Last Thursday, Ok, So held a “creepy story slam,” in which audience members were invited to come to the stage and tell a five-minute story relating to the theme. Since 2013, each month, Ok, So holds an event with a pre-chosen theme, in which audiences tell a true story from their lives At the end of the night, prizes were awarded for best story and best runner-up; works were judged on theme, length, content, believability and delivery.
The setting of the event seemed incompatible with the theme itself. The IDL Ballroom, where the event was held, was decorated with white furniture, and shimmery drapes and jewels hung from the ceiling. These decorations, intentional or not, made the event more classy and mature, which clashed with the supposedly ‘creepy’ theme which the event had adopted.
Everyone was encouraged to sign up for the ten storytelling slots, and while not all of them were filled, some grew braver, partly due to liquid courage, as the night progressed. Even those who weren’t telling a story were encouraged to submit a short passage of the creepiest thing they’d experienced or done.
As one woman went around collecting short passages, she told me, when I initially couldn’t think of an instance, that every woman had at least one creepy story. And these short passages, which were read in between competing storytellers, often featured some sort of instance that would be termed sexual assault. Donald Trump was also another common topic of the short passages. A few of these notecards hinted at a good tale just waiting to be expanded upon, but audiences were left waiting for explanation or resolution.
The winner of the previous month kicked off the night, and took a twist on the theme. Instead of featuring a story that was creepy as in scary, he told a story of his various encounters with creepy crawlies — bugs. His tale of accidentally inhaling moths, eating maggot-filled rice and a tick bite in a private place left the audience rolling with laughter. Humor was not what I was expecting when attending a “Creepy Story Slam,” but he demonstrated creativity in his interpretation of the theme.
Funny stories continued throughout the night, but most of these involved some sort of ghost or spirit. One young woman described being chased by three cloaked figures while wandering through an alley in Muskogee, remarking that, after that experience, she never visited that friend again.
Most of the stories had directly happened to the speaker, but one young woman told a story that had happened to her father that she’d been told as a child. Her story involved an entity entering his trailer when he was alone one night. It reminded me of traditional campfire tales — and this had been relayed to her as one — where the creepy instance had happened to a friend of a friend.
One of the most depressing stories was told by one of the cofounders of Ok, So, Branda Jean Piersall. As a longtime hospice nurse, her story involved one of her patients, who suffered from a gruesome head wound caused by skin cancer. At first it was just a graphic description of how the cancer ate away at his flesh, but the story abruptly turned tragic when she pondered what had happened in his life to cause him to die alone. But the next participant, who ended up winning the slam, told a funny enough story to wash away the black mood.
The winning story was told by a first-time participant, who started off by admitting to seeing a large, dark figure staring at him some nights. The figure was him, in the mirror. This set the pace for the rest of his night. He told tales of his children, especially his stepdaughter, who he painted as creepy through a variety of interactions. As a large, self-described as potentially scary, black man, his tales of being frightened by his stepdaughter’s nightly antics, like screaming and then claiming ignorance, became even funnier.
The runner-up story was delivered by a participant who was actually studying storytelling. Her story of living near a cemetery and how she dealt with a ghost that was inhabiting her home was relatable. Instead of freaking out about the ghost, she decided to cohabitate, until she realized she was being a “ghost-enabler” and had to help him move on. Her hand gestures and method of speaking betrayed ease. Her tale seemed like something a friend would tell you over coffee.
The night finished with a story by Ryan Howell, one of the organizers of the event. He offered a change of pace, as he wove a tale of himself being creepy, rather than experiencing a creepy event. But while his tale of shooting out the neighboring sorority girl’s windows in his lederhosen, and her reaction, could’ve come across as uncomfortably creepy, his delivery ensured audiences saw the story as a hilarious tale of drunken, unintentional mishaps.
All three of the organizers added their story to the night, which was unusual, according to Michelle Sisemore Bias, one of the cofounders. Generally, they get enough storytellers to avoid doing so. She encouraged first-timers to tell their tale, remarking that storytellers grow with experience. Although she estimated that only about 10-20 percent of the audience could be constituted as regulars, she said she’s seen people improve their storytelling as they compete, learning how to keep audiences engaged and interested.
Ok So is working on expanding their organization. They will start doing stories on the local NPR station soon, and have already done events in different towns as well.
The organizers are also considering doing a tour of local colleges, which would include TU. Before they do so, they’re trying to gauge the interest level of college students. As they’ve recently moved locations to IDL, which allowed them to lower the age restriction to 18 instead of 21 years old, Michelle reported that 18-20 year olds have constituted an important part of their storytellers each event.
For those interested in attending or participating in future Ok So events, they are holding a slam with the theme of “Siblings” on Nov 10, at 8pm at the IDL Ballroom. Nov 19, at 7 pm and 9pm at the Comedy Parlor, adults will be reading their teenage diaries in an event called “Dear Diary.” Events are usually monthly.