Does anyone know of a short story, or possibly a poem, that involves a silver cockleburr? The story has a fairy tale vibe. I think the protagonist is a young woman. There's somewhere she's not supposed to go, possibly to see a witch (could be fairies, but I don't think so). She goes to the forbidden place anyway and thinks no one will find out, but when she returns everyone can tell that she went there because there's a silver cockleburr stuck to the hem of her cloak or her dress (maybe her hair). I don't think we learn what happens to her--the last line is just sort of an ominous "and on her hem/cloak/dress was the silver cockleburr."

I think I read it as a kid or early in high school, so it would have been published at least 10-20 years ago. My family owned a lot of old books that I read while growing up (though my parents have no idea what I'm talking about), so it could be an older story. I have searched several fairy tale/folklore databases with no luck, so it is probably not common/part of a canon. I also started reading adult fairy tale compilations fairly young, so it very well could have been in one of those. Not knowing is driving me nuts!


2 Answers 2


I just found this thread when I Googled "Silver Cockleburr" because, in the spirit of Halloween, I'm looking up all the old stories that creeped me out to no end as a kid in the early-mid 90s. I remember the Silver Cockleburr was a short story written by a teenage girl either in American Girl magazine in the 1990s, or in the children's literary magazine Stone Soup from the same time period. I subscribed to both of them and remember one of them having a scary story contest where they chose the best-written and scariest stories sent in by readers. The Silver Cocklebur was one of them. I remember that it was definitely in a magazine because the following month they had to run an apology for scaring so many of their readers! I loved it though.

I remember the last line too: "And on her right shift's shoulder, her little bony shoulder, and on her right shift's shoulder was a silver cocklebur." Very creepy.

Hope this helps!

  • By the way, CameraLucida, please let me know if you subscribed to either of those magazines in the 90s-- I've done some Googling and think I've broken the internet, since no evidence of this story pops up anywhere and I'd love to figure out where I read it as a kid! I remember there being some other great ones in that issue. If it's Stone Soup, I bet I could track it down as they're such a small magazine.
    – Lara
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 3:06
  • Upvoted as a semi-answer.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 12:32
  • Oh man, that is totally it! I am fairly certain it was American Girl magazine--it definitely fits for what age I would have been when I read it and explains why it wouldn't have been something my parents were familiar with. It had creepy illustrations too, right? I'm recalling sort of fuzzy outlines with muted tones. I still can't remember much of the plot, but you totally nailed the last line. I am so pleased someone else remembered it! Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 13:59
  • 1
    it was an American girl magazine, because I wrote in to them when I was 10-ish because I was angry at them for publishing such a scary story and then published my letter and apologized....ha!
    – user92438
    Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 17:48

I wonder if this might be from a collection of Ozark folk tales (two of the three only hits in books.google.com for "silver AND cockleburr AND dress AND hem", the third references a wird (not cockleburr) caught in the hem)?

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