Crisp, colorful leaves. A chill in the air. The routines of school are established. Ah, it must be almost time for Halloween. In preparation, I always like to have some creepy books on hand to share with students. Now, I am not a fan of horror movies (there’s a lot of cringing), but I do love a good ghost story so I figured it would be the perfect time to share some of the titles and authors I have enjoyed in the past.
Most recently, I finished the book The Ghost of Graylock by Dan Poblocki. This story follows a brother and sister, Neil and Bree, who move in with their aunts after their father moves out to the west coast to follow his acting dreams and their mother has a nervous breakdown. Neil enjoys watching a show about ghost investigators so he is immediately enthralled by the local legend of Graylock Hall, an abandoned (and supposedly haunted) hospital for people with mental disorders. He enlists his new friend Wesley and Wesley’s older brother, Eric, to explore the old building with him, but he is unable to escape without his older sister insist on coming along.
The foursome begins to explore the building while looking for the ghost of Nurse Janet, an employee who was suspected of drowning three children at the institution. Soon after beginning to explore the decrepit structure, weird things happen and Neil gets injured so the kids escape into the woods and are driven back to town by a kind local man, Andy.
It’s not long after that Bree and Neil begin to have terrifying dreams and experience strange events in their aunt’s house. Did something really follow them home from Graylock? And if so, what does it want?
I made the mistake of starting this book after 10:00 one night and had to keep reading until Chapter 8 just so I could go to sleep at a place that wasn’t going to leave me in a cold sweat that night. I enjoyed the imagery that Poblocki uses to create a consistently creepy world that I was (unfortunately) able to picture myself inside. Here’s an example from when the group first enters Graylock: “Shards of glass glimmered in the dim light at the group’s feet. A slimy green stripe of mildew and moss clung to the wall, dripping down from the makeshift entry. A shadowy horizontal line, about five feet high, stretched around the room, reminding Neil of a grimy bathtub ring.” Lines like these help to show students the importance of setting and they are great for mentoring to students how to write descriptively in their own papers. This is a book that I would recommend to middle grade students looking for a ghostly mystery and children who want a book to use as a model for some spooky writing of their own.
I picked up this book due to my enjoyment (read: fear) of Poblocki’s The Nightmarys when I read it last year. There were a few moments in this story where I actually felt myself getting goosebumps because of the creepy occurrences in the book. After I book-talked this novel at the start of the school year, both of my copies disappeared off the shelves and readers are waiting eagerly for a chance to read this book. My copy of The Stone Child, also by Poblocki, has not had an opportunity to gather dust either.
Another book that my students have enjoyed and spread throughout the classroom in the past is Bad Girls Don’t Die. This is another one of those books that I told myself I wouldn’t read after a certain time of the night because otherwise I knew this story of ghostly possession would haunt my dreams. See the video trailer here.
And who can forget two tellers of ghost stories, Mary Downing Hahn and Betty Ren Wright, who have extensive catalogs of books for children. See the book covers below for some of their books that I have enjoyed in the past.
Which ghost stories do you recommend to students who are looking for a good fright?