I have written a few ghost novels: Something Upstairs, The Book Without Words, Devil’s Race, plus a few short ghost stories. My readers often ask, “Do you believe in ghosts?” My answer is, “No, but I believe in ghost stories.” (See blog posts for November 15, 2012 and December 11, 2014). Each year I read, A Christmas Carol, a ghost story.
Now I am about to publish (spring 2016) a new ghost novel, The School of the Dead. It came about because I visited a school which had been converted from a very elegant private mansion into a private school. Another school I visited is a converted mental institution which has a troubled tradition of its own ghost. In these schools much of the old architecture was preserved, which makes them fairly unique. It was these curious mixes of the new (young, modern students) and the old (the buildings themselves), which gave rise to the idea that led me to this novel.
Think about it: schools are full of memories, both actual and fanciful. The building itself might be very old. My public elementary school, built in the 1920’s still stands, and is still a school. (Down the block is the earlier school, now converted into an apartment building.) In many schools there are the sports trophies from years back, portraits of retired teachers and/ or principals, pictures of illustrious alumni. In one of the schools mentioned above, the library is a formal chapel—actually quite lovely, but, well, strange. Sometime the schools are named after someone from the past. In many schools you’ll see rather old class rooms and, not infrequently, very old books. Quite often you will see returning students whose happiest days were in that particular school, who have come back to capture a bit of that time. Maybe they are ghosts. As one of the characters in the books says, “Nothing is emptier than a deserted school.”
These days, schools often have elaborate Halloween events, with everyone, including faculty and staff, in costume. What could be a better setting for a ghost story? And so it is: The School of the Dead.