Wednesday, July 18, 2012

EBENEZER'S LOCKER: A Ghost Story for Kids

by Anne E. Johnson

Ebenezer's Locker is a paranormal mystery novel for tweens. It offers adventure, humor, and lots of action. And it's exciting but not extremely spooky, making it perfect for kids 8-12 years old.


A century ago, Corbin Elementary School's building housed Dr. Ebenezer Corbin's School for Psychical Research. A couple of old spirits are still wandering the halls. It's up to sixth-grader Rhonda Zymler to find out what they want.

The more Rhonda digs, the more perilous her task becomes, and to complete it she must take two trips back in time. This story blends the realities of an economically-challenged modern American town with supernatural elements. What Rhonda finds not only gives her life a sense of purpose, but changes the fortunes of her entire town.

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EXCERPT 1, the windy attack: The ghost of Ebenezer has a rival, and Rhonda meets this mean ghost in the form of a wind storm that surprises her when she's in the gym supply closet.

Last period on Fridays we had gym class. I didn’t mind it much for most of the year. But when the weather turned hot in May, I couldn’t stand all the running around. All I wanted was to cool down. It would have been different if we could have gone swimming after school. Sadly, there weren’t any public pools in Marklebury. We had to go all the way to Lancington just for a swim. So we got hot and stayed hot.
As usual, we changed into T-shirts and shorts in the girls’ bathroom. The high school had gym locker rooms, but we didn’t. Once we changed, we all tromped out onto the school’s back lot to jog in a big circle in the 90-degree outdoor oven. I was actually relieved when our gym teacher, Mr. Turner, sent me back inside to fetch the kick balls from the supply closet.
Breathing in the wonderful air conditioning, I opened the door of the little room and clicked on the light. Right away, I spotted the net bag with the kick balls. But as I reached for it, the door slammed shut behind me. And suddenly it was cold, so cold all my blood turned to jelly. Just as suddenly, I burned. Every bit of me sizzled. And then a strong wind started blowing from one side of the closet to the other, knocking me against a wall.
The light bulb swung sideways and lit up a row of boxes on a shelf. In huge red capital letters, words had been scrawled across the cardboard:
The wind swirled into a hurricane. Baseball gloves, gym uniforms, and lacrosse sticks  blew upward from the floor and downward from the shelves. Balls of all sizes, golf clubs, and bowling pins circled and crashed into each other. I covered my face partly with my arms, but I couldn’t stop staring at this magical storm. Over and over I screamed, batting bats and gloves out of my face.
A case of gallon jugs of cleaning fluid teetered on the brink of a shelf next to a box of bowling balls. Suddenly CRACK! The shelf came loose. Cleaning fluid bottles slid toward me. Bowling balls came hurtling down at me. I rolled up like an armadillo and hoped for a quick death.
And then total silence.
I wasn’t dead. I wasn’t even hurt. Just to be safe, I stayed balled up for a couple of minutes in case the tornado started up again or something else broke loose. But there was no motion besides my shaking body and no sound besides my gasping for air. Peeking out of my invisible armor, I looked for a pool of spilled cleaning fluid and chunks of cracked bowling balls on the floor around me. Nothing but soccer balls and baseballs. I glanced above me at the broken shelf. It was propped up with a golf club, and the heavy boxes had been pushed back to a safe position. Somebody had saved me from the angry ghost!

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EXCERPT 2, the seance room: One of the most delightful things about writing Ebenezer's Locker was doing research about the trappings of the psychic profession, especially as it was practiced a century ago. In this scene, Tallulah Radley, and eighty-something neighborhood psychic, tells Rhonda and her friend Mica about the ways psychics sometimes cheat. 

           Mica walked over to one of the two floor lamps in the room. “I should turn these off, right?”
           “Whatever for?” said the medium. “We won’t be able to see.” She patted the back of the chair Mica was to sit in.
            Mica didn’t budge, though. “Séances are supposed to be in the dark,” she said stubbornly, “or maybe with just one candle.”
            I was glad she’d brought that up, since I’d been thinking the same thing. But Tallulah was not pleased. She didn’t sound like a cookie-baking grandma now. “Young lady, sit down this instant.”
            Mica, looking as stunned as I was, followed the order.
            “Dark-room séances are the last refuge of charlatans,” Tallulah said.
            I didn’t get it. “The last what?”
            She sighed sharply. “I’ll say it in simple modern words for you young people. Only phonies have to turn out the lights at séances, so they can cheat.”
            “What kind of cheating?” asked Mica in a tiny voice.
            Tallulah stood, her voice full of emotion. “Some cheaters have an assistant hide in a cabinet and tap on the wood, pretending to be a spirit communicating.” She drew her hands above her head in a circling motion. “Some have wire puppets draped in sheets that float across the ceiling.”
I thought she was done, but no.  She seemed near tears. “I’ve seen phonies keep objects in hidden drawers under the table.”
“Why?” whispered Mica.
“So they can sneak them out as if a spirit made them appear. Some will hold a client’s sealed letter to their head and heart and pretend to absorb its meaning.” Tallulah mimed pressing an envelope to her forehead, eyes closed, very dramatic. Then she opened her eyes wide and shouted, “But actually, they drip rubbing alcohol on it so they can read through the envelope. And you know what some fakers do to make it seem like a spirit has appeared in a darkened room?”
            We shook our heads, afraid to speak.
            “Well, I’ll tell you. They dip gauzy white cloth in glow-in-the-dark paint. And they hide the cloth…” She gasped, as if amazed at her own story. “Well, they hide it in their underwear, children! I will not be compared to these razzle-dazzle snake-oil salesmen.” She plopped down in her chair, limp and exhausted.

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EBENEZER'S LOCKER is available in all e-book formats from MuseItUp Publishing.


Pat McDermott said...

8-12 year olds? I think this story is fascinating, and I'm, um, a tad older than that. Well done, Anne!

Rosalie Skinner said...

Cool excerpts... I agree with Pat, why should the kids have all the fun. These sound great. I am adding them to my 'to read list'. Tallulah is a great character. Thanks for introducing her in this glimpse.