Sept/Oct 2007



"I am about to relive childhood vicariously through my own child, and I have no idea what sort of adventure that's going to be . . ."

So said I just two short months ago — and Yes! As my mother has already alluded to, it has happened!!! I am at a rather advanced age a brand new father!

My daughter Clara is, for the record, absolutely perfect. (I know all new daddies say that but in this case it's completely true.)

She is also the most beautiful baby ever. (I know all new daddies say that but in this case it's completely true.)

She also looks just like me! (I know all new daddies say that but in this case . . . ah, you know the drill!)

At any rate, she is just three weeks old as I write, and it's already been the most extraordinary experience of my life. I can't wait to share everything with her — to read to her, sing to her, impart my values and ideals to her, all of which she will take to heart —

Until about age two, when presumably she learns the word "no". Then it all goes straight out the window.

Ah well, I trust I shall make at least as many mistakes as every other parent makes, and I trust my child will somehow survive my blunders. That being said, I can't wait to show her my favorite movies, to play her Beatles and Beethoven and Brubeck, to read her "Winnie the Pooh" and "Goodnight Moon", and so much more.

Oh, and I WILL tell her ghost stories.

Ghost stories???

What kind of a monster AM I???? My goodness, subjecting a child to such horrible things — she's liable to have nightmares!

Ahhhh — not the stories I propose . . .

Truth be told, some of my favorite ghost stories are the gentler ones, those tales written either with younger readers in mind or with tongue firmly in cheek, and usually both. There are so many great stories from my era (mostly the middle of the last century) that are wonderful to read and absolutely dripping with creepiness that are in actuality much more fun than frightening.

One that immediately comes to mind is the great and wonderful "Jimmy Takes Vanishing Lessons" by Walter R. Brooks. A young boy (Jimmy, of course) actually gets the better of the spirit in this one, though not before the reader has shared a chill or two with our protagonist, as the latter wends his way all alone down a long deserted road, toward a very old house that has been shunned by all for years, as it is most assuredly haunted.

Another childhood favorite would have to be James Thurber's "The Night the Ghost Got In", which is a very funny anecdotal account of some mysterious doings in the early 1900's.

I would also include perhaps some stories that aren't strictly GHOST stories, but seem to fit, such as Ray Bradbury's "Homecoming", about a young boy struggling with the fact that he seems to be a normal human in a family of — well, of folks that are not so normal. There are also the great stories of Robert Arthur, one of which, "The Wonderful Day" (which has also seen print as "Miracle on Main Street") is as perfect a work of fantasy fiction as has ever been written. And of course a word must be said for Stephen Vincent Benet's immortal "The Devil and Daniel Webster", and "King of the Cats", Barbee Oliver Carleton's "The Wonderful Cat of Cobbie Bean", and John West's "My Displaced Ghosts" (a little known classic — it and many other delights can be found in Red Skelton's 1965 collection "A Red Skeleton in Your Closet", if you can find it).

There are so many others — I promise to return to this list soon. However, I must sign off now, as someone seems to be ready for another bottle . . .


—Joe Nolte