Scary Books: Humorous Ghost Stories
BY GELETT BURGESS
My attention was first called to the possibility of manufacturing a
practicable ghost-extinguisher by a real-estate agent in San Francisco.
"There's one thing," he said, "that affects city property here in a
curious way. You know we have a good many murders, and, as a
consequence, certain houses attain a very sensational and undesirable
reputation. These house
it is almost impossible to let; you can
scarcely get a decent family to occupy them rent-free. Then we have a
great many places said to be haunted. These were dead timber on my hands
until I happened to notice that the Japanese have no objections to
spooks. Now, whenever I have such a building to rent, I let it to Japs
at a nominal figure, and after they've taken the curse off, I raise the
rent, the Japs move out, the place is renovated, and in the market
The subject interested me, for I am not only a scientist, but a
speculative philosopher as well. The investigation of those phenomena
that lie upon the threshold of the great unknown has always been my
favorite field of research. I believed, even then, that the Oriental
mind, working along different lines than those which we pursue, has
attained knowledge that we know little of. Thinking, therefore, that
these Japs might have some secret inherited from their misty past, I
examined into the matter.
I shall not trouble you with a narration of the incidents which led up
to my acquaintance with Hoku Yamanochi. Suffice it to say that I found
in him a friend who was willing to share with me his whole lore of
quasi-science. I call it this advisedly, for science, as we Occidentals
use the term, has to do only with the laws of matter and sensation; our
scientific men, in fact, recognize the existence of nothing else. The
Buddhistic philosophy, however, goes further.
According to its theories, the soul is sevenfold, consisting of
different shells or envelopes--something like an onion--which are shed
as life passes from the material to the spiritual state. The first, or
lowest, of these is the corporeal body, which, after death, decays and
perishes. Next comes the vital principle, which, departing from the
body, dissipates itself like an odor, and is lost. Less gross than this
is the astral body, which, although immaterial, yet lies near to the
consistency of matter. This astral shape, released from the body at
death, remains for a while in its earthly environment, still preserving
more or less definitely the imprint of the form which it inhabited.
It is this relic of a past material personality, this outworn shell,
that appears, when galvanized into an appearance of life, partly
materialized, as a ghost. It is not the soul that returns, for the soul,
which is immortal, is composed of the four higher spiritual essences
that surround the ego, and are carried on into the next life. These
astral bodies, therefore, fail to terrify the Buddhists, who know them
only as shadows, with no real volition. The Japs, in point of fact, have
learned how to exterminate them.
There is a certain powder, Hoku informed me, which, when burnt in their
presence, transforms them from the rarefied, or semi-spiritual,
condition to the state of matter. The ghost, so to speak, is
precipitated into and becomes a material shape which can easily be
disposed of. In this state it is confined and allowed to disintegrate
slowly where it can cause no further annoyance.
This long-winded explanation piqued my curiosity, which was not to be
satisfied until I had seen the Japanese method applied. It was not long
before I had an opportunity. A particularly revolting murder having been
committed in San Francisco, my friend Hoku Yamanochi applied for the
house, and, after the police had finished their examination, he was
permitted to occupy it for a half-year at the ridiculous price of three
dollars a month. He invited me to share his quarters, which were large
and luxuriously furnished.
For a week, nothing abnormal occurred. Then, one night, I was awakened
by terrifying groans followed by a blood-curdling shriek which seemed
to emerge from a large closet in my room, the scene of the late
atrocity. I confess that I had all the covers pulled over my head and
was shivering with horror when my Japanese friend entered, wearing a
pair of flowered-silk pajamas. Hearing his voice, I peeped forth, to see
him smiling reassuringly.
"You some kind of very foolish fellow," he said. "I show you how to fix
He took from his pocket three conical red pastils, placed them upon a
saucer and lighted them. Then, holding the fuming dish in one
outstretched hand, he walked to the closed door and opened it. The
shrieks burst out afresh, and, as I recalled the appalling details of
the scene which had occurred in this very room only five weeks ago, I
shuddered at his temerity. But he was quite calm.
Soon, I saw the wraith-like form of the recent victim dart from the
closet. She crawled under my bed and ran about the room, endeavoring to
escape, but was pursued by Hoku, who waved his smoking plate with
indefatigable patience and dexterity.
At last he had her cornered, and the specter was caught behind a curtain
of odorous fumes. Slowly the figure grew more distinct, assuming the
consistency of a heavy vapor, shrinking somewhat in the operation. Hoku
now hurriedly turned to me.
"You hully up, bling me one pair bellows pletty quick!" he commanded.
I ran into his room and brought the bellows from his fireplace. These
he pressed flat, and then carefully inserting one toe of the ghost into
the nozzle and opening the handles steadily, he sucked in a portion of
the unfortunate woman's anatomy, and dexterously squirted the vapor into
a large jar, which had been placed in the room for the purpose. Two more
operations were necessary to withdraw the phantom completely from the
corner and empty it into the jar. At last the transfer was effected and
the receptacle securely stoppered and sealed.
"In formeryore-time," Hoku explained to me, "old pliests sucked ghost
with mouth and spit him to inside of vase with acculacy. Modern-time
method more better for stomach and epiglottis."
"How long will this ghost keep?" I inquired.
"Oh, about four, five hundled years, maybe," was his reply. "Ghost now
change from spilit to matter, and comes under legality of matter as
"What are you going to do with her?" I asked.
"Send him to Buddhist temple in Japan. Old pliest use him for high
celemony," was the answer.
My next desire was to obtain some of Hoku Yamanochi's ghost-powder and
analyze it. For a while it defied my attempts, but, after many months of
patient research, I discovered that it could be produced, in all its
essential qualities, by means of a fusion of formaldehyde and
hypophenyltrybrompropionic acid in an electrified vacuum. With this
product I began a series of interesting experiments.
As it became necessary for me to discover the habitat of ghosts in
considerable numbers, I joined the American Society for Psychical
Research, thus securing desirable information in regard to haunted
houses. These I visited persistently, until my powder was perfected and
had been proved efficacious for the capture of any ordinary house-broken
phantom. For a while I contented myself with the mere sterilization of
these specters, but, as I became surer of success, I began to attempt
the transfer of ghosts to receptacles wherein they could be transported
and studied at my leisure, classified and preserved for future
Hoku's bellows I soon discarded in favor of a large-sized bicycle-pump,
and eventually I had constructed one of my own, of a pattern which
enabled me to inhale an entire ghost at a single stroke. With this
powerful instrument I was able to compress even an adult life-sized
ghost into a two-quart bottle, in the neck of which a sensitive valve
(patented) prevented the specter from emerging during process.
My invention was not yet, however, quite satisfactory. While I had no
trouble in securing ghosts of recent creation--spirits, that is, who
were yet of almost the consistency of matter--on several of my trips
abroad in search of material I found in old manor houses or ruined
castles many specters so ancient that they had become highly rarefied
and tenuous, being at times scarcely visible to the naked eye. Such
elusive spirits are able to pass through walls and elude pursuit with
ease. It became necessary for me to obtain some instrument by which
their capture could be conveniently effected.
The ordinary fire-extinguisher of commerce gave me the hint as to how
the problem could be solved. One of these portable hand-instruments I
filled with the proper chemicals. When inverted, the ingredients were
commingled in vacuo and a vast volume of gas was liberated. This was
collected in the reservoir provided with a rubber tube having a nozzle
at the end. The whole apparatus being strapped upon my back, I was
enabled to direct a stream of powerful precipitating gas in any desired
direction, the flow being under control through the agency of a small
stopcock. By means of this ghost-extinguisher I was enabled to pursue my
experiments as far as I desired.
So far my investigations had been purely scientific, but before long the
commercial value of my discovery began to interest me. The ruinous
effects of spectral visitations upon real estate induced me to realize
some pecuniary reward from my ghost-extinguisher, and I began to
advertise my business. By degrees, I became known as an expert in my
original line, and my professional services were sought with as much
confidence as those of a veterinary surgeon. I manufactured the Gerrish
Ghost-Extinguisher in several sizes, and put it on the market, following
this venture with the introduction of my justly celebrated Gerrish
Ghost-Grenades. These hand-implements were made to be kept in racks
conveniently distributed in country houses for cases of sudden
emergency. A single grenade, hurled at any spectral form, would, in
breaking, liberate enough formaldybrom to coagulate the most perverse
spirit, and the resulting vapor could easily be removed from the room by
a housemaid with a common broom.
This branch of my business, however, never proved profitable, for the
appearance of ghosts, especially in the United States, is seldom
anticipated. Had it been possible for me to invent a preventive as well
as a remedy, I might now be a millionaire; but there are limits even to
Having exhausted the field at home, I visited England in the hope of
securing customers among the country families there. To my surprise, I
discovered that the possession of a family specter was considered as a
permanent improvement to the property, and my offers of service in
ridding houses of ghostly tenants awakened the liveliest resentment. As
a layer of ghosts I was much lower in the social scale than a layer of
Disappointed and discouraged, I returned home to make a further study of
the opportunities of my invention. I had, it seemed, exhausted the
possibilities of the use of unwelcome phantoms. Could I not, I thought,
derive a revenue from the traffic in desirable specters? I decided to
renew my investigations.
The nebulous spirits preserved in my laboratory, which I had graded and
classified, were, you will remember, in a state of suspended animation.
They were, virtually, embalmed apparitions, their inevitable decay
delayed, rather than prevented. The assorted ghosts that I had now
preserved in hermetically sealed tins were thus in a state of unstable
equilibrium. The tins once opened and the vapor allowed to dissipate,
the original astral body would in time be reconstructed and the
warmed-over specter would continue its previous career. But this
process, when naturally performed, took years. The interval was quite
too long for the phantom to be handled in any commercial way. My problem
was, therefore, to produce from my tinned Essence of Ghost a specter
that was capable of immediately going into business and that could haunt
a house while you wait.
It was not until radium was discovered that I approached the solution of
my great problem, and even then months of indefatigable labor were
necessary before the process was perfected. It has now been well
demonstrated that the emanations of radiant energy sent forth by this
surprising element defy our former scientific conceptions of the
constitution of matter. It was for me to prove that the vibratory
activity of radium (whose amplitudes and intensity are undoubtedly
four-dimensional) effects a sort of allotropic modification in the
particles of that imponderable ether which seems to lie halfway between
matter and pure spirit. This is as far as I need to go in my
explanation, for a full discussion involves the use of quaternions and
the method of least squares. It will be sufficient for the layman to
know that my preserved phantoms, rendered radio-active, would, upon
contact with the air, resume their spectral shape.
The possible extension of my business now was enormous, limited only by
the difficulty in collecting the necessary stock. It was by this time
almost as difficult to get ghosts as it was to get radium. Finding that
a part of my stock had spoiled, I was now possessed of only a few dozen
cans of apparitions, many of these being of inferior quality. I
immediately set about replenishing my raw material. It was not enough
for me to pick up a ghost here and there, as one might get old mahogany;
I determined to procure my phantoms in wholesale lots.
Accident favored my design. In an old volume of Blackwood's Magazine I
happened, one day, to come across an interesting article upon the battle
of Waterloo. It mentioned, incidentally, a legend to the effect that
every year, upon the anniversary of the celebrated victory, spectral
squadrons had been seen by the peasants charging battalions of ghostly
grenadiers. Here was my opportunity.
I made elaborate preparations for the capture of this job lot of
phantoms upon the next anniversary of the fight. Hard by the fatal ditch
which engulfed Napoleon's cavalry I stationed a corps of able
assistants provided with rapid-fire extinguishers ready to enfilade the
famous sunken road. I stationed myself with a No. 4 model magazine-hose,
with a four-inch nozzle, directly in the path which I knew would be
taken by the advancing squadron.
It was a fine, clear night, lighted, at first, by a slice of new moon;
but later, dark, except for the pale illumination of the stars. I have
seen many ghosts in my time--ghosts in garden and garret, at noon, at
dusk, at dawn, phantoms fanciful, and specters sad and spectacular--but
never have I seen such an impressive sight as this nocturnal charge of
cuirassiers, galloping in goblin glory to their time-honored doom. From
afar the French reserves presented the appearance of a nebulous mass,
like a low-lying cloud or fog-bank, faintly luminous, shot with
fluorescent gleams. As the squadron drew nearer in its desperate charge,
the separate forms of the troopers shaped themselves, and the galloping
guardsmen grew ghastly with supernatural splendor.
Although I knew them to be immaterial and without mass or weight, I was
terrified at their approach, fearing to be swept under the hoofs of the
nightmares they rode. Like one in a dream, I started to run, but in
another instant they were upon me, and I turned on my stream of
formaldybrom. Then I was overwhelmed in a cloud-burst of wild warlike
The column swept past me, over the bank, plunging to its historic fate.
The cut was piled full of frenzied, scrambling specters, as rank after
rank swept down into the horrid gut. At last the ditch swarmed full of
writhing forms and the carnage was dire.
My assistants with the extinguishers stood firm, and although almost
unnerved by the sight, they summoned their courage, and directed
simultaneous streams of formaldybrom into the struggling mass of
fantoms. As soon as my mind returned, I busied myself with the huge
tanks I had prepared for use as receivers. These were fitted with a
mechanism similar to that employed in portable forges, by which the
heavy vapor was sucked off. Luckily the night was calm, and I was
enabled to fill a dozen cylinders with the precipitated ghosts. The
segregation of individual forms was, of course, impossible, so that men
and horses were mingled in a horrible mixture of fricasseed spirits. I
intended subsequently to empty the soup into a large reservoir and allow
the separate specters to reform according to the laws of spiritual
Circumstances, however, prevented my ever accomplishing this result. I
returned home, to find awaiting me an order so large and important that
I had no time in which to operate upon my cylinders of cavalry.
My patron was the proprietor of a new sanatorium for nervous invalids,
located near some medicinal springs in the Catskills. His building was
unfortunately located, having been built upon the site of a once-famous
summer hotel, which, while filled with guests, had burnt to the ground,
scores of lives having been lost. Just before the patients were to be
installed in the new structure, it was found that the place was haunted
by the victims of the conflagration to a degree that rendered it
inconvenient as a health resort. My professional services were
requested, therefore, to render the building a fitting abode for
convalescents. I wrote to the proprietor, fixing my charge at five
thousand dollars. As my usual rate was one hundred dollars per ghost,
and over a hundred lives were lost at the fire, I considered this price
reasonable, and my offer was accepted.
The sanatorium job was finished in a week. I secured one hundred and two
superior spectral specimens, and upon my return to the laboratory, put
them up in heavily embossed tins with attractive labels in colors.
My delight at the outcome of this business was, however, soon
transformed to anger and indignation. The proprietor of the health
resort, having found that the specters from his place had been sold,
claimed a rebate upon the contract price equal to the value of the
modified ghosts transferred to my possession. This, of course, I could
not allow. I wrote, demanding immediate payment according to our
agreement, and this was peremptorily refused. The manager's letter was
insulting in the extreme. The Pied Piper of Hamelin was not worse
treated than I felt myself to be; so, like the piper, I determined to
have my revenge.
I got out the twelve tanks of Waterloo ghost-hash from the storerooms,
and treated them with radium for two days. These I shipped to the
Catskills billed as hydrogen gas. Then, accompanied by two trustworthy
assistants, I went to the sanatorium and preferred my demand for payment
in person. I was ejected with contumely. Before my hasty exit, however,
I had the satisfaction of noticing that the building was filled with
patients. Languid ladies were seated in wicker chairs upon the piazzas,
and frail anemic girls filled the corridors. It was a hospital of
nervous wrecks whom the slightest disturbance would throw into a panic.
I suppressed all my finer feelings of mercy and kindness and smiled
grimly as I walked back to the village.
That night was black and lowering, fitting weather for the pandemonium I
was about to turn loose. At ten o'clock, I loaded a wagon with the tanks
of compressed cohorts, and, muffled in heavy overcoats, we drove to the
sanatorium. All was silent as we approached; all was dark. The wagon
concealed in a grove of pines, we took out the tanks one by one, and
placed them beneath the ground-floor windows. The sashes were easily
forced open, and raised enough to enable us to insert the rubber tubes
connected with the iron reservoirs. At midnight everything was ready.
I gave the word, and my assistants ran from tank to tank, opening the
stopcocks. With a hiss as of escaping steam the huge vessels emptied
themselves, vomiting forth clouds of vapor, which, upon contact with the
air, coagulated into strange shapes as the white of an egg does when
dropped into boiling water. The rooms became instantly filled with
dismembered shades of men and horses seeking wildly to unite themselves
with their proper parts.
Legs ran down the corridors, seeking their respective trunks, arms
writhed wildly reaching for missing bodies, heads rolled hither and yon
in search of native necks. Horses' tails and hoofs whisked and hurried
in quest of equine ownership until, reorganized, the spectral steeds
galloped about to find their riders.
Had it been possible, I would have stopped this riot of wraiths long ere
this, for it was more awful than I had anticipated, but it was already
too late. Cowering in the garden, I began to hear the screams of
awakened and distracted patients. In another moment, the front door of
the hotel was burst open, and a mob of hysterical women in expensive
nightgowns rushed out upon the lawn, and huddled in shrieking groups.
I fled into the night.
I fled, but Napoleon's men fled with me. Compelled by I know not what
fatal astral attraction, perhaps the subtle affinity of the creature for
the creator, the spectral shells, moved by some mysterious mechanics of
spiritual being, pursued me with fatuous fury. I sought refuge, first,
in my laboratory, but, even as I approached, a lurid glare foretold me
of its destruction. As I drew nearer, the whole ghost-factory was seen
to be in flames; every moment crackling reports were heard, as the
over-heated tins of phantasmagoria exploded and threw their supernatural
contents upon the night. These liberated ghosts joined the army of
Napoleon's outraged warriors, and turned upon me. There was not enough
formaldybrom in all the world to quench their fierce energy. There was
no place in all the world safe for me from their visitation. No
ghost-extinguisher was powerful enough to lay the host of spirits that
haunted me henceforth, and I had neither time nor money left with which
to construct new Gatling quick-firing tanks.
It is little comfort to me to know that one hundred nervous invalids
were completely restored to health by means of the terrific shock which
"DEY AIN'T NO GHOSTS"
BY ELLIS PARKER BUTLER
From the Century Magazine, November, 1911. By permission of the
Century Company and Ellis Parker Butler.
Humorous Ghost Stories Dey Ain't No Ghosts
BY ELLIS PARKER BUTLER
Once 'pon a time dey was a li'l' black boy whut he name was Mose. An'
whin he come erlong to be 'bout knee-high to a mewel, he 'gin to git
powerful 'fraid ob ghosts, 'ca'se dat am sure a mighty ghostly location
whut he lib' in, 'ca'se dey 's a grabeyard in de hollow, an' a
buryin'-ground on de hill, an' a cemuntary in betwixt an' between, an'
dey ain't nuffin' but trees nowhar excipt in de clearin' by de shanty
an' down de hollow whar de pumpkin-patch am.
An' whin de night come erlong, dey ain't no sounds at all whut kin be
heard in dat locality but de rain-doves, whut mourn out,
"Oo-oo-o-o-o!" jes dat trembulous an' scary, an' de owls, whut mourn
out, "Whut-whoo-o-o-o!" more trembulous an' scary dan dat, an' de
wind, whut mourn out, "You-you-o-o-o!" mos' scandalous' trembulous an'
scary ob all. Dat a powerful onpleasant locality for a li'l' black boy
whut he name was Mose.
'Ca'se dat li'l' black boy he so specially black he can't be seen in de
dark at all 'cept by de whites ob he eyes. So whin he go' outen de
house at night, he ain't dast shut he eyes, 'ca'se den ain't nobody
can see him in de least. He jes as invidsible as nuffin'. An' who know'
but whut a great, big ghost bump right into him 'ca'se it can't see him?
An' dat shore w'u'd scare dat li'l' black boy powerful' bad, 'ca'se
yever'body knows whut a cold, damp pussonality a ghost is.
So whin dat li'l' black Mose go' outen de shanty at night, he keep' he
eyes wide open, you may be shore. By day he eyes 'bout de size ob
butter-pats, an' come sundown he eyes 'bout de size ob saucers; but whin
he go' outen de shanty at night, he eyes am de size ob de white chiny
plate whut set on de mantel; an' it powerful' hard to keep eyes whut am
de size ob dat from a-winkin' an' a-blinkin'.
So whin Hallowe'en come' erlong, dat li'l' black Mose he jes mek' up he
mind he ain't gwine outen he shack at all. He cogitate he gwine stay
right snug in de shack wid he pa an' he ma, 'ca'se de rain-doves tek
notice dat de ghosts are philanderin' roun' de country, 'ca'se dey mourn
out, "Oo-oo-o-o-o!" an' de owls dey mourn out, "Whut-whoo-o-o-o!"
an' de wind mourn out, "You-you-o-o-o!" De eyes ob dat li'l' black
Mose dey as big as de white chiny plate whut set on de mantel by side de
clock, an' de sun jes a-settin'.
So dat all right. Li'l' black Mose he scrooge' back in de corner by de
fireplace, an' he 'low' he gwine stay dere till he gwine to bed. But
byme-by Sally Ann, whut live' up de road, draps in, an' Mistah Sally
Ann, whut is her husban', he draps in, an' Zack Badget an' de
school-teacher whut board' at Unc' Silas Diggs's house drap in, an' a
powerful lot ob folks drap in. An' li'l' black Mose he seen dat gwine be
one s'prise-party, an' he right down cheerful 'bout dat.
So all dem folks shake dere hands an' 'low "Howdy," an' some ob dem say:
"Why, dere's li'l' Mose! Howdy, li'l' Mose?" An' he so please' he jes
grin' an' grin', 'ca'se he ain't reckon whut gwine happen. So byme-by
Sally Ann, whut live up de road, she say', "Ain't no sort o' Hallowe'en
lest we got a jack-o'-lantern." An' de school-teacher, whut board at
Unc' Silas Diggs's house, she 'low', "Hallowe'en jes no Hallowe'en at
all 'thout we got a jack-o'-lantern." An' li'l' black Mose he stop'
a-grinnin', an' he scrooge' so far back in de corner he 'mos' scrooge
frough de wall. But dat ain't no use, 'ca'se he ma say', "Mose, go on
down to de pumpkin-patch an' fotch a pumpkin."
"I ain't want to go," say' li'l' black Mose.
"Go on erlong wid yo'," say' he ma, right commandin'.
"I ain't want to go," say' Mose ag'in.
"Why ain't yo' want to go?" he ma ask'.
"'Ca'se I's afraid ob de ghosts," say' li'l' black Mose, an' dat de
particular truth an' no mistake.
"Dey ain't no ghosts," say' de school-teacher, whut board at Unc' Silas
Diggs's house, right peart.
"'Co'se dey ain't no ghosts," say' Zack Badget, whut dat 'fear'd ob
ghosts he ain't dar' come to li'l' black Mose's house ef de
school-teacher ain't ercompany him.
"Go 'long wid your ghosts!" say li'l' black Mose's ma.
"Wha' yo' pick up dat nomsense?" say' he pa. "Dey ain't no ghosts."
An' dat whut all dat s'prise-party 'low: dey ain't no ghosts. An' dey
'low dey mus' hab a jack-o'-lantern or de fun all sp'iled. So dat li'l'
black boy whut he name is Mose he done got to fotch a pumpkin from de
pumpkin-patch down de hollow. So he step'outen de shanty an' he stan' on
de doorstep twell he get' he eyes pried open as big as de bottom ob he
ma's wash-tub, mostly, an' he say', "Dey ain't no ghosts." An' he put'
one foot on de ground, an' dat was de fust step.
An' de rain-dove say', "OO-oo-o-o-o!"
An' li'l' black Mose he tuck anudder step.
An' de owl mourn' out, "Whut-whoo-o-o-o!"
An' li'l' black Mose he tuck anudder step.
An' de wind sob' out, "You-you-o-o-o!"
An' li'l' black Mose he tuck one look ober he shoulder, an' he shut he
eyes so tight dey hurt round de aidges, an' he pick' up he foots an'
run. Yas, sah, he run' right peart fast. An' he say': "Dey ain't no
ghosts. Dey ain't no ghosts." An' he run' erlong de paff whut lead' by
de buryin'-ground on de hill, 'ca'se dey ain't no fince eround dat
buryin'-ground at all.
No fince; jes' de big trees whut de owls an' de rain-doves sot in an'
mourn an' sob, an' whut de wind sigh an' cry frough. An byme-by somefin'
jes' brush' li'l' Mose on de arm, which mek' him run jes a bit more
faster. An' byme-by somefin' jes brush' li'l' Mose on de cheek, which
mek' him run erbout as fast as he can. An' byme-by somefin' grab' li'l'
Mose by de aidge of he coat, an' he fight' an' struggle' an' cry out:
"Dey ain't no ghosts. Dey ain't no ghosts." An' dat ain't nuffin' but de
wild brier whut grab' him, an' dat ain't nuffin' but de leaf ob a tree
whut brush' he cheek, an' dat ain't nuffin' but de branch ob a
hazel-bush whut brush' he arm. But he downright scared jes de same, an'
he ain't lose no time, 'ca'se de wind an' de owls an' de rain-doves dey
signerfy whut ain't no good. So he scoot' past dat buryin'-ground whut
on de hill, an' dat cemuntary whut betwixt an' between, an' dat
grabeyard in de hollow, twell he come' to de pumpkin-patch, an' he
rotch' down an' tek' erhold ob de bestest pumpkin whut in de patch. An'
he right smart scared. He jes' de mostest scared li'l' black boy whut
yever was. He ain't gwine open he eyes fo' nuffin', 'ca'se de wind go,
"You-you-o-o-o!" an' de owls go, "Whut-whoo-o-o-o!" an' de
rain-doves go, "Oo-oo-o-o-o!"
He jes speculate', "Dey ain't no ghosts," an' wish' he hair don't stand
on ind dat way. An' he jes cogitate', "Dey ain't no ghosts," an' wish'
he goose-pimples don't rise up dat way. An' he jes 'low', "Dey ain't no
ghosts," an' wish' he backbone ain't all trembulous wid chills dat way.
So he rotch' down, an' he rotch' down, twell he git' a good hold on dat
pricklesome stem of dat bestest pumpkin whut in de patch, an' he jes
yank' dat stem wid all he might.
"Let loosen my head!" say' a big voice all on a suddent.
Dat li'l' black boy whut he name is Mose he jump' 'most outen he skin.
He open' he eyes, an' he 'gin to shake like de aspen-tree, 'ca'se whut
dat a-standin' right dar behint him but a 'mendjous big ghost! Yas, sah,
dat de bigges', whites' ghost whut yever was. An' it ain't got no head.
Ain't got no head at all! Li'l' black Mose he jes drap' on he knees
an' he beg' an' pray':
"Oh, 'scuse me! 'Scuse me, Mistah Ghost!" he beg'. "Ah ain't mean no
harm at all."
"Whut for you try to take my head?" ask' de ghost in dat fearsome voice
whut like de damp wind outen de cellar.
"'Scuse me! 'Scuse me!" beg' li'l' Mose. "Ah ain't know dat was yo'
head, an' I ain't know you was dar at all. 'Scuse me!"
"Ah 'scuse you ef you do me dis favor," say' de ghost. "Ah got somefin'
powerful important to say unto you, an' Ah can't say hit 'ca'se Ah
ain't got no head; an' whin Ah ain't got no head, Ah ain't got no mouf,
an' whin Ah ain't got no mouf, Ah can't talk at all."
An' dat right logical fo' shore. Can't nobody talk whin he ain't got no
mouf, an' can't nobody have no mouf whin he ain't got no head, an' whin
li'l' black Mose he look', he see' dat ghost ain't got no head at all.
So de ghost say':
"Ah come on down yere fo' to git a pumpkin fo' a head, an' Ah pick' dat
ixact pumpkin whut yo' gwine tek, an' Ah don't like dat one bit. No,
sah. Ah feel like Ah pick yo' up an' carry yo' away, an' nobody see you
no more for yever. But Ah got somefin' powerful important to say unto
yo', an' if yo' pick up dat pumpkin an' sot it on de place whar my head
ought to be, Ah let you off dis time, 'ca'se Ah ain't been able to talk
fo' so long Ah right hongry to say somefin'."
So li'l' black Mose he heft up dat pumpkin, an' de ghost he bend' down,
an' li'l' black Mose he sot dat pumpkin on dat ghostses neck. An' right
off dat pumpkin head 'gin' to wink an' blink like a jack-o'-lantern, an'
right off dat pumpkin head 'gin' to glimmer an' glow frough de mouf like
a jack-o'-lantern, an' right off dat ghost start' to speak. Yas, sah,
"Whut yo' want to say unto me?" inquire' li'l' black Mose.
"Ah want to tell yo'," say' de ghost, "dat yo' ain't need yever be
skeered of ghosts, 'ca'se dey ain't no ghosts."
An' whin he say dat, de ghost jes vanish' away like de smoke in July. He
ain't even linger round dat locality like de smoke in Yoctober. He jes
dissipate' outen de air, an' he gone intirely.
So li'l' Mose he grab' up de nex' bestest pumpkin an' he scoot'. An'
whin he come' to de grabeyard in de hollow, he goin' erlong same as
yever, on'y faster, whin he reckon' he'll pick up a club in case he
gwine have trouble. An' he rotch' down an' rotch' down an' tek' hold of
a likely appearin' hunk o' wood whut right dar. An' whin he grab' dat
hunk of wood----
"Let loosen my leg!" say' a big voice all on a suddent.
Dat li'l' black boy 'most jump' outen he skin, 'ca'se right dar in de
paff is six 'mendjus big ghostes an' de bigges' ain't got but one leg.
So li'l' black Mose jes natchully handed dat hunk of wood to dat bigges'
ghost, an' he say':
"'Scuse me, Mistah Ghost; Ah ain't know dis your leg."
An' whut dem six ghostes do but stand round an' confabulate? Yas, sah,
dass so. An' whin dey do so, one say':
"'Pears like dis a mighty likely li'l' black boy. Whut we gwine do fo'
to reward him fo' politeness?"
An' annuder say':
"Tell him whut de truth is 'bout ghostes."
So de bigges' ghost he say':
"Ah gwine tell yo' somefin' important whut yever'body don't know: Dey
ain't no ghosts."
An' whin he say' dat, de ghostes jes natchully vanish away, an' li'l'
black Mose he proceed' up de paff. He so scared he hair jes yank' at de
roots, an' whin de wind go', "Oo-oo-o-o-o!" an' de owl go',
"Whut-whoo-o-o-o!" an' de rain-doves go, "You-you-o-o-o-!" he jes
tremble' an' shake'. An' byme-by he come' to de cemuntary whut betwixt
an' between, an' he shore is mighty skeered, 'ca'se dey is a whole
comp'ny of ghostes lined up along de road, an' he 'low' he ain't gwine
spind no more time palaverin' wid ghostes. So he step' offen de road fo'
to go round erbout, an' he step' on a pine-stump whut lay right dar.
"Git offen my chest!" say' a big voice all on a suddent, 'ca'se dat
stump am been selected by de captain ob de ghostes for to be he chest,
'ca'se he ain't got no chest betwixt he shoulders an' he legs. An' li'l'
black Mose he hop' offen dat stump right peart. Yes, sah; right peart.
"'Scuse me! 'Scuse me!" dat li'l' black Mose beg' an' plead', an' de
ghostes ain't know whuther to eat him all up or not, 'ca'se he step on
de boss ghostes's chest dat a-way. But byme-by they 'low they let him go
'ca'se dat was an accident, an' de captain ghost he say', "Mose, you
Mose, Ah gwine let you off dis time, 'ca'se you ain't nuffin' but a
misabul li'l' tremblin' nigger; but Ah want you should remimimber one
thing mos' particular'."
"Ya-yas, sah," say' dat li'l' black boy; "Ah'll remimber. Whut is dat Ah
got to remimber?"
De captain ghost he swell' up, an' he swell' up, twell he as big as a
house, an' he say' in a voice whut shake' de ground:
"Dey ain't no ghosts."
So li'l' black Mose he bound to remimber dat, an' he rise' up an' mek' a
bow, an' he proceed' toward home right libely. He do, indeed.
An' he gwine along jes as fast as he kin, whin he come' to de aidge ob
de buryin'-ground whut on de hill, an' right dar he bound to stop,
'ca'se de kentry round about am so populate' he ain't able to go frough.
Yas, sah, seem' like all de ghostes in de world habin' a conferince
right dar. Seem' like all de ghosteses whut yever was am havin' a
convintion on dat spot. An' dat li'l' black Mose so skeered he jes fall'
down on a' old log whut dar an' screech' an' moan'. An' all on a suddent
de log up and spoke:
"Get offen me! Get offen me!" yell' dat log.
So li'l' black Mose he git' offen dat log, an' no mistake.
An' soon as he git' offen de log, de log uprise, an' li'l' black Mose he
see' dat dat log am de king ob all de ghostes. An' whin de king uprise,
all de congergation crowd round li'l' black Mose, an' dey am about leben
millium an' a few lift over. Yas, sah; dat de reg'lar annyul Hallowe'en
convintion whut li'l' black Mose interrup'. Right dar am all de sperits
in de world, an' all de ha'nts in de world, an' all de hobgoblins in de
world, an' all de ghouls in de world, an' all de spicters in de world,
an' all de ghostes in de world. An' whin dey see li'l' black Mose, dey
all gnash dey teef an' grin' 'ca'se it gettin' erlong toward dey-all's
lunch-time. So de king, whut he name old Skull-an'-Bones, he step' on
top ob li'l' Mose's head, an' he say':
"Gin'l'min, de convintion will come to order. De sicretary please note
who is prisint. De firs' business whut come' before de convintion am:
whut we gwine do to a li'l' black boy whut stip' on de king an' maul'
all ober de king an' treat' de king dat disrespictful'."
An li'l' black Mose jes moan' an' sob':
"'Scuse me! 'Scuse me, Mistah King! Ah ain't mean no harm at all."
But nobody ain't pay no attintion to him at all, 'ca'se yevery one
lookin' at a monstrous big ha'nt whut name Bloody Bones, whut rose up
"Your Honor, Mistah King, an' gin'l'min an' ladies," he say', "dis am
a right bad case ob lasy majesty, 'ca'se de king been step on. Whin
yivery li'l' black boy whut choose' gwine wander round at night an'
stip on de king ob ghostes, it ain't no time for to palaver, it ain't no
time for to prevaricate, it ain't no time for to cogitate, it ain't no
time do nuffin' but tell de truth, an' de whole truth, an' nuffin' but
An' all dem ghostes sicond de motion, an' dey confabulate out loud
erbout dat, an' de noise soun' like de rain-doves goin',
"Oo-oo-o-o-o!" an' de owls goin', "Whut-whoo-o-o-o!" an' de wind
goin', "You-you-o-o-o!" So dat risolution am passed unanermous, an' no
So de king ob de ghostes, whut name old Skull-an'-Bones, he place' he
hand on de head ob li'l' black Mose, an' he hand feel like a wet rag,
an' he say':
"Dey ain't no ghosts."
An' one ob de hairs whut on de head of li'l' black Mose turn' white.
An' de monstrous big ha'nt whut he name Bloody Bones he lay he hand on
de head ob li'l' black Mose, an' he hand feel like a toadstool in de
cool ob de day, an' he say':
"Dey ain't no ghosts."
An' anudder ob de hairs whut on de head ob li'l' black Mose turn' white.
An' a heejus sperit whut he name Moldy Pa'm place' he hand on de head ob
li'l' black Mose, an' he hand feel like de yunner side ob a lizard, an'
"Dey ain't no ghosts."
An' anudder ob de hairs whut on de head ob li'l' black Mose turn white
An' a perticklar bend-up hobgoblin he put' he hand on de head ob li'l'
black Mose, an' he mek' dat same remark, an' dat whole convintion ob
ghostes an' spicters an' ha'nts an' yiver'thing, which am more 'n a
millium, pass by so quick dey-all's hands feel lak de wind whut blow
outen de cellar whin de day am hot, an' dey-all say, "Dey ain't no
ghosts." Yas, sah, dey-all say dem wo'ds so fas' it soun' like de wind
whin it moan frough de turkentine-trees whut behind de cider-priss. An'
yivery hair whut on li'l' black Mose's head turn' white. Dat whut
happen' whin a li'l' black boy gwine meet a ghost convintion dat-a-way.
Dat's so he ain' gwine forgit to remimber dey ain't no ghostes. 'Ca'se
ef a li'l' black boy gwine imaginate dey is ghostes, he gwine be
skeered in de dark. An' dat a foolish thing for to imaginate.
So prisintly all de ghostes am whiff away, like de fog outen de holler
whin de wind blow' on it, an' li'l' black Mose he ain' see no ca'se for
to remain in dat locality no longer. He rotch' down, an' he raise' up de
pumpkin, an' he perambulate' right quick to he ma's shack, an' he lift'
up de latch, an' he open' de do', an' he yenter' in. An' he say':
"Yere's de pumpkin."
An' he ma an' he pa, an' Sally Ann, whut live up de road, an' Mistah
Sally Ann, whut her husban', an' Zack Badget, an' de school-teacher whut
board at Unc' Silas Diggs's house, an' all de powerful lot of folks whut
come to de doin's, dey all scrooged back in de cornder ob de shack,
'ca'se Zack Badget he been done tell a ghost-tale, an' de rain-doves
gwine, "Oo-oo-o-o-o!" an' de owls am gwine, "Whut-whoo-o-o-o!" and
de wind it gwine, "You-you-o-o-o!" an' yiver'body powerful skeered.
'Ca'se li'l' black Mose he come' a-fumblin' an' a-rattlin' at de do' jes
whin dat ghost-tale mos' skeery, an' yiver'body gwine imaginate dat he a
ghost a-fumblin' an' a-rattlin' at de do'. Yas, sah. So li'l' black Mose
he turn' he white head, an' he look' roun' an' peer' roun', an' he say':
"Whut you all skeered fo'?"
'Ca'se ef anybody skeered, he want' to be skeered too. Dat's natural.
But de school-teacher, whut live at Unc' Silas Diggs's house, she say':
"Fo' de lan's sake, we fought you was a ghost!"
So li'l' black Mose he sort ob sniff an' he sort ob sneer, an' he 'low':
"Huh! dey ain't no ghosts."
Den he ma she powerful took back dat li'l' black Mose he gwine be so
uppetish an' contrydict folks whut know 'rifmeticks an' algebricks an'
gin'ral countin' widout fingers, like de school-teacher whut board at
Unc' Silas Diggs's house knows, an' she say':
"Huh! whut you know 'bout ghosts, anner ways?"
An' li'l' black Mose he jes kinder stan' on one foot, an' he jes kinder
suck' he thumb, an' he jes kinder 'low':
"I don't know nuffin' erbout ghosts, 'ca'se dey ain't no ghosts."
So he pa gwine whop him fo' tellin' a fib 'bout dey ain' no ghosts whin
yiver'body know' dey is ghosts; but de school-teacher, whut board at
Unc' Silas Diggs's house, she tek' note de hair ob li'l' black Mose's
head am plumb white, an' she tek' note li'l' black Mose's face am de
color ob wood-ash, so she jes retch' one arm round dat li'l' black boy,
an' she jes snuggle' him up, an' she say':
"Honey lamb, don't you be skeered; ain' nobody gwine hurt you. How you
know dey ain't no ghosts?"
An' li'l' black Mose he kinder lean' up 'g'inst de school-teacher whut
board at Unc' Silas Diggs's house, an' he 'low':
"'Ca'se--'ca'se--'ca'se I met de cap'n ghost, an' I met de gin'ral
ghost, an' I met de king ghost, an' I met all de ghostes whut yiver was
in de whole worl', an' yivery ghost say' de same thing: 'Dey ain't no
ghosts.' An' if de cap'n ghost an' de gin'ral ghost an' de king ghost
an' all de ghostes in de whole worl' don't know ef dar am ghostes, who
"Das right; das right, honey lamb," say' de school-teacher. And she
say': "I been s'picious dey ain' no ghostes dis long whiles, an' now I
know. Ef all de ghostes say dey ain' no ghosts, dey ain' no ghosts."
So yiver'body 'low' dat so 'cep' Zack Badget, whut been tellin' de
ghost-tale, an' he ain' gwine say "Yis" an' he ain' gwine say "No,"
'ca'se he right sweet on de school-teacher; but he know right well he
done seen plinty ghostes in he day. So he boun' to be sure fust. So he
say' to li'l' black Mose:
"'T ain't likely you met up wid a monstrous big ha'nt whut live' down de
lane whut he name Bloody Bones?"
"Yas," say' li'l' black Mose; "I done met up wid him."
"An' did old Bloody Bones done tol' you dey ain' no ghosts?" say Zack
"Yas," say' li'l' black Mose, "he done tell me perzackly dat."
"Well, if he tol' you dey ain't no ghosts," say' Zack Badget, "I got
to 'low dey ain't no ghosts, 'ca'se he ain' gwine tell no lie erbout it.
I know dat Bloody Bones ghost sence I was a piccaninny, an' I done met
up wif him a powerful lot o' times, an' he ain't gwine tell no lie
erbout it. Ef dat perticklar ghost say' dey ain't no ghosts, dey ain't
So yiver'body say':
"Das right; dey ain' no ghosts."
An' dat mek' li'l' black Mose feel mighty good, 'ca'se he ain' lak
ghostes. He reckon' he gwine be a heap mo' comfortable in he mind sence
he know' dey ain' no ghosts, an' he reckon' he ain' gwine be skeered of
nuffin' never no more. He ain' gwine min' de dark, an' he ain' gwine
min' de rain-doves whut go', "Oo-oo-o-o-o!" an' he ain' gwine min' de
owls whut go', "Who-whoo-o-o-o!" an' he ain' gwine min' de wind whut
go', "You-you-o-o-o!" nor nuffin', nohow. He gwine be brave as a lion,
sence he know' fo' sure dey ain' no ghosts. So prisintly he ma say':
"Well, time fo' a li'l' black boy whut he name is Mose to be gwine up de
ladder to de loft to bed."
An' li'l' black Mose he 'low' he gwine wait a bit. He 'low' he gwine jes
wait a li'l' bit. He 'low' he gwine be no trouble at all ef he jes
been let wait twell he ma she gwine up de ladder to de loft to bed, too.
So he ma she say':
"Git erlong wid yo'! Whut yo' skeered ob whin dey ain't no ghosts?"
An' li'l' black Mose he scrooge', and he twist', an' he pucker' up de
mouf, an' he rub' he eyes, an' prisintly he say' right low:
"I ain' skeered ob ghosts whut am, 'ca'se dey ain' no ghosts."
"Den whut am yo' skeered ob?" ask he ma.
"Nuffin," say' de li'l' black boy whut he name is Mose; "but I jes feel
kinder oneasy 'bout de ghosts whut ain't."
Jes lak white folks! Jes lak white folks!