Bedtime ghost stories

I’m reading Jane Eyre to the older two kids. They drag their feet when it comes time to read—the book is filled with highfalutin language—but they follow the story well enough and seem to mostly enjoy it once I get going. And now that we’re getting deeper into the book, the spooky stuff is starting up, hehehehe.

The other night, here’s how it went down. (Jane is the one talking.)

…I started wide awake on hearing a vague murmur, peculiar and lugubrious, which sounded, I thought, just above me.

I slowed my reading and my voice dropped a couple notches.

I wished I had kept my candle burning: the night was drearily dark; my spirits were depressed. I rose and sat up in bed, listening. The sound was hushed.

A weighty pause, and then:

I tried again to sleep; but my heart beat anxiously: my inward tranquillity was broken. The clock, far down the hall, struck two.

Miss Beccaboo shot up from her spot on the hearth, dived onto the sofa next to me, and burrowed her head into my rib cage. I roared with laughter and had to take several deep breaths to steady my voice before I could continue.

Just then it seemed my chamber-door was touched; as if fingers had swept the panels in groping a way along the dark gallery outside. I said, “Who is there?” Nothing answered. I was chilled with fear.

Then, in the next paragraph, Jane remembered that the dog sometimes comes upstairs. This new thought much relieved her and she relaxed. But,

A dream had scarcely approached my ear, when it fled affrighted, scared by a marrow-freezing incident enough.

This was a demoniac laugh—low, suppressed, and deep—

And here I laughed as low and demoniac as possible—

Uttered, as it seemed, at the very key-hole of my chamber-door. The head of my bed was near the door, and I thought at first the goblin-laughter stood at my bedside—or rather, crouched by my pillow—

Yo-Yo grabbed the skin under his eyes and pulled down on it while simultaneously rolling his eyeballs back in his head. “Look at this, guys! Like this? Mwah-ha-ha!” Miss Beccaboo plunged deeper into the cushions and I burst out laughing all over again. “Cut that out!” I scolded, and then tried, unsuccessfully, to rout Miss Beccaboo out of my underarm.

But I rose, looked round, and could see nothing: while as I still gazed, the unnatural sound was reiterated: and I knew it came from behind the panels. My first impulse was to rise and fasten the bolt; my next again, to cry out, “Who is there?”

Something gurgled and moaned.

Later, when I read this to my husband, his eyes got all big. “Good grief! You’re reading that to the kids? It’s a wonder they can sleep at all!”

So now I’m wondering: am I the only one who takes a perverse delight in scaring the pants off my kids?

It really is glorious fun. Maybe you’d like to break out the Jane Eyre and try it sometime? Give them some toast and milk, curl up by the fire for a little beddy-bye story, and then kiss them sweetly and send them, teeth chattering, off to bed. (Mwah-ha-ha-ha.)

*Pictures taken during a movie, not when I was reading Jane Eyre, but you get the idea.

This same time, years previous: a religious education and butterscotch pudding


  • Marie M.

    Do you enjoy scary books? Scary movies? Me? I hate them. I did read Jane Eyre many years ago. Like a half-century ago. Loved the ending, loved the writing. Hated the suffering of Jane's friend and the horrors of Jane's life. Some children get a thrill from scary stuff. Maybe yours do?

  • Anonymous

    When I was young, I had a horrible recurring nightmare: a man doing eye-removal surgery in an elevator, using tweezers, asking for volunteers (no drugs, of course). The next scene was a warehouse, conveyor belts carried wooden boxes filled with eyeballs-on-ice to who knows where. I was about eight at the time, from a conservative family, never saw anything scarier than The Six Million Dollar Man…

    I do have a couple of kids who would enjoy a good scare, and those I send off with Papa for some occasional scary fun. But the rest are sensitive spirits like their mama–we can do suspense very well (The Secret of the Cave is a favorite), but scary thrillers? I'll take a pass, thanks! 🙂

    Louisa J.

  • Crystal

    I thoroughly enjoyed Jane Eyre when I read it in high school, but I don't remember it being scary. The idea of scaring the pants off my children holds no thrill for me, because I'm sure that neither of them would be able to go to sleep and would probably wake up scared in the middle of the night. Getting to sleep and staying asleep are still issues and I for one, would not want to be the one to blame for anything related to sleep trouble. But, hey, if it works for you . . .

  • Sue

    My mom used to take us to Betty Davis movies when I was about her age…mom clearly enjoyed scaring the pants off her kids. At 56, I still think about those movies when I stick my hand in a dark room to turn on the light. I haven't read Jane Eyre in a long time and I guess I'm not going to now…thanks for the warning…

  • teekaroo

    I'm not sure I'm going to sleep tonight after reading that! My imagination is way too active for ghost stories and scary movies. Scooby doo is still the scariest thing my kids deal with. Maybe when they're older…

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