Monday, October 14, 2013


A number of years ago, an editor challenged me to write a story about goblins. I wasn't sure I could. First of all, I didn't know too much about goblins. After a little research, I decided it would be fun to do a story set in pre-World War Eastern Europe where many people were fearful of goblins. So I had a setting, just not a plot. I was stumped until I remembered something that had happened in my past—a true spooky experience perfect for a fictional story about goblins. Here’s what happened.

In 1989, I moved to Nashville to a sprawling one-story house. Shortly after we moved in, we began hearing moaning sounds, particularly near the master bedroom. I would comb my hair at the mirror listening to “AWOOO.” The house had no real basement, just a crawl space you could see from inside the garage.  If you wanted to find out where the sound was coming from, you had to wiggle on your belly across the dirt in the darkness. Definitely not for me. My husband was not interested, either. But on and off, we kept hearing this “AWOO” floating up from under the house. We joked we had a moaning ghost in the house.

Armed with the memory of this incident, I wrote “The Goblin In The Synagogue Cellar,” which was published in the October 2005 issue of Spider Magazine. This story is about a town of fearful people in Eastern Europe with overactive imaginations. They hear a strange noise in the cellar and imagine an enormous green monster with red eyes and claws as long as knives. After much teeth gnashing and hand wringing, they learn that the moaning culprit is a little cat trapped in the basement.

Which is more or less what happened at my new house in Nashville. We figured out it was a kitty and lured it out of the darkness with a bowl of milk. However, unlike the characters in my story, we did not name the cat, “Goblin,” and keep it as a pet. Our trapped cat darted through the open garage door for his own home.

I am sure you have experienced a spooky moment or two in your life. An unexplained knock on a door. A strange noise coming out of the vent. An object mysteriously moved. A flash of light followed by the thump of feet on the stairs. But there is no one else in the house. What was it?

Share these experiences with your students and ask them to share spooky moments with you. You might hear a funny story about a little boy who hid under the bed when he heard a thumping sound in the closet, only to learn later that it was the dog. I’ve heard stories about moaning sounds coming from vents, toilets that flushed by themselves, and wall panels that mysteriously moved. All of these spooky moments are great ideas for personal narratives or fiction writing.

While not all schools or families recognize Halloween, children still see decorations everywhere and television episodes on this holiday. Writing about a spooky moment can give everyone an opportunity to share in October excitement. Most of us can remember a time when we were scared of an unexplained noise that turned out to be nothing.

Make pencils to fly across the page like a broomstick in the sky. Ask your students to write about their own spooky moment!

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