, when she was fighting cancer, she made an appearance at the program she helped give birth to and loved dearly.

Tales of the Crypt continues to be Mount Holly’s most popular event. It is a wonderful legacy to Susan Taylor Barham’s creativity and commitment to education.