“Good answer, Grandma!”

By Luke

You know how it works:

It’s 1983 and Family Feud host Richard Dawson has a 74-year-old Grandmother named Blanche facing off at the Buzzer Table against a 28-year-old High School Math Teacher.

Richard says, “Name Something You Buy in a Supermarket,” and before he’s even gotten the “-ket” sound out of his mouth, Blanche has slammed the buzzer and shouted out, “Mop!”

Even though you can’t see the studio audience, you know their mouths are hanging open in stunned silence like jugged fish.

Blanche’s family has just seen its collective dream of $10,000 replaced by a year’s supply of Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco Treat.

Finally, after an excruciating three seconds, the grandchildren start clapping, joined by Blanche’s daughter and son-in-law.

“Good answer, Grandma, good answer!,” they all shout, although if you look carefully you can see that the daughter’ll be calling the Pleasant Acres Retirement Home to ask about vacancies as soon as they get off the soundstage.

Richard Dawson bellows out, “Show me ‘Mop!'” and there’s a deafening “Buzz!”

Poor Grandma. She shambles back to her family. She knows where she’s going next week.

If only they could have gone to the taping of “The Price is Right.” She knows how to play that.

***

As the shadows lengthened, they realized they shouldn’t have taken the shortcut. (Photo by Kenth Fagerlund)

Last week I rushed out a blog outlining all the scary things available at Fontana Regional Libraries.
It’s funny, once I started looking, it turns out the stacks really are haunted, with tales stretching back from poor, sad Mr. Poe all the way to Christopher Golden’s “The Boys Are Back in Town.”
So many titles and such a hurry to get posted.
But here’s the thing, the reason I’m feeling a special kinship with Grandma Blanche from all those years ago — I completely ignored all of the spooky things for young people that are lurking among the shelves.

If you’re a kid, you’re probably familiar with the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine. These are shivery standalone stories about kids just like you, getting into all sorts of dire situations. Most of the stories have a happy ending. Most of them.

The Goosebumps tales are great for an easy book report. Their stories pull you along, so much that you may find yourself staying up just a little bit later to finish a chapter (or reading with a flashlight after Lights Out). The book covers themselves are pretty disturbing and perfectly set the mood for the tale within.

Alvin Schwartz has gathered stories from folklore for “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” (and its subsequent volumes). These are some of the creepiest yarns you’ll ever come across. Stephen Gammell’s accompanying illustrations look like something dredged up from your deepest nightmares, the ones that you’re grateful to escape from, that leave your sheets and pillow drenched with unease.

There’s also “Spooky Campfire Stories” by Amy Kelly. She’s put together an assortment of wicked tales that have delighted their audiences for centuries.

And here’s the cool thing about the yarns you’ll find in “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” and “Spooky Campfire Stories” — they’re easy to remember and embellish. That means you can make them your own and share them with your friends. Believe me, they’ll kill at sleepovers or on long field-trip bus rides.

Some of these ghastly tales may seem comfortably remote, but this corner of Western North Carolina is strewn with

   You’ll find that scary places aren’t just found in books. (Photo by Rusty Boxcars)

haunted sites. If you’d like to explore the shadowed world that’s so very close, check out “Mountain Ghost Stories and Curious Tales of Western North Carolina;” “Mariah of the Spirits and Other Southern Ghost Stories;” “Haunted Hills: Ghosts and Legends of Highlands and Cashiers,” “Ghosts of the Southern Mountains and Appalachia;” and “North Carolina Ghosts and Legends.”

If you’re an older kid or a brave younger kid, try out “A Tale Dark and Grimm” or “The Monstrumologist.” “Tale” is a gruesome retelling of Hansel and Gretel (and a couple of other fairy tales) that’s fun and bloody and full of unexpected turns.”The Monstrumologist” is a coming-of-age story about a young apprentice to a scientist dedicated to fighting incredibly ghastly creatures. If Stephen King had collaborated with Charles Dickens, well, here it is.

Whatever you end up reading, just remind yourself that, “It’s only a story.”

Happy Halloween!

Maybe you should keep a nightlight on. (Photo courtesy of Rusty Boxcars)