Letters: Ghost Story, Leaves

Listeners respond to last week's ghost story and the report on the science behind falling leaves. Michele Norris and Robert Siegel read from listeners' e-mails.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: A letter from a listener regarding ghost stories referred to Nellie Bly as a serial killer. That is incorrect. Nellie Bly was the pen name of Elizabeth Jane Cochran, an American journalist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who is widely credited with inventing investigative journalism.]

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

I'm Robert Siegel.

And now, to your letters. On Friday, we aired a ghost story that began this way�

Mr. CHRIS BUTLER (Musician, Commentator): I bought Jeffrey Dahmer's childhood home in Bath, Ohio. I'll let that sink in for a second. If your first reaction is eww, that's perfectly understandable.

NORRIS: That's commentator and musician Chris Butler. He investigated paranormal activity in his house. A number of you took issue with our story, including Emily Bligh(ph) from Readfield, Maine.

She says: It was presented in a light, entertaining manner, I assume because it is the day before Halloween. While it would be OK to make light of the victims of, say, Nellie Bly or Jack the Ripper, whose mourners are long gone, those still grieving the murders of Dahmer's victims may well have heard the story and been offended, at the very least.

SIEGEL: Well, Sandra Albers(ph) of Kaneohe, Hawaii, had a different take. She writes: I was captive and captivated. This is one of the best ghost stories I've heard in years. Thank you for airing it.

Another autumn story on Friday came from NPR's Robert Krulwich.

ROBERT KRULWICH: Trees don't just drop their leaves.

Dr. PETER RAVEN (Director, Missouri's Botanical Garden): The tree is getting rid of them.

KRULWICH: So it's like throwing the leaves off?

Dr. RAVEN: Discarding them, discarding them when they become nonfunctional.

KRULWICH: So this, then, isn't really like a fall, it's more like a shove.

Dr. RAVEN: Exactly.

KRULWICH: And here's how it works. When the days get sufficiently short, that triggers the release of a hormone inside the tree.

Dr. RAVEN: So they're chemical signals�

KRULWICH: That run like messengers from leaf to leaf to leaf all over the tree, saying - and what's the message that the�

Dr. RAVEN: It says, time to go. Let's part company.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KRULWICH: I see.

NORRIS: Paul Weisenfeld(ph) of Los Angeles wishes we had left well enough alone. He writes: That old song wouldn't be quite the same if the lyrics were: Though I miss you most of all, my darling, when autumn leaves start to push away from the trees and drop to the ground. After all, they're still falling, aren't they? Some science, like making sausage and laws, should not be shown to the public.

SIEGEL: Well, we'd like to hear from you if you think we are making sausage or serving souffle. Come to our Web site, npr.org, and click on Contact Us.

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Correction Nov. 4, 2009

A letter from a listener regarding ghost stories referred to Nellie Bly as a serial killer. That is incorrect. Nellie Bly was the pen name of Elizabeth Jane Cochran, an American journalist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who is widely credited with inventing investigative journalism.

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