Great ghoulish Halloween reads for kids

October 16, 2009|By JEFF RIDGEWAY / Special to The Herald-Mail

Autumn is the time for ghost stories. With the death of sunny summer and a foreboding of winter to come, dark and windy nights are on our minds.

Almost every community possesses tales of hauntings and other strange happenings. South Mountain has phantom cannon that are rolled uphill by unseen hands. The luminarias at Antietam National Battlefield bear an almost ghostly witness to the casualties of tragic, long ago deaths. Gettysburg, Pa., has ghosts on the battlefield.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park has ghosts that appear on stairs in park buildings. Hagerstown itself has had incidents of spirits seen or heard in several of the downtown buildings.

I was born near Middleway, W.Va., the site of the infamous Wizard Clip haunting just 30 miles from Hagerstown. Many of the old homes in our area possess so many creaks and groans that it is no wonder people think their houses are haunted.


And Edgar Allan Poe - perhaps the most famous author of the macabre - died mysteriously on an October night in Baltimore in 1849.

So as the rustling of the dead leaves and the chill of a brisk autumn wind turn our minds toward Poe, pumpkins and the warmth of fire, why not visit your local library and read something spooky?

  • "The Strange Story of Harpers Ferry," by Joseph Barry (ages 12 and older)

    This odd little book is in the Western Maryland Room's historical collection (and is sold at the Harper's Ferry national Historical Park bookstore), but contains the best account of the Wizard Clip haunting I have read.

  • "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark," by Alvin Schwartz-Urban (ages 8 to 12)

    Folklore abounds in this slim volume that contains the "Hearse Song" and traditional stories like "The Hitchhiker."

    (Also "Scary Stories" II and III are available).

  • "The Graveyard Book," by Neil Gaiman (ages 11 and older)

    This book won the Newbery award in 2009 and is the story of a boy who escapes to a cemetery and is adopted by the ghosts who live there.

  • "The Halloween Tree," by Ray Bradbury (ages 10 and older)

    This is the classic story of one boy's time travel adventures through the history of Halloween from ancient Egypt to the present.

  • "Famous Ghosts," by Michael Teitelbaum (ages 8 and older)

    This slim children's book talks about Haunted Places, Ghostly Children, and Restless Spirits. You can find it in the 133's - Dewey Decimal-ese for the supernatural section.

  • "All the Lovely Bad Ones," by Mary Downing Hahn (ages 10 to 13)

    Travis and his sister Corey decide to boost business at their grandmother's Vermont inn by staging a few hauntings that soon draw tourists from across the country, but when their antics awaken a dark force, they must find a way to put to rest the ghosts they have disturbed.

  • "South Mountain Magic," by Madeline Dahlgren (ages 12 and older)

    Madeline Dahlgren lived in the Old South Mountain Inn and loved the fascinating local legends and lore of the building and nearby residents.

  • "Christina's Ghost," by Betty Ren Wright (ages 8 to 12)

    This interactive audio book tells the story of Christina's summer with her grumpy uncle in a spooky, isolated Victorian house and how it turns into a ghostly adventure.

  • "Odder Than Ever," by Bruce Coville (ages 11 to 13)

    This anthology pulls together six previously published stories and three new stories by this well-known fantasy and science-fiction writer.

  • "The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural," by Patricia McKissack (ages 8 to 12)

    With an extraordinary gift for suspense, McKissack brings us 10 original spine-tingling tales inspired by African-American history and the mystery of that eerie half-hour before nightfall - the dark-thirty.

  • "Nevermore: A Photobiography of Edgar Allan Poe," by Karen Lange (ages 11 and older)

    A photographic biography chronicling the life of author and poet Edgar Allan Poe, with images capturing key moments and phases in his life and highlighting his literary influence.

  • "Tales of Terror," by Edgar Allan Poe (ages 11 and older)

    This collection brings to the modern reader six of the most famous tales by the incomparable Poe. Dark, brooding, heart-stopping chillers, these are tales of death and murder, revenge and guilt.

    Jeff Ridgeway is the head of children's services at the Washington County Free Library.

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