The Dancing Skeleton is a scary funny story for kids. It is also known as “Aaron Kelly’s Bones” and “Dead Aaron”. It is based on an old African American tale from Charleston. A version of this story appeared in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
Aaron Kelly was dead. There wasn’t anything anybody could do about it and, to tell the truth, nobody much cared. Aaron had been so mean and unpleasant in his life that folks were glad to see him go. Even his widow never shed a tear. She just bought a coffin, put Aaron in it, and buried him.
But that very night, Aaron got up out of his grave and came home. His family was sitting around the fire when he walked in, looking dusty, dirty and dishevelled.
He took a seat next to his widow and said, “What’s all this about? You’re all acting like somebody’s dead. Who’s dead?”
His widow looked at him and said, “Oh my God!”
“Damnit, woman!” said Aaron. “I asked you who’s dead?”
“You are!” said his widow, shaking like a cold dog in a wet sack.
“Me dead?” said Aaron. “I don’t feel dead. I feel fine.”
“I don’t care how you feel,” his widow said. “You look dead. You better get yourself back to the grave where you belong.”
“No!” said Aaron. “I ain’t going back to no grave until I feel dead!”
“Oh my God!” said the widow. “How long can this corpse last?”
“Not long,” said her brother. “Not in this hot weather, he can’t last long.”
Yet, despite the widow and the weather and the heat and the rain and all, Aaron just kept lasting and lasting. All he did from sunup to sundown was sit by the fire, rocking in his chair and warming his hands and feet. But his joints were dry and his back was stiff, and every time he moved, he creaked and cracked like a dead tree in the wind.
His widow couldn’t collect his life insurance because Aaron swore to God he wasn’t dead. And she couldn’t pay for the coffin because she didn’t get the insurance. And the undertaker said he was going to take back the coffin because it wasn’t paid for. The widow told all this to Aaron, but Aaron didn’t care.
“Don’t you miss me?” he asked.
“Miss you?” said his wife. “How am I going to miss you. I ain’t had no chance to miss you yet. You ain’t gone.”
One night the best fiddler in town came to court the widow. He had heard that Aaron was dead and he wanted to marry her. He sat on one side of the fire and Aaron sat on the other, stretching his arms and legs and all the time creaking and cracking. By this time, he was so dried out that he was little more than a skeleton.
“I’m wore out listening to him creak and crack,” the fiddler said. “Something ought to be done.”
“How long do we got to put up with this dead corpse?” the widow asked. “How long do we got to wait until he molders? How long do we got to sit in front of this fire, you and me and HIM?”
Aaron stretched himself and said, “This isn’t very jolly. Let’s be jolly. Let’s dance!”
The fiddler got out his fiddle and began to play. Aaron stretched himself, shook himself, got up, took a step or two, and began to dance a jig. With his old bones rattling, and his yellow teeth snapping, and his bald head waggling, and his arms flip-flopping, around and around the room he went.
The fiddler played and Aaron danced. Up and down the floor he danced. With his long legs clocking, and his kneebones knocking, he skipped and pranced around the room. How that dead man danced! But pretty soon a bone came loose and fell to the floor.
“My golly! Look at that!” said the fiddler.
“Play more faster!” said the widow. The fiddler played faster.
Crickety-crack, down and back, the dead man went hopping. Every time he jumped he cracked, and every time he cracked another dry bone dropped on the floor. This way, that way, the pieces just kept dropping.
“Play man! Play!” cried the widow. The fiddler fiddled faster.
Dead Aaron danced and all the time he danced, the bones kept dropping until all at once, Aaron crumbled and fell apart. His rib bones rolled around on the floor and there Dead Aaron lay, just a heap of bones on the floor
All that was left was his bald headbone and it danced by itself in the middle of the floor, grinning at the fiddler and cracking its teeth. That head kept dancing, Bop! Bop! Bop!
“Oh my sweet Lord! Look at that!” said the fiddler.
“Play more louder!” cried the widow.
“Ho, ho!” said the headbone. “Ain’t we having fun!”
The fiddler couldn’t stand it anymore.
“Widow,” he said. “I got to go!” and he left the house and never came back.
The family gathered the bones together and put them back in the grave. They were careful to mix them up and lay them all crissity-crossity and unjoined so Aaron couldn’t fit them back together again.
After that, Dead Aaron didn’t get up anymore and stayed in his grave. But his widow stayed a widow from that day to this and never got married again. That dancing skeleton and his dead head spoiled the romance.