Lesson Plan: Who is The Tennessee Haunter? What is the proper behavior for a field trip to a museum?


Who is the Tennessee Haunter?

“Children.” The Tennessee Haunter spoke, and at the sound of her voice all conversation stopped. She did not raise her voice. The Haunter knew from experience that children did not truly respect those that raised their voice. “I am disappointed in you all running around at your leisure. This is a special place. You dishonor it and yourselves by acting as if this were a gymnasium.”


A tall woman with high, stern features and naturally sad eyes stood by Ms. Cryptic. She wore a long black dress and skirt made of thick material designed more for functionality than comfort or fashion. In her line of work she was often tossed bodily through the air. Her black hair was loose and rather unkempt. She rarely bothered with it, makeup, or jewelry, although sometimes the bright brass flutes and piccolos secured to her sleeves and dress were mistaken for ornamentation. They were gifts from the James museum in London, beautiful works from the Victorian period given to her to aid in controlling the poltergeist named Mad Mary that was bound to her very soul.


Mad Mary was a thought-form of fear who came to her as a child and tortured her, her friends, and her family in a misguided attempt at doing her subconscious bidding. She broke things. And people. But that was when The Haunter was a child. She was a woman now. And Mad Mary bowed to her will.


Music was way to help her control the creature. Being a being of almost pure chaos Mad Mary could not help but respond to the order and harmony of music. But The Haunter did not need the instruments. They were not a crutch. Through years of struggle she had subdued her demon and learned to control it through the order of her thoughts alone. Mad Mary would never hurt her or anyone else ever again. But she like other psychics bonded to thought-form poltergiests found certain rituals helped in controlling in ordering their thoughts which in turn ordered their thought-forms. Some psychics wrote down their commands and had their thought-form carry out the commands like an actor following a script. They felt a greater sense of controlling carefully planning each action of their thought-form down to the smallest detail then they would simply telling it their commands. Some psychics carried an image or a statue or even a doll in the shape of their thought-form, a reminder that no matter how powerful their thought-form seemed it could still be controlled. The Haunter used music. When she used one of her wind instruments the breath from her body was transformed into a note and every note was a command. She bound a monster of fear and anger with chains of rational melodies. There was not an scrap of her etheric power that Mad Mary could keep from The Haunter. Every power the creature had was The Haunter’s power. With a whistle she could make Mad Mary pick up a house. With a note she could make her such the heat out of an area and fill it with ice and congealed ectoplasm. With a melody she could make her cause objects to float and vanish and reappear. With a song she could make her shift space and twist time, make doors open into strange places and cause hours to run in reverse.


Her curse was now her power.


Her name was Betsy Adams. The name “The Tennessee Haunter” was what the papers called her when as a child her poltergeist engulfed 50 square miles of the state in a massive “haunted storm” that had to be dissipated by superteam The Challengers. Now an adult she was a protector and teacher of children who like herself found that they had monsters living inside their souls. Betsy taught girls and boys to tame their poltergeists and transform a curse into a blessing so that no one would ever again suffer like she suffered. She was in the middle of talks with the Supervisor of the Statesmen about incorporating her practice into the new Statesmen Edex program when it came to her attention that Edex teacher Mr. Siegel wouldn’t be able to make it to the scheduled Smithsonian field trip. Betsy decided with the Statesmen Supervisor that her chaperoning the field trip in Mr. Siegel’s place would be a good way to see how she handled a group of children in a normal educational environment. When she taught her usual poltergeist inflicted children she did so in intense one-on-one sessions. She had to push her students past their comfort zones constantly to get them to exert their own willpower against their thought-forms. She could not be gentle. She could not treat them like children. If she did she would them weak and vulnerable to the manipulations of creatures made out of pure emotions.


Betsy was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to handle normal children. She was afraid she would intimidate them and make them uncomfortable.  She was afraid she would scare them. But as far as Ms. Cryptic could see The Haunter was doing a great job. She was firm, yes, not unreasonably so. The gentle feathered and furred creature sighed in relief as she let the younger woman take the reigns of the mob of children.


What is the proper behavior for a field trip to a museum?


“You will line up single file.” She ordered and the children obeyed with guilty speed. “You will listen to Ms. Cryptic. You will raise your hands to speak. And you will certainly not touch anything. There are weapons here, and tools, and battle costumes, but time makes everything fragile. I don’t think any of you want to be known as the reason why every news source on Earth has to report the destruction of a priceless and universally cherished artifact…”


“No Miss Adams!” They chorused.


“Good. You owe it to yourselves and the men and women this hall honors to be on your best behavior. Act as if you are in a church. The things you are about to see represent stories- stories of sacrifice and bravery. They symbolize the building blocks of modern superhuman culture. In a way these things belong to you, because you belong to the culture that they constructed out of their blood, tears, and victories. Some of you may choose to use your special talents and abilities to become superheroes. Some of you may choose to use your powers in different ways. But whatever you become you belong to this culture that they fought for, a culture that teaches that the powerful should protect the powerless, that individuals can resist the corruption of having power over their fellow man, that all men can reach beyond themselves, better themselves, strengthen themselves, and still keep the spirit of a man humbled by the realization that there are things still forever greater than himself or any man. This culture is handed up to you from the past, from the trembling and blood stained hands of the past. But it is not yours. You do not own it. You cannot do with it as you wish. You must preserve it. You must pass this burden, this privilege, up to future generations. You must.”


“…I was going to bribe them with ice cream.” Ms. Cryptic whispered. “But keep doing what you’re doing, it’s working!”


“Will you preserve your legacy? Will you walk these halls with respect?”


The children nodded with silent solemnity.


The Haunter smiled. With a quick whistle a monster with a crooked white face and arms like thunder clouds appeared behind her shoulders. It’s eyes were small and crawled like spiders. But the children were not afraid of Mad Mary. They knew nothing could hurt them with The Haunter around. Mad Mary took hold of the doors to the hall, one brass handle in each fingerless hand, and proceeded to open them.


“Then enjoy your birthright kids!”


The children walked slowly into the hall, eyes wide and mouths open at the wonder they saw. Above them hung the blue winged bi-plane of The Dove, ace of the 1915 War in The Air that set Europe on fire who fought the Germans inside and outside his plane. He was a superhuman in a time where superhumans were called wild talents or Fortean talents after Charles Fort, early superhuman researcher. Beside his plane hung a 1971 Jupiter mission exploration capsule, polished and shining and proudly showing a tear in its side from where the hidden gods of Jupiter extracted its robotic drone pilot A-8-e and bestowed upon it the gift and burden of sapience. A-8-e, or Abe as he named himself, became a wanderer of the solar system working on behalf of the gods of Jupiter to unite the sapient races of the universe in peace and harmony. He quests still to this day. Underneath it was a green car from the 1930’s smashed in one of the Gold Star’s first adventures. Gold Star was the superhero who coined the term superhero, and some would say that he was the first true superhero. Next to the wreck was the enormous head of a war robot that once threatened New York City back in the 1920’s. Doctor Stone and his Club of Explorations and Secrets infiltrated the mysterious robot and disabled it from the inside. To this day no one knows who built the robot or why it attacked New York City. It’s square head was placed on its side and through a cracked aperture serving as a red domed eye the students could peer inside after standing on a platform and stretching themselves up on tiptoes. Inside they could see a cavern of crystal diodes, uncoiled springs, and Tesla coils charred black. Past all this and more they walked.


And they looked at treasures and trash, trophies and tools, mementos and logos, and wonders after wonders.


Ms. Cryptic and The Haunter followed the children from behind. There was no need to walk in front of them now.


“Blood stained hands of the past? Are you sure that wasn’t a little much for children Betsy?” Ms. Cryptic asked.


“It was a little much, wasn’t it?” The Haunter replied a little glumly.


Large square fingers patted her on the shoulder. “It was a little much. But only a little. Very little.”


“I keep reminding myself that I need to treat the children like…children. And then I feel horrible. What kind of teacher feels the need to remind themselves of something like that?” The Haunter asked.


“A teacher who loves children enough to help the ones that people used to say couldn’t be helped. And look, they clearly listened to you. That’s good, don’t you think? I don’t think Mr. Siegel ever had them this well behaved.”


“But is it because they respect me? Or is it because they fear me?”


“Oh you stop with these doubts now Betsy.” Ms. Cryptic chided her gently. “You’re doing fine. Now let’s try and enjoy this ourselves a little-there’s no reason the kids have to be the only one to have fun. Look at that mysterious giant robot head! Isn’t it just keen? It sort of reminds me of Dr. Glacier a little. You know with the way its lower jaw is tilted it looks just like her scowl…”


The Haunter smirked a little, just a little. “It is nice to see children like this. Smiling, excited, eyes full of wonder…you know with my children it’s never like this. If they don’t despise my sessions, if they don’t hate working with me just a little bit then I’m doing something wrong.”


“You know they weren’t this excited about the super-scientist wing.” Ms. Cryptic said hoping to drive the conversation away from The Haunter’s concerns. “What is it about superheroes that gets children so excited?”


“Boys naturally love superheroes.” The Haunter said. “They’re a blend of everything a little Boy hopes he’ll grow up to be. They’re soldiers, police, detectives, scientists, firemen…”


“What about the girls then?”


“Well the appeal is the same for tomboys, but the appeal is generally less for girls. You can see the difference on their faces. They’re excited, but not as excited as the boys.”


“Oh, be careful saying things like that Betsy. Social Crusader would have a fit if she heard you.”


“The day I actually become afraid of a spoiled girl with blue hair and an attitude is the day you can shoot me. I’ve seen the difference in my practice. When I work with a boy, he works like a superhero. They treat their poltergeist like a problem because soldiers, scientists, firemen-they’re all about understanding and overcoming problems be they mysteries or disasters or enemy soldiers. That’s how you treat a poltergeist. You understand it, fight it, then tame it….but girls don’t do that…” The Haunter sighed. “Unless you correct them they’ll keep doing the wrong thing. They’ll keep getting themselves hurt. They’ll…keep trying to make friends with it…”


“Betsy. You have got to relax.” Ms. Cryptic comforted her old student and friend. “This is supposed to be a fun little adventure for everyone.”


“I just…don’t feel like I belong here.”


“Nonsense! Why as long as I’ve known you Betsy Adams you’ve been more than a teacher to your kids. You’ve been their superheroine. You fit in right at home in these galleries and exhibits.”


“Oh come on.” The Haunter gave an embarrassed shrug. “I’m not a superheroine.”


“You understand their problems and work with them to overcome them. You rescue them. That sounds like a superheroine to me.”


“Oh that’s not the same thing. I’m no more a superheroine than Three Fathers is a superhero or Cola Champion is a superhero.”


“Hmmmm….You know what Betsy? I think you’ve given me the perfect question to start off this lecture…” Ms. Cryptic strode to the front of the class. “Students! Students!” She shouted to gather the students’ attention. “There’s a lot of wonderful things to look at and a lot of informative placards to read, but do not forget that you are still technically in class. And today we shall talk about superheroes…but before we can talk about superheroes it is important to ask: what is a superhero?”


The students blinked and looked at each other. What is a superhero? Why, that seemed like the simplest question in the world. A superhero was a superhero. It was impossible to see a superhero and think they were something different. A lawyer, a banker, a businessmen-all the boring people of the Earth who wore boring suits could easily be mistaken for one another. But not superheros. Superheros couldn’t help but be unique and interesting.


“Well? What is a superhero?” Miss Cryptic asked.


One boy shrugged and pointed to an exhibit. The class started to giggle.