Saturday, October 23, 2021

1977 children's book about actual (maybe) haunted house

Raintree Publishers had a little run in the 1970s with books for children about the paranormal, cryptids and UFOs. And who can blame them for trying to make a buck? Those topics were all the rage, with Leonard Nimoy's In Search Of... one of the leaders of the pack. 

A couple of years ago, I wrote about Raintree's The Case of the Ancient Astronauts. You can check out some of the other Raintree book covers at The Trash Collector and this 2012 post on The Haunted Closet blog.

Today, as part of Mild Fear 2021, here's another Raintree offering...
  • Title: This House is Haunted!
  • Author: Elizabeth P. Hoffman (1921-2003). More on her in a bit.
  • Illustrator of awesome cover: Lynn Sweat
  • Publisher: A Contemporary Perspectives Inc. (CPI) book distributed by Raintree Children's Books, Milwaukee
  • Year: 1977
  • Pages: 48
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Original price: Unknown
  • Interior illustrator: Wayne Atkinson
  • Interior photographs: Courtesy Elizabeth P. Hoffman
  • Chapter titles: The Dream, We Find Our House, Knives and Scissors, The Lady in the Hall, Clara!, Arthur Ford Pays a Visit, Eileen Garrett Helps Us.
  • First sentence: The author of this story claims that it is a true one.
  • Last paragraph: Our house is now haunted by happy memories. And who knows, in the next hundred years more ghosts may turn up! Maybe they'll be our own ghosts!
  • Random sentence from the middle #1: We went through a lot of housekeepers during the next few years.
  • Random sentence from the middle #2: When the rocking chair moved, we shouted at her to go away.
  • Amazon rating: 4.8 stars (out of 5)
  • Amazon review: In 2018, "rg7722" wrote: "Lived right next to this house as a child. Early 60's through early 70's. The book is more of a documentary than a children's nighttime story. True to the talk about town at the time. It is said a girl drowned on the property as well. Not true. She was pulled from the concrete pond by a woman 7mths pregnant who couldn't swim. My mother." 
  • So, where is this house? In the book, Hoffman describes it as being in "Beechwood, Pennsylvania." A 1992 article by Melanie Novak in The (Allentown) Morning Call is much more precise: "A professional librarian and amateur ghost hunter, Hoffman speaks of her paranormal experiences in a disarmingly matter-of-fact manner. Perhaps it comes from sharing a house with the ghost of an irascible widow named Clara. Clara plagued Hoffman's family for several years of their residence at Beechwood, a former inn in Havertown built in 1757." (Havertown is an unincorporated community in Haverford Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Beechwood is one of its neighborhoods. Pennsylvania names and places are very complicated.)
  • More about Hoffman: That Morning Call article is the most in-depth piece I found on Hoffman, and it includes information about the other paranormal books she authored. According to this obituary notice, she got her undergraduate degree from Dickinson College in 1942, was an elementary school teacher in Pennsylvania in the 1950s and early 1960s, and received a library-science degree at Drexel University in 1961. It continues: "She was then hired as coordinator of the division of school libraries for the Pennsylvania Department of Education in 1966. In 1975 she joined the faculty at Villanova University as an associate professor of library science and chair of the department until 1978, and the next year she became director of the [Haverford] Township Free Library in Pennsylvania until her retirement in 1991."
  • Quote from Hoffman: According to this 2003 post by Jade Walker on The Blog of Death, Hoffman once said, "I write books to encourage children to read. No one wants to read about broccoli. I want to write about what kids read."
  • Memories of Hoffman: A 2017 post on the Facebook group "Growin' up in Havertown, PA" asked the question "Who remembers the librarian, Mrs. Hoffman? They did a story on her haunted house!!" The post drew more than 100 comments. Here are some of them:
  • "She was my neighbor! I was at the house all the time, it was old but not haunted."
  • "She was the best, we were neighbors for many years and yes the house is still there."
  • "I used to hang out with Wes and spent quite a few nights at their house. Spooky it was."
  • "I remember her well! Attended a fall party at their home when I was in high school. Mrs. Hoffman sat by the fire in the basement room of their amazing home and told us wonderful stories of their resident ghost."
  • "I was in that house several times. There was a cold spot."
  • "Glad there weren't any flying scissors in the house when we were there."
  • "Worked on her house back in the 80's. Nice lady, but that place thoroughly creeped me out. ... Told her the chimes of her grandfather clock were off time. She then told me she didn't have one."
  • "She was the best librarian and fostered my love of reading which continues to this day!"
Photos from inside This House is Haunted!

1 comment:

  1. Great Blog! I just found you ! I have given you a plug on mine.
    Keep Up The Good Work!
    Best Wishes from Tony.