As promised, here are a few Halloween reads for your Catholic family. If your home is blessed with a fire place, you can gather your kids around it and read to them because ghost stories are always better in company. You could begin with poetry recitals. Here are three famous ballads, two gloomy ones and one a grotesquely funny tall tale:
Edgar Alan Poe: The Raven
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: The Erlking
Robert W. Service: The Cremation of Sam McGhee
How was this? Are you warmed up for some slightly spooky picture books?
This is an excellent abbreviated retelling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. The story tells about Ichabod Crane, teacher in a small town on the Hudson River who meets the legendary headless horseman one fateful night.
Tam Lin is Jane Yolen's beautiful retelling of a Scottish ballad. On her sixteenth birthday, brave Janet Mackenzie goes up to the ruined manor of Carterhaugh to claim it for her inheritance. The place is haunted by the fairies and Janet needs all her courage, faith and holy water to liberate fairie captive Tam Lin along with her house.
Here is a whole book of Scottish tales: Sea-Spell And Moore Magic by Sorche Nic Leodhas has long been our family classic for Halloween reading. These ghost stories are beautifully told and only very mildy spooky. The Scots and Irish seem to have a special dread free relationship with ghosts who are mostly treated as part of the family - which they often are. Unfortunately, this book is out of print. Grab it, if you can find a second hand copy.
Father Phillip Tells a Ghost Story: A Story of Divine Mercy by Susan A. Brindle is a lovely book teaching kids about the holy souls in purgatory through legends of the Saints.
Oscar Wilde's The Canterville Ghost is a gentle ghost story which starts with Wilde's witty humor setting the mood but evolves into a moving tale of compassion and redemption.
This edition is a wonderful graphic novel version illustrated by Sean Michael Wilson and containing the original text by Oscar Wilde.
Beowulf: Dragon Slayer is Rosemary Sutcliffe's masterful prose version of the medieval Beowulf epic. This lady is a great writer who preserves the power and beauty of the original in her very readable prose. Our family has read several versions of the story about the hero Beowulf battling the monster Grendel but Rosemary Sutcliff's is far superior.
The following is more chilling reading material for young adults:
In the nineteenth century, medicine was advancing quickly in the physical as well as the psychiatric field. The question of ethical practices arose and many writers of Gothic novels describe the horrible consequences of irresponsible scientific experiments.
For today's readers, the famous Frankenstein written by Mary Shelley at the tender age of eighteen is not so much a horror story but a cautionary tale warning us about usurping God's role as creator of life.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is another gothic tale of an irresponsible experiment gone horribly wrong.