Monday, June 11, 2012

Haunted Houses Ghosts & Spectres (Usborne Supernatural Guides, 1979)

One of the more popular posts on this blog is my coverage of 1977's All About Ghosts from Usborne Publishing's World of the Unknown series. I guess there are a lot of folks out there like me who were captivated by this series as a kid after having checked it our repeatedly from the school library.

Usborne followed that up in 1979 with Haunted Houses, Ghosts & Spectres, part of a new series of Supernatural Guides (the other titles were Vampires, Werewolves & Demons and Mysterious Powers & Strange Forces. All three volumes were compiled in a fourth book, Usborne Guide to the Supernatural World, and like the World of the Unknown series, they were all reprinted in the early 90s with new cover art but identical content.)

This is a much smaller sized publication than the World of the Unknown books, and is labeled an "Usborne Pocketbook", because it is tiny enough to fit in your pocket... well, that is if you wear clothes with freakishly large 7" x 4.5" pockets!

And don't assume as I did that this book is merely a Cliff Notes digest version of All About Ghosts . Its actually all new material, illustrations and all. Here are some samples of what you'll find within.

Before we can delve into the world of supernatural hauntings we need to agree on terms. What exactly is a haunted house, anyway?

Don't leave out the haunted castles!

Different types of ghosts are described and defined.

Everyone knows the best ghosts are missing their heads, and this book has a whole spread devoted to them!

In a story reminiscent of The Golden Arm, a ghost returns to retrieve a ring that was stolen from her corpse.

The Lord Dufferin story, in which a ghostly premonition warns "Room for one more!" is covered here but for some reason the author chose to leave out the signature quote from this telling. (This famous ghost story was also covered in the Scholastic classic Strangely Enough by C.B. Colby!)

Did somebody say poltergeist?

The Usborne Supernatural Guides are out of print, but can be found on the second-hand market for reasonable prices.


Marrow said...

It seems all the awesome books I grew up with were made by Usborne. The 'All about ...' series was compiled into 'Mysteries Of The Unknown' - which I re-discovered last year.

This one is absolutely fantastic:

Gumba G Gadwa said...

I had many books of this type when I was young, but I don't remember this one.

This is also the first time I've heard of a ghost who slowly fades into an echo and then is gone. Learn something new everyday!

The "ghostly portents" is something a lot of stories hang up, but the "room for one more" is the great twist you see repeated over and over. It really ratchets up the tension and gives our surrogate a good reason to flee!

Derek Tatum said...

I sometimes see this book from time to time, but I haven't seen the Monsters companion book in decades.

Asclepius said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Asclepius said...

To alleviate the boredom of a car journey today, my kids were asking for a ghost story. I happened to recall the Lord Dufferin story and on returning home, googled the book 'Supernatural World'. I was absolutely captivated by this book as a kid in the 1980s (along with the Know How Book of Spycraft and Detection, the Usborne Book of Spying and The Usborne book of Detection.) I'm thrilled that others appreciated it as well and will be trawling the second-hand book shops for a copy!

Brother Bill said...

I was a fan of the Know-How series too... I covered the haunted house diorama project from The Know-How Book of Paper Fun in an earlier post.

-Alan D Hopewell said...

The Popular Library series of supernatural paperbacks was really good- I owned a bunch of tyhem in the 70's; they were the ones with the four crepy illustrations on the front cover, and two in back.

FunktimusRhyme said...

I just found an absolutely minty copy of the first one: 'All About Ghosts' at my local recycling centre. Ah memories! I must go to Pluckley someday: the 'most haunted village in Britain'.

Guillaume said...

I knew the "All About Ghosts" book, but I didn't know they made these ones too. I need to find them.

Jack Bhakta said...

I checked this book out of the school library multiple times when I was growning up in England. It gave me the heebie jeebies. I still remember one of the stories in that book where a family moved into a house where the father threw out some bones he found in the cellar. one night he awoke in his bed and saw a bloodied ghostly face looking down upon him, he screamed, ran out of the room, and was grabbed around the neck by icy cold, invisible hands... he passed out until morning... then the hauntings stopped... (I think).

Anonymous said...

Yes my brother and I were terrified of that story too "The Blue Ghost" as we called 'him' to the point we imagined it might catch a boat from 19th century America and come to the UK to haunt us. The bloody face is actually copied from a photo of horror actor Lon Chaney in The Phantom Of The Opera!!

HackneyShark said...

Same, I got it out of the school library, read it in bed that night and that story creeped me the hell out. When my Mum turned out the light I lay awake for about an hour, facing the wall because I imagined that bloody, disembodied head floating in my bedroom! The story of Lord Dufferin's ghost and the screaming skull story weren't exactly cozy bedroom reading either. I hope I can find this book again one day. I'd love my kids to read it.