[Book Review] Haunted Teachers: True Ghost Stories by Allan Zullo

Has anyone ever told you about the teacher who was haunted by a ghostly visitor?

Have you heard about the kids whose lives were saved by a mysterious young teacher's aide?

Reader beware--these chilling true tales may cause you to forget to do your homework!

Haunted Teachers: True Ghost Stories contains seven stories that are every bit as "true" as the nine stories from Haunted Animals. That is to say, they're definite works of fiction, as stated in the introduction:

This book is a creepy collection of stories about phantoms--especially ghostly teachers--who have haunted teachers and students in the classroom, on the playground, and at home. These eerie tales are inspired, in part, by real-life cases taken from the files of noted ghost hunters. The names and places in the stories are not real.

Why anyone would subtitled a fictional book "True Ghost Stories", only to admit on the first page that it's all bullshit, I haven't the slightest idea.

Click to view spoiler!
The Phantom Rider

When a middle school teacher hears hoofbeats on campus, she meets the ghost of a schoolteacher who died in the Civil War. It's a mediocre ghost story and follows a condensed form of the traditional formula: living person meets dead person, living person learns the story of the dead person, living person helps the dead person "move on", whatever that means. It's nothing groundbreaking, but a child might find it sufficiently spooky.

Curse of the Egyptian Bone

After a teacher steals a bone from an Egyptian tomb, she and her husband are haunted by the ghost of the deceased. This one made me laugh a bit, as it's drowning in "Everything's Better with Princesses". There's absolutely no reason for the mummy to have been a princess, and I feel like the science behind the mummy's decay was, uh, less than factual (though, being far from an expert myself, I can't be sure).

Meanwhile, I'd have appreciated a little more acknowledgement from the narration that stealing cultural artifacts is, you know, not okay. That people other than the ghost of the dead princess find this behavior immoral and culturally insensitive. Alas, this issue wasn't addressed.

The Ghostly Friend

When a new kid transfers to a teacher's school, the teacher and his students are saved by the ghost of the child's father. It's a bit of an interesting take on the typical "a child is saved by his or her deceased relative" ghost story; it's told from an outside perspective, who brings up other explanations (psychic ability, reincarnation) before arriving at "It must be a ghost!"

Time of Death

When a student hears a woman crying in an empty classroom, she stumbles upon the ghost of a deceased teacher from the thirties. Again, this had a rather unique take on an old cliche, that of the ghost who must be "put to rest". In this case, the ghost managed to finish her own unfinished business, and the living character happened to stumble across her final moments as a ghost--which, coincidentally, played out as her final moments as a living human.

...yeah, I'm not entirely sure what that means, either. It was definitely a bit confusing.

Dead Man's Shadow

After taking home bricks from the demolished old schoolhouse, a teacher and his student are plagued by visions of a wrongfully hanged man. While I found one of the character's motives to be rather ludicrous and a key plot element to be somewhat contrived, it's a likely a quite creepy story for a child in the target audience to read.

The Mysterious Tapper

In The Mysterious Tapper, a long-dead boarding school Headmaster gets even with a couple of pranksters. It's not the most interesting story, but I'm sure it'd be entertaining enough to elementary school kids. Fans of the Weasley twins might get a kick out of the "pranksters at boarding school in London" theme.

Heroine from Beyond

When a lunatic takes a school hostage, one of his past victims comes back from the grave to save the day. This is the only one in the book that I have a real problem with; not content with simply diffusing the situation, the ghost woman decides that to resolve the bombing/hostage situation, she's going to set off the bomb. Let me repeat that: to save children from a bomb, she's going to detonate a bomb in the same room as children.

Seriously, the police are outside. They are negotiating with the criminals. They are professionals. This is their job. And still this woman--who is dead, mind you, and won't suffer any physical consequences should her plan fail--decides that she's going to set off a homemade bomb that is sitting beside gasoline because... she's impatient, I guess? She really wanted some glory in the afterlife? I don't know.

I'll just put it this way: in a post-9/11 world, a teacher's aide who purposefully triggered a bomb in an elementary school auditorium filled with teachers and students would not be considered a hero. I assume that must have been different in 1996.

All in all, though, it's not a bad collection of stories. I definitely am not the target age group, so I can't say how spooky or frightening a child might find these stories; to an adult, they're quite boring, and the writing style is far from ideal. But an elementary school child with a taste for the supernatural might get a kick out of the book, and it's far a better option that Haunted Animals, that's for sure.

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