Thursday, 13 August 2015

GREAT GHOSTS OF THE SHELVES #19 - Fun To Know About Ghosts

Now previously in this little series of articles, we have chatted about the wonderful world of the Armada Ghost Books (specifically both here and there), however their fondly remembered line of anthologies wasn't their only venture into the realm of the supernatural, nor was it their only series of books. For Armada had learnt some important lessons in the publishing game, ones which made them one of the top publishers of children's book in the UK for several decades. 

Firstly their paperbacks were always the classic paperback format i.e. handily pocket sized and easily slipped into a blazer pocket or a school bag. Secondly they knew kids always appreciated good cover art, and interior illustrations were a huge bonus draw too. And thirdly Armada recognised that  most children are born collectors - hence if you release a string of books as a series and sell them at pocket money prices, the completist nature of many kids will ensure that the sale of one title will lead to them picking up the rest. 

Hence Armada had many series, often releasing three or fours books on the trot to get the ball rolling. And at the close of the '70s, they launched a new non fiction range, the Fun To Know About series. Now as far as I can tell, this series only ran to four volumes, and obviously today's volume instantly caught my eye... but for the record, the other titles in the series were - 
  • Fun To Know About Dinosaurs (exciting!)
  • Fun To Know About The Mysteries of Space (colour me intrigued!) 
  • Fun To Know About Dogs (hang on, what's this doing in here?)
And although at the time, the volume on dogs very much looked the odd man out in the line-up, with hindsight (and adult eyes) I can see that the range was clearly trying to cover all bases in the market, looking to pick up readers of spooky tales, SF, science, and animals - four categories perennially popular with kids.

Naturally being obsessed with all things spectral and already hooked on the Armada Ghost books series, I snapped up Fun To Know About Ghosts as soon as I saw it. So then delights what did this tome deliver? Well, as was often the case with these kinds of non-fiction ventures for kids at the time (and indeed today) there was a mix of facts, lists, and fun activities with a sprinkling of humour. We kick off with an introduction that asks what are ghosts and discussing the kind of thing the books is going to serve up, and then get on a fun and informative A to Z of different types of ghosts, with related supernatural beings such as werewolves and ghouls creeping in too. Next we have a section on how to be ghost hunter, a piece on ghost photographs and how they were faked in the past, and a selection of ghostly encounters experienced by assorted celebrities. We then have a section on Halloween, in which we get a potted history of the spookiest holiday of the year, and in the most activity orientated part of the book, suggestions for holding a Halloween party. This includes a set of recipes for suitably eerie dishes such as pumpkin pie and  'Ghoul's Blood Tart'!

We then move into a historically themed set of items, which is where this book most overlaps with similar ghostly volumes. For we here have write-ups on the infamous Borley Rectory, the most haunted village in Kent (bonus points if you can name it), royal ghosts and haunted castles. After couple more short chapters detailing unusual and lesser known hauntings we have two long list style sections to round off the book - a round-up of interesting and odd ghostly facts, and finally another A to Z - this time of haunted houses and locations in the British Isles.  

It's a fun little book, and while there was several pieces on  things I was already familiar with (such as the aforementioned Borley Rectory and the pictured above Glamis Castle), there was more than enough new material to make this an indispensable guide to all things ghostly for my younger self. Given its grab-bag nature, this was an ideal tome to have by the bedside for some midnight study into the supernatural. 

Indeed I was so regularly consulting this book, I started looking for other tomes on the supernatural by Mr Sean Richards, but sadly to no avail. However, many years later I would discover that in fact I had already read and indeed owned many volumes by the same author - for 'Sean Richards' was in fact a pen-name of the great Peter Haining, an man we have already encountered several times in this series, and will no doubt be meeting again in the future too... 

And you can hear more about this little tome, including a few little readings, here - Microgoria 05 - Fun To Know About Ghosts

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