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Ghost Mysteries: Unraveling the World's Most Mysterious Hauntings

Ghost Mysteries: Unraveling the World's Most Mysterious Hauntings

by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld, Nathan Hale (Illustrator)

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Readers will delve deep—if they dare—into the history of ghosts and their portrayal in literature, art, and pop culture. From the spooky world of haunted castles to the subject of ghost-hunting, this book explores this fascinating subject through stories, facts, and pictures. Perfect for year-round reading—not just at Halloween—this book is


Readers will delve deep—if they dare—into the history of ghosts and their portrayal in literature, art, and pop culture. From the spooky world of haunted castles to the subject of ghost-hunting, this book explores this fascinating subject through stories, facts, and pictures. Perfect for year-round reading—not just at Halloween—this book is sure to thrill readers of all ages!

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Jeanna Sciarrotta
If you have ever heard a ghost story and wondered about its origins, Ghost Mysteries might just provide the answer. Chock full of tidbits and anecdotes, this entertaining guide to the supernatural world takes readers through the history of many well-known tales and reveals the truth behind them. Zoehfeld also takes readers into some well-known literature, movies, and historical landmarks in order to help unveil exactly who or what may have been causing the paranormal phenomena that people have reported. Those looking for a book of scary stories or urban legends, however, beware. This reads more like an informational and entertaining account of ghostly tales and it is not intended to scare or keep young children awake in their beds at night. Most readers will find it to be an easy read that can be picked up at random and need not be read straight through. It is an interesting and lighthearted account of how some very real people in the past were able to influence generations through creating stories or effects that were believable by those looking for answers, relief from grief, or simply an explanation for an inexplicable happening. Reviewer: Jeanna Sciarrotta

Product Details

Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
9 - 13 Years

Read an Excerpt


Dripping Blood and Dragging Chains?

While yet a boy I sought for ghosts, and sped Through many a listening chamber, cave, and ruin, And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing Hopes of high talk with the departed dead.

-- Percy Bysshe Shelley

Are you the kind of person who would love to see a ghost? If you thought a place was haunted, would you be the first person through the door -- notebook and pencil in hand, camera ready? Or would you want to run away fast?

For many people, thinking of ghosts conjures up images of ghoulish forms dripping blood and dragging chains. In horror movies, disturbed mummies plot revenge, and zombies lumber out of their coffins intent on devouring every living creature in their path. In novels and short stories, creepy ghosts like the Bloody Baron and the Headless Horseman may send shivers down your spine. If your first impulse is to run, relax. Most people who have reported seeing a ghost say the whole experience was pretty tame.

It's said that every year on All Hallows' Eve -- the night of October 31 -- the spirits of the dead rise up from their graves and wander through the land of the living. But ghost sightings have been reported in all seasons and at all hours of the day and night. Would you know a ghost if you saw one? Most people who believe they've seen a ghost say that, at first, it looked like an ordinary person. But when they tried to get near the ghost, it disappeared like a mist. It may have looked as if it moved through a wall, or it may have vanished into thin air or sunk into the ground.

What are these mysterious apparitions? Expert ghost detectives study people's ghost sightings. Over the years, they have investigated thousands upon thousands of ghost reports. Some, of course, are just very good stories told by people who want to entertain or creep out their friends. But some reports come from people who are truly puzzled by what they have seen and heard and felt. Whatever these ghostly appearances are, investigators have noted a few types that seem to happen again and again.

The most common is called a crisis apparition. Many people have experienced this. They see a strange, ghostly image of a friend or relative, only to learn that person has died or been in some kind of serious trouble that day. Sometimes the "ghost" does not appear as an image but only as an eerie or ominous feeling. One schoolteacher reported feeling chilled to the bone while teaching a summer-school class on a hot, muggy day. He put on his suit jacket, but even that didn't help. For a few minutes he still felt cold. When he got home, he received a phone call from a relative, telling him that his twin brother had drowned in a boating accident that day. A crisis apparition happens only once and then is never felt or seen again.

In certain places, many people have seen the same ghost appearing at different times. In this kind of haunting, the spirit of one who has been dead for some time is said to linger, or to be stuck repeating the same activity, in one place. For years, people reported seeing a ghost haunting the Drury Lane Theatre in England. Other ghosts had been spotted in that theater, but this ghost kept returning. It appeared at various times as a soft green glow, a moving blue light, or as a handsome young man the actors nicknamed "The Man in Gray." Whatever it was, something strange was going on in that theater, and many people experienced it.

Sometimes ghosts are thought to lurk around battlefields or other places where awful things have happened. A "phantom soldier" has been spotted wandering around The Little Roundtop in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. That's the site of a famous Civil War battle. Legend has it that he is looking for his troop and still doesn't know he's been killed. Some people report phantom voices at Gettysburg, and even phantom smells. You often hear it said that ghosts are the souls of people who've suffered some violence in life. But are ghosts mean and violent themselves?

Poltergeists, also known as "noisy ghosts," are about as violent as ghosts get. Poltergeists are heard but never seen, and they don't seem to haunt places so much as particular people. Wherever that person goes, weird things happen. Rapping or knocking sounds are made, but no source can be found. Vases fly off shelves. Lights flicker on and off. Furniture moves of its own accord. But even with all the objects flying around, people are rarely harmed by poltergeists.

So, are these eerie feelings, misty visions, and strange rappings caused by the spirits of the dead who have somehow slipped back into the world of the living? Are they vivid hallucinations? Or are they mere figments, imagined by people who hope or even expect to see ghosts because of dramatic descriptions they have heard or read about? People have been experiencing ghosts for thousands of years. And people have wondered about them for thousands of years too.

Ghost detectives say that there's not much they can do to prove or disprove a haunting from long ago. But when a new ghost appears or a new haunting begins, they can be a big help. If you are lucky enough to have a chance to investigate a ghost, don't run. Try to pay attention and remember everything you see, hear, and feel. Take pictures. Record any sounds. Write everything down so you don't forget any details. Can you think of any ordinary explanations for your ghostly sighting? A good ghost detective asks good questions and gathers all the evidence!

One of America's most-sighted ghosts is the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. The list of people who have seen or felt Lincoln's presence is long and distinguished. Assassinated in 1865, President Lincoln has been seen haunting the White House in Washington, D.C.; his boyhood home in Springfield, Illinois; and the Ford Theatre, where he was killed. The Lincoln room in the White House is offered as a bedroom to the most honored guests. Many have felt his spirit lingering there. Once when queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was visiting President Franklin Roosevelt, she said she woke to a knock at the door. She got up, opened the door, and standing there before her was Abe Lincoln in his familiar beard and top hat. She is said to have fainted right there on the spot.

A religious movement called Spirtualism had become very popular during the Civil War, and Mary Todd Lincoln was an avid Spiritualist and believer in ghosts. So that might be one reason why we see Abe so often. More about that later!

America's most famous poltergeist is the Bell Witch. It's said that around 1817 John Bell, a Tennessee farmer, saw a strange, doglike animal on his land. It was, he said, no earthly animal, because when he shot it, it simply vanished like a mist. As it turns out, the ghostly dog was just an omen of terrible things to come. A few weeks later Bell's house became haunted by a poltergeist that rapped on the walls; moved the furniture; and slapped, pinched, and poked his twelve-year-old daughter, Betsy, in her bed at night. This was a noisy ghost indeed. (It certainly made Betsy scream!)

Late at night the Bells would hear what sounded like the claws of a huge dog scratching on the walls outside. The ghost sometimes shrieked and howled dire warnings of impending doom. When a neighbor asked the ghost to identify itself, it replied, "I am a spirit from everywhere, Heaven, Hell, the Earth. I am in the air, in houses, any place at any time." Later it claimed to be the spirit of a person who had been buried in the nearby woods, whose grave had been dug up and his bones scattered.

One neighbor, Kate Batts, was very angry with Mr. Bell over some business dealings. A few people in town suspected that Kate was a witch and that she was hexing the Bell home, hence the name the Bell Witch.

Poltergeist activities almost always occur in households with teen or preteen daughters. Mischievous -- and in Betsy's case, maybe even seriously disturbed -- children are usually the focus of such hauntings. More about that later, too!

Text copyright © 2009 by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld

Meet the Author

Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld’s books include Did Dinosaurs Have Feathers?, Terrible Tyrannosaurs, and Dinosaur Babies, which School Library Journal said “will be welcomed with deserved delight by young dinophiles.” She has also written Dinosaur Parents, Dinosaur Young, an ALA Notable Book. She lives in Berkeley, California.

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