Though Halloween has long passed, Tayden Bundy’s first book lets people dive into the paranormal around the Lincoln area any time of year.
“Beyond Lincoln: A History of Nebraska Hauntings” is a book comprised of 10 ghost stories that tell the tale and break down the real history surrounding each story, written during his time as an undergraduate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Now he’s working to get his book into every bookstore possible.
“I wanted to try and take the stories, write them down and find out where they came from,” Bundy said.
As a senior at UNL in early 2018, what is now his first book was nothing more than an idea for an independent study project, which are often guided by a tenure line faculty member.
Bundy chose to partner with Beverley Rilett, a research assistant professor in the UNL English department. The two bonded in ENGL 355, an editing and publishing course that Rilett taught.
“Tayden took this course with me and enjoyed it so much that he wanted to create another book, a book all of his own creation, something he'd been thinking about writing for a long time,” Rilett said.
When Bundy proposed his idea, the original concept was to write five chapters with five corresponding ghost stories.
“We discussed me doing five chapters, and then I ended up doing five more after I graduated, which I didn't know whether I was going to do or not,” Bundy said. “But I loved it so much and I had a few more ideas.”
As a Lincoln native, Bundy grew up hearing a majority of the Lincoln-based stories told in the book. One story involves paranormal experiences at the corner of 20th and Washington St., where a hit and run occurred. People have spoken of the corner as a “cold spot” and have different paranormal stories all occurring there. The tale has taken multiple forms in the description of the victim, like whether they were a child or grown man.
When starting his research, Bundy took to the internet to find every scary story that existed in Lincoln and then slowly narrowed them down to his top 10. Bundy combined his research with personal interviews, trying to get the best scope of each story’s twists and turns.
“I broke them down and I tried to find the history based off the most important elements of the story, or the things that stuck out that I could actually find information from,” Bundy said. “Dates, names, most ghost stories don’t have those things.”
Bundy used his English major and history minor to create a book that combined his love of literature and his fascination with the past. According to Bundy, the experience of researching the reasons behind the paranormal activities reminded him of true crime — it was a fun adventure that he spent six months researching, finding out what really happened for each of the original five cases. As Bundy dove deeper into each story’s history, he found that accounts had differed from person to person.
“I have always loved ghost stories, but I also loved how stories build their life over time,” Bundy said.
Once he completed the independent study project consisting of five chapters, Bundy went on to write five more and self-publish the book of 10 chapters. Using his knowledge from Rilett’s editing and publishing course, Bundy had some basic skills in the publishing process and chose to self-publish in fear that the book’s focus on Nebraska would fail to sell in other markets.
In order to get any book ready, there was a series of steps that needed to be taken, such as finding an editor, cover designer and physically printing the books. Eventually, he had assistance in editing the manuscript from Karmen Browitt, a current English and German double major. For his cover design, Bundy got friend C Balta to create the image and printed all copies through UNL printing.
“It’s a crazy process to try and do on my own, you know,” Bundy said. “I had to start a website and do all the marketing.”
Now three months removed from “Beyond Lincoln’s” initial release in mid-October, Bundy said sales have tapered off. But with the 1,000 copies he bought himself, he is putting his focus into getting his book into local stores and readers’ hands. As a self-published author, Bundy has had to contact bookstores himself to get his book out there.
“It’s difficult self-publishing,” he said. “Because I had to buy the copies myself, I just have to get people to buy them.”
Whenever Bundy tries to market the book, there is a separate set of obstacles. For instance, stores like Indigo Bridge in the Haymarket have to take the time to read each book before deciding whether they want to sell it, which can be a lengthy process, Bundy said.
But he got approval, and “Beyond Lincoln” is available for purchase at Indigo Bridge and Francie & Finch bookstores in downtown Lincoln, as well as online.
“You just have to keep pushing and keep trying, and I have a couple of events coming up,” Bundy said. “It's just getting the word out, it’s the most difficult part.”