Friday, October 13, 2006

Ghosts in the Library.

Ghosts in the Library.
A campfire story for Halloween.

There are three places you should not be on Halloween, at least by yourself. Most of you know the first two: a graveyard and inside a haunted house. The third place you should not be at midnight on Halloween at midnight is in a library. Here is why.

Long time ago, when I was growing up and dinosaurs still roamed the earth, the library in a small town was a favorite place to be and get books. I was a great reader but the librarian was a tall, thin and mean looking old lady who never smiled and who was always ready to shake her finger at us and collect 2 cents per day for overdue books. She kept one part of the book shelves off limits to us kids, which of course made that restricted area more enticing. “They are too scary for you!” She announced whenever she saw one of us hanging around that area. “Too scary” was her refrain. I found out much later that there were more than scary books we should not read.

Well, guess what? Her frequent warnings made those Off Limits Books became like candy on the mantel at home that Mommy told us we could not have. They just begged to be read. But we could not get near them under her eagle eye during the day. The forbidden books became a great fascination among several of us boys. I was eleven years old and we were in the sixth grade. We were not about to be scared away from much of anything. We often used to dare, and double dare each other into forbidden mischievous acts. We finally came up with a plan. It would be a great adventure to sneak into the public library at midnight on Halloween and read the scary stories out loud and laugh at them together. Two of my best friends, Jimmy and George., were my co-conspirators.

So we waited and planned. We did not invite Sally, the tomboy who usually went with us because we thought she might squeal on us. At 11:30 p.m. on Halloween, we scouted the public library, ready to find a window that had not been fully locked, to slip into. I was already well experienced by then in slipping through unlocked or partly locked windows, in and out of my home.. Usually my sister Barbara always my buddy among three other tattle tell sisters, made sure one window on the first floor was NOT locked, so I did not have to climb to a roof which I had done a number of times already. I knew how to get in through half-locked windows. Fortunately that night we found a back cellar door unlocked and went through the basement. We brought flashlights so as to not turn on the library lights at night to alert the local police.

We tip-toed very slowly. We told George not to breathe so loud but it didn’t help..As we began ascending the stairs to the main library room, we could hardly believe we heard laughing and hooting, like someone was having a party. As we peeked over the top step, by the full light of the moon coming through the big bay window, we saw every kind of scary critter sitting around talking and laughing and making weird noises like grunts and snorts. My first impression was that it was a private adult costume party. There was Captain Hook, the Wicked Witch of the West from Oz, Frankenstein, Dracula with blood around his mouth, and other ghosts, goblins and were-wolves. Then I saw the Headless Horseman talking which made me feel really creepy. Then Captain Hook and the Witch got into a fist fight, stood up and started swinging at each other. When I realized that their arms really went through each other, like real ghosts is when I got really scared. They were real ghosts. They I realized I could see through every one of them. Believe it or not, as I listened, they were bragging on who had scared the most children that year. Wow! I never saw anything so terrifying in my whole life. Then I heard one little ghost whimpering“only one child read me this year, boo hoo,” and all the rest laughed and said :Maybe you weren’t scary enough–better luck next year,” and they all laughed again. I was petrified, frozen. With mouth open I glanced at Jimmy and George and they were also bug-eyed with their jaws dropped. We lay there peeping and staring only for a minute or two. Then we started creeping slowly backward. So slowly we backed out, almost tumbling over one another to get down the cellar stairs, hoping we would not be heard, hearts thumping and heads spinning. George’s breathing now sounded like a freight train, like he was having a huge asthma attack, which we later found out he was. We could not wait to get down the stairs and out that back cellar door.

Finally outside, we ran over and collapsed together under a big bare walnut tree, all of us breathless and speechless. A minute later when a walnut fell next to me, I practically jumped out of my skin. We were too scared tell anyone because we had “broken” into the library like burglars, had witnessed an erie and weird other-worldly scene, and, besides, who would believe us? We swore to each other to never tell the story of our Halloween midnight library raid to anyone, ever, and this is the first time I have told it. And I must ask you, each of you, to keep it a secret. Who wants to believe that real scary critters really do live in those books and might come out sometime to haunt you like a really good story can. No way. But I know what I saw that night and I will never forget it.

I did not read another ghost story or scary story for a long time.. We were so scared we still feel lucky to be alive today. There were other unmentionable things I saw that night that I will not talk about. One warning: do not get caught in a library alone at midnight on Halloween. Books do have spirits that live. They really do live. Ask anyone who likes books or has done something with their life and they will tell you of at least one. I saw spirits from books once, long ago. And I have seen it since but never in the same way as that night long ago when I was eleven years old.

You do not want to be in a graveyard, or in a haunted house, or in the library at midnight on Halloween. But even if you are, the ghosts are not likely to hurt or harm you unless you disobey your parents or act mean toward other children. But if you bully others, you better always look over your shoulder, your left shoulder.

Told for the first time, early draft, as a Spellbinder at Cassidy Elementary, Lexington, on Oct 13, Friday, 2006.

Note o Storytellers: You are invited to tell this story often. Adapt it for your purposes. Maybe if it becomes told enough we can help start a movement to have scarey stories read and told in the library on Halloween. Note to the teller: Time needed: about 10-15 minutes. Best told in a library with dimmed lights. Use interactive questions with the children first to set the stage, e.g. How many of you like scarey stories? Can you make scary noises? What are they like? Have you ever been really scared? Can you cackle like a witch or groan like a ghost? Etc.

Paschal Baute
Lexington Spellbinders
copyright, Paschal Baute. 2006