I believe Halloween freaks like myself have that one event, memory or place which is the responsible for our undying love of the season, even into middle-age. For me, it was a book. As far back as I can remember, I loved this book and would take it almost anywhere. In fact, I can recall my parents concern I was become a little obsessed with it and offered almost anything to replace it or at least broaden my horizons. I heard none of it. This book took me to a weird, spooky place and even today, that is where I want to be. This book is Ghosts and Goblins.
For almost thirty years I thought I had lost this book and it slowly drifted from memory until a fateful day when I was exploring my parent’s basement I was reunited with my beloved book. A little used and the cover is missing but still readable. It’s what is on the inside of the book that matters, no?
Ghost and Goblins is a collection of old stories, poems and limericks from various sources but the real magic is the illustrations by Tim Kirk. They were so mesmerizing I don’t even recall reading much of the stories. Except for one. THE one. The story and illustration which terrorized an only child and would pop into mind late at night believing there were ghosts right outside the door. That story was “A Halloween Story” by Margaret Widderman and it solidified my love of October forever.
My good Lord, look at what is happening in this room! These kids have no idea there are demons floating all around them but do seem generally taken with the story. There are jack-o-lanterns lit in the windows and hot chocolate with doughnuts on a plate making an absolutely rad-ass evening of fright. It reminds me of being a kid watching The Exorcist on TV knowing full well that in an hour I would sent to bed scared out of my wits. I don’t know why we do the things we do but that is what makes us the Halloween freaks we are.
“There was Something that howled around the chimney, And Something that rattled on the wall- And it wasn’t wind, the Thing, nor a tick-tock on a string, Nor anything they said it was at all:”.
That stanza of the poem/story used to creep me out. It was like the part in a ghost movie when logic and reason starts departing as the characters begin to accept paranormal activity is afoot. I remember reading this under a blanket with Cheez-it dusted fingers listening closely as the house settled. Was that a ventilation duct expanding or was it Captain Howdy scratching outside the door? At that time, the latter seemed more plausible.
For better or worse, this book shaped my love for Halloween and all things creepy. Still to this day, I love thumbing through these pages getting the same delight I had at age seven. Tim Kirk’s imagination and illustrations make this book such a treasure and I am so grateful to have found it after all these years. I can’t tell you how hard it is to describe a childhood book in your late thirties. “It’s a book with demon ghosts sneaking up on kids eating doughnuts…has a rotting corpse in a tux reading a magazine on the inside cover…”.
The Hell Show continues! Thanks for reading my story about reading. This is typically my favorite week of the season because finally no one gives me the side-eye when I dress in all black and orange. It’s a lonely summer.