My favorite "Ghost Story" Song

Because of what's been happening during the year 2020 this upcoming Halloween seems particularly different from the norm for me. To get in the spirit (pun intended) I like to play my favorite "ghost story" song. I am going to use a YouTube video of the song for spoiler space before writing more. If you haven't heard "Laurie (Strange Things Happen)" by Dickey Lee then I recommend playing the song before reading further.

"Laurie (Strange Things Happen)" is a rather great song from 1965 in my opinion and it seems based on the Wikipedia entry for the singer Royden Dickey Lipscomb is still currently alive at the time of this posting.

This song is one of the "teenage tragedy song" ballads that were made by various musicians during the 1950s and early '60s. "Laurie (Strange Things Happen)" is notable for being one of Billboard magazine's Top Hot 100 songs of 1965.

According to "Laurie (Strange Things Happen)" was inspired by a story written by a teenage girl and published in a newspaper during 1964. The story behind the song may be further loosely inspired by the legend of Resurrection Mary. I don't see any citations and I am not sure how reliable the site is but that seems reasonable enough for the purpose of establishing the song's origin.

So, let's start to get non-canon and review a short video project titled "The Sweater" that was posted on YouTube in 2014. This video seems to basically be an unofficial live action of the song. The video's description on YouTube identifies the video as a project for a video production class so I understand this video isn't meant to be a shot-for-shot restricted to the song's narrative.

The flyer for the school dance in the opening establishes that this version takes place in 2013 rather than the mid-1960s. That's fair enough. The song simply labels the event as "the dance". When I hear the song though I imagine the dance was something more like a community center dance than a school dance. The girl named Laurie seems to be a stranger. Maybe this is a Back to the Future thing where a teenager just shows up at a school dance and nobody questions why she has hardly been seen attending the school. Not my video so I'll just go with it for now.

The young teenage boy in the video is named Ryan (Drew Ainscough) and the young teenage girl is named the eponymous Laurie (Liz Ainscough). The name Ryan isn't given in the song. Ryan and Laurie meet-cute at the dance. If you played the song before reading this you already know Laurie is a ghost. Based on the song and the video Laurie seems to have physical substance though. Ryan can kiss her and give Laurie a sweater to wear. Others at the dance seem to see Laurie rather than see Ryan dancing by himself. I've been to too many school dances by myself so I know that is something people wouldn't fail to comment on.

My main criticism of the video is the part where Ryan gives Laurie the sweater. In the song Laurie mentions it was her birthday and asks to borrow the sweater because she was "very, very cold" (foreshadowing that Laurie is actually dead). In the video though Laurie talks about it being her birthday and Ryan gives Laurie his sweater. That makes it seem like a impromptu birthday present or at least an action that will cause a misunderstanding they could fight about later. If Laurie were to claim it was a birthday present based on the video I'd be on her side. That's the way it looks to me.

But who am I to question the worldbuilding of this video? Unlike the "strange force" that drew the protagonist to the graveyard in the song the video has the rather less uncanny power of the Google search engine. Just powerful enough to help Ryan even though he didn't know Laurie's last name. All a cyberstalker...I mean Ryan needs is a first name, city and date to get Laurie's obituary. Ryan didn't even use a single Boolean operator in the search.

I think the real victim in this "ghost story" is Laurie's father (Mark Chance). Both the song and the video could easily have a sequel. A "strange force" powerful enough to bring a young man to a graveyard could also influence someone to host a dance for teenagers. Ryan was likely only the first young man to show up at Laurie's house after meeting her ghost on her birthday/date of death. Year after year might bring other young men to her father's doorstep. Each year the ghost of Laurie tries to use a young man to communicate the fact that her spirit still wanders the local area but for her father it would just be a painful reminder of losing his daughter.