BOOK: Usborne's World of the Unknown: Ghosts
No other book, pre junior high, had more of an effect on me than Usborne's Ghosts.
As I think back, I'm not exactly sure why books were so hard to come by for kids. The library was literally the only place to get consistent access to the books that we ended up loving.
In my case, it was a combination of the Anaheim Bookmobile or the Euclid Branch library. I still remember the paranormal section at Euclid - in through the main entrance, turn immediately to the right and it was the bottom-ish row of that corner. I would sit there for hours while my mom sat somewhere out "there". I could barely remember the rest of the library, except for 'my' section. [That section may have only been about two full rows, and perhaps a little of a third.]
There were two books that were primarily checked out by me. The first was the full format, white jacketed Ghosts and then a small black jacketed re-bind of virtually the same book, but this one had a few variances. [UPDATE: it was the Eric Maple version of Usborne's Pocketbooks "Haunted Houses, Ghosts and Spectres". If I had that today, I could fetch quite the pretty penny.]
Ghosts was infinitely browsable. For a young mind, it had the right mix of facts, conjecture and mysterious provocativeness mixed with colorful and gory illustrations. In a world pre-internet, pre-cable, pre-phone and pre-home video game, it was quite a rush.
The book is generally laid out into three sequential sections: the first was 'The story of ghost, the second 'Haunted places' and the last 'Searching for the truth'. Sub-sections of each were basically 'factoids' of popular hauntings and theories on how ghosts manifest, why they haunt, and, in fairness to skeptics, explanations of why ghosts may not be that at all.
Sections that garnered my imagination were how to recognize a ghost, 'they don't speak when spoken to'. The best ghost hunting equipment - basically notebooks to perform scientific method (this is 1977 people). And a study of the most famous case up to that time, the Borley Rectory - definitely a well-known and well-heeled story of a consistent haunting.
The book was re-printed over a year ago for those that want a quick rush of nostalgia.
Deep cut from 1977 to borrow the supernatural theme here is The Dreadful Ghost by John Roberts.
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[This ^ ^ book can go as high as 950.00!]