Into The Grey by Celine Kiernan

intothegreyI wanted to have a twin when I was little. Even last week I was thinking to myself: ‘You know who would get that joke I just told?  My twin.’ If she got stuck with a needle I’d feel it too. If my heart was breaking and I was choking on the pieces I’d have her with me, hurting just as much and helping me plan revenge on the person who tore my heart into bits. But then I thought: ‘Is it really a good idea having two of me stumbling through the world?’

No.

In Celine Kiernan’s YA novel Into the Grey, it’s 1974 and Patrick’s grandmother has burned the house down. Not on purpose. She’s got dementia but back in 1974 they called it senility or having a fit as in ‘Granny put her bra on the outside of her blouse today.’ The short stories and novel Pat had been working on? Gone. Dom’s drawings and sketches? Gone. Their mom and dad hate each other and now that their house has burned down, they hate each other more. The family couch surfs for a couple of weeks before going to a seaside cottage they rent once a year while on holiday.

Patrick and Dom think they’ll die from boredom, surrounded by a closed fairgrounds and the sea. It’s beyond cruel to have a fairground within walking distance only to find that it’s closed for the season. Nothing to look at but tourist shops, the sea, pubs, the sea. What’s that over there? Oh yeah. The sea. One day the boys are out for a walk when they see an old man being ejected from a bar. He’s singing an English tune in an Irish pub. Not a good idea. He gets thrown out of the pub with a warning: “If you come in here again singing your old army songs and wearing your old army poppy, I will have you disappeared.”

Pat and Dom watch the old drunk reel around. The man’s not only close to black out drunk but he seems almost…haunted. And he is. The old man walks into the sea to drown himself. Pat and Dom go in after him, nearly drowning themselves. They manage to get him to the shore and get help from a woman in a small shop. She tells them the old man’s name is James.

So, finding a majorly depressed old drunk who was a soldier in WWI  is kinda on the weird scale of things. But Pat begins to have vivid dreams that aren’t his own, nightmare images of muddy trenches. Dom begins to have nightmares too, only he becomes a ghost of himself. Something wanted Dom and Dom was wide open for a spirit to slip in. Dom says his name is Francis and that Patrick is named Lorry. One night Patrick wakes up in the bottom bunk and sees a small pale hand gripping the sides of Dom’s upper bunk.  It’s a boy. “Maybe ten years old.  White face.  Dark, dark eyes, underscored with deep lines, surrounded by purple shadows.”  I saw that creepy little kid from The Grudge when I read the description of the small boy.

Soon Dom is lost to Patrick and Patrick thinks Dom’s soul has flown the coop never to be seen or felt again. Francis, a soldier from WWI, has hijacked his body and isn’t going to give it up.

I don’t do spoilers. I won’t ruin a book for anyone.  Unless I hate them. Then I will blast the entire plot on a boom box and hold it over my head at my enemy’s house a la John Cusack in that one movie that I can’t remember the name of but I remember being annoyed by the movie but confused because I really liked John Cusack. What was I saying?  Celine Kiernan has written a seemingly simple young adult novel about the relationship between siblings. It’s not a simple book at all. It reads like a fast paced thriller but it’s about what you would do for your brother or sister, how far would you go to keep them safe and sound. Evidently, battling for your sibling’s soul is pretty high on the list of “Hey, brat. I rescued you from purgatory. Now gimme your fries.”

Haunt Locally

I grew up in what’s known as one of the most haunted small towns in America. Alton, IL is home to haunted mansions, schools, and churches. Ghost sightings and spooky histories are more abundant than actual people to tell the tales. There was never a shortage of material for the ghost stories we told around bonfires on chilly autumn evenings.

And guess what? The greater Seattle area is full of similar spots and stories, just waiting for you to explore and discover. Even better? The library has several books to help you find ghostly hot spots and haunted locales.

The easiest way to see as many haunted locations as possible is to follow the driving routes in Washington’s Haunted Hotspots by Linda Moffitt. There are 17 separate road trips, taking you from one end of the Evergreen State to the other. Everett falls in chapter 7 and includes some familiar local buildings. The Rucker Mansion, for instance, is said to be haunted by Bethel Rucker’s mother-in-law Jane, who died in the home of natural causes. Jane must have been a virtuoso in her day, because now she can be heard playing the piano when no one else is at home. Everett High School is also mentioned as being haunted by a man wandering the halls. A construction worker fell to his death when the school was being built—could this be the same man?

Spooked in Seattle by Ross Allison is another book packed with local ghostly lore. Each chapter centers on a different Seattle neighborhood. Most locals are familiar with ghost stories surrounding some of these spooky hotspots, like the Seattle Underground, Smith Tower, and Pike Place Market. But the Museum of Flight, Fremont Troll, and even the Rite-Aid in West Seattle are also apparently visited by spirits from the great beyond. Familiarize yourself with some of the more obscure tales and impress out-of-town guests the next time you head down to the Big City.

While it has the fewest photos, the best written book of the bunch is Ghost Hunter’s Guide to Seattle and Puget Sound by Jeff Dwyer. Don’t be put off by the sections of serious ghost hunting information in this book. Sure, I giggled at the thought of Dr. Venkman and Dr. Spengler running around Capitol Hill on the trail of Slimer. But I urge you to look past that to the wealth of ghost stories that are sandwiched in between ghost hunting tips and ghost sighting report forms. From Manresa Castle in Port Townsend to the Mount Baker Theatre in Bellingham, this book covers much more than just the Emerald City. You may be particularly interested in the story about the haunting at the Historic Everett Theatre on Colby:

For nearly thirty years, patrons, theater staff members, and renovators have reported encounters with an elderly male presence. Many have gotten the impression that this ghost is a devoted patron or a former employee. Psychic investigations of the site have confirmed the presence of a spirit. The entity has been located in the balcony, the aisles of the main floor, backstage, and in the lobby near the four white columns.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, I guarantee you’ll find at least one story to interest you in these tomes. In fact, if you’re planning a bonfire and an evening of storytelling, be sure to pick up a copy of one (or all) of these books. When you read some of these stories out loud, you’ll have your audience in the palm of your hand.

Carol