By GLENN TOLLE
A few nights ago I was hanging out with my Uncle Jerry at his 19th century house in the country, a place that invokes stories, so it’s not surprising that while listening to the cicadas hum, my uncle spun a tale that chilled me to the bone. When he and my Uncle Scott were small, they went exploring an old house in the country. Peering into one of the windows, they swore they saw “shadow people” — persons without any distinguishing features, only silhouettes. Needless to say, both ran as fast as they could back home and didn’t return till 20 years later, when one of them briefly considered buying the place and fixing it up.
My uncles didn’t return to the house for two decades because the story that they told themselves kept them from returning. But eventually the story became just that — a story, a product of their overactive imaginations perhaps. They eventually returned to the site only to find that the details had morphed in their minds. Time, the ultimate teller of stories, took their original tale and twisted it up, curling the roots and allowing new and unique leaves to sprout and take hold in new minds.
After my two uncles finished squabbling over the minutiae of this unsettling story, we all went to bed. I slept in the heart of the house surrounded by the metaphorical ghosts of the old home’s original builders and the literal ghost of one of its first 1800 inhabitants who, it is said, still roams the halls.
In this edition of FRIGHTS FOR TYKES I’ll be covering WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT: 20 SCARY TALES TO TELL written by Margaret Read MacDonald, illustrated by Roxane Murphy and published by The H.W Wilson Company in 1988.
The book is not only a collection of scary stories for young listeners, but a how-to-guide to tell these scary stories and others like them. Each story, including my favourite – “The Hobyahs” – contains notes on “Telling” the story and “Comparative Notes” on the stories’ origins and other variations. Many of these stories, like the story my Uncle Jerry told me, have taken root in the imaginations of people from all around the globe.
Though at times a little outdated, WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT is a highly informative, interestingly illustrated and enthusiastic read, maxing out at 161 pages, not including its large and pleasing bibliography. I bought my edition for $2 at a library sale. This edition can be found on AMAZON for $5.47, plus free shipping, used, in “Good” condition.
If you’ve ever wanted to hone your craft as a scary story teller, or if you’re just looking for a fun scary book to read to your youngster, this is the book for you.