Thursday, April 8, 2010

Uncover the Secret of the Horrible Haunted Mansion

Technically speaking, Uncover the Secret of the Horrible Haunted Mansion (2005, Umbrella Publishing, written by Helen Otway, illustrated by Gary Andrews), a "Shine-A-Light" storybook about three youngsters that explore a spooky old neighborhood haunted house, isn't yet old enough to belong in this dusty old Haunted Closet, but I thought it was too neat to skip.

The reader is invited not only to join the midnight excursion through the dark mansion, but to lead the way, using the included "Shine-A-Light" flashlight. What does that mean, exactly?

Well, for starters, there is no electronic light-emitting device involved. Instead, you get this flat cardboard die-cut illustration of a flashlight and its beam. What good is that, you wonder?

Certain rooms in the mansion are illustrated on a sheet of transparent plastic (like an animation cel), but overlayed on a black background, making it too dark to see much of anything, like this darkened foyer.

But by slipping the "magic" flashlight into a slit on the edge of the page (inserting it between the cel and the background) you can slide it around to reveal portions of the room, as if illuminating it with a flashlight beam. Here it reveals a pair of suits of armor guarding the staircase. There is also a rat, a growling guard dog, and a broken candelabra waiting to be discovered elsewhere on the page.

Here's another room, a spooky basement. What's that in the darkened corner?

The magic flashlight reveals an occupied coffin and a ghostly, mourning woman.

This is a really short book (12 pages, and only 3 of those require the flashlight) but the illustrations are great, and the whole "shine-a-light" gimmick is unique. Uncover the Secret of the Horrible Haunted Mansion is already out of print but can be found on the second-hand market, here.

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