Fall in Kentucky is one of my favorite times of year. The leaves are always so beautiful, and the temperatures are usually just perfect after a hot summer. My kids, of course, look forward to Halloween so they can load up on too much candy. When I was little, I loved all the candy but was definitely a scaredy-cat when it came to haunted houses, ghost stories, and scary movies. Not much has changed as I’ve gotten older, and the books presented here definitely caused a shiver to run down my spine.
Louisville’s David Dominé scared the daylights out of me with his first book, Ghosts of Old Louisville. His second book, Phantoms of Old Louisville (McClanahan Publishing House, $21.95), is less bone-chilling, yet still intriguing. Dominé examines more of the history in Old Louisville’s storied mansions, teaching his readers about the structures and their former residents, many of which seem to have never left. Though most of the apparitions in these stories have caused no harm, the sightings of them have caused more than a few hairs to stand on end. Experiences range from the sighting (and hearing) of a piano-playing lady-of-the-house to a disgruntled kitchen worker who causes some mischief when the new homeowner remodels her territory.
More paranormal activity can be explored in Kindred Spirits (Beanpole Books, $8.95) by Julia Watts. Though Watts is from Knoxville, she sets her spooky tale in Wilder, Kentucky. ’Tween Miranda Jasper lives with her grandmother and mother, all of whom have “the Sight,” or the ability to see into others’ minds and the future. The locals think they’re all witches and don’t exactly embrace them or their special gift. Miranda, shunned by her schoolmates, considers her only real friend the ghost of a young girl, Abigail, who lived in the same house many years prior. Abigail visits Miranda frequently, lending a humorous slant as she discovers all the new inventions since her death. When new-boy-in-school Adam befriends Miranda, the two start to uncover, with the help of Miranda’s gift and some ghostly input, the mystery of a double murder that happened in Adam’s house long ago.
Also celebrated during a Kentucky October is the anniversary of the Battle of Perryville, the most important Civil War battle fought on Kentucky soil, on October 8, 1862. Richmond authors Marie Mitchell and Mason Smith teach about this important event in our state’s history in The Lost Dispatch (The Clark Group, $14.99). Twelve-year-old Victoria Johnson isn’t excited about her history class’ participation in the annual battle re-enactment, but at the encouragement of her mother, head of the local Chamber of Commerce, and with the offer of extra credit points, she dons hot and itchy period costumes and her wooden musket to march into battle. She didn’t count on the realistic effects and the fear they invoked, or on finding some interesting links in her great-great-great-grandmother’s journal. Victoria gains a new appreciation of the war and the life of a soldier when she uncovers a missing puzzle piece to the outcome of the battle.