On the Day I Died by Candace Fleming

I remember Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone. Paranormal fiction, phantoms and ghouls, stories of the weird, the supernatural, and the spectral.

What do kids watch nowadays when they want a good, old-fashioned ghostly supernatural story or creepy mystery (not romantic vampires or stupid zombies)? For that matter, what do they read? Neil Gaiman. Mary Downing Hahn. Goosebumps. Eventually they could graduate to Stephen King or X-Files, I guess.

But what if the reader is looking for ghost stories, not novels? The kind of stories that were presented by Mr. Hitchcock or introduced by Rod Serling on the Twilight Zone? The kind you tell on a camp out on a dark night?

Subtitled “Stories from the Grave”, Ms. Fleming’s book fits that niche. The book includes nine stories, set in and around Chicago, all about teenagers who died. These stories eschew the violence and gore that so often substitutes for real suspense and spookiness these days, and instead they go straight for that horrified, eerie response feeling. You know, when you ask yourself, “Could that really happen? Naaaaa, maybe, well?”

Mike is led to a graveyard by a ghostly hitchhiker, surrounded by the ghost of teens who need to tell their stories, and compelled to listen to those stories. For instance, there’s Scott (1995-2012) who didn’t believe in the supernatural until he decided to make a visit to the abandoned grounds of Chicago State Asylum for the Insane. Johnnie (1920-1936) was a juvenile delinquent with a predilection for revenge until one of his victims took her revenge on him. There’s also a “monkey’s paw” story (Lily 1982-1999), and another (Edgar 1853-1870) that’s a take off from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story, The Yellow Wallpaper.

I’d get this one, especially if you live in or are familiar with the Chicago area, just in time for Halloween. I can picture a Halloween party with older middle schoolers or young high schoolers dressed up as the dead people in the stories and prepared to tell their own “stories from the grave.”

The book could also be a springboard for research into your own local folklore about ghost sightings and death stories. Ms. Fleming began her stories with “memory and myth”, “local legend and folklore”, and “nearby places, real-life people, actual events.” She writes in the author’s notes at the end of the book, “The best ghost stories, I learned, should always include a kernel of truth.”

Maybe some of the stories at the website Ghosts of America could be starter seeds for your own book of ghostly tales. These stories are from my own hometown of San Angelo, Texas.

One thought on “On the Day I Died by Candace Fleming

  1. Pingback: Middle Grade Fantasy and Science Fiction: What’s In, What’s Out » Semicolon

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