Table of Contents
There's something odd about the old barn....
“Why's it so wet up here?” Blossom asked presently. The place did look damper than before. There was green slime and puddles. “It's like swamp water, ” Blossom said and stopped exploring.
“ALexander, let's go right now. ”
“What's the hurry?” I didn't know what to think.
“Alexander, I'm begging you. Let's go. ” She was looking past me, and that made me turn around.
There on the floor behind me was a footprint. A perfect shape of a foot, including the toes
a girl's probably. Black with water and green with slime. I whirled around to see if Blossom had her shoes and stockings on. She did.
“Blends poignancy and humor in the best American tradition.”
The Horn Book
“A light romp with engaging characters, plenty of laughs, and enough shivery moments to qualify as a mystery, too.”
School Library Journal,
“Tension is cleverly undercut by Peck's ... talent for bringing out the laughable in people.”
BOOKS BY RICHARD PECK
Are You in the House Alone?
Blossom Culp and the Sleep of Death
The Dreadful Future of Blossom Culp
The Ghost Belonged to Me
Ghosts I Have Been
The Great Interactive Dream Machine
Lost in Cyberspace
Representing Super Doll
Through a Brief Darkness
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Books Ltd, 27 Wrights Lane, London W8 5TZ, England Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia
Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcom Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2
Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New Zealand
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England
First published in the United States of America by The Viking Press, 1975
Published in Puffin Books, 1997
Copyright Â© Richard Peck, 1975
All rights reserved
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HAS CATALOGED THE VIKING EDITION AS FOLLOWS:
Peck, Richard. The ghost belonged to me.
Summary: In 1913 in the Midwest a quartet of characters share adventures from exploding steamboats to “exorcising” a ghost.
[1. Ghost stories. 2. Middle WestâFiction] I. Title.
PZ7.P338Gh [Fic] 74-34218
eISBN : 978-1-101-14250-9
This book is dedicated to Dorothy Bush and Helen Bush in friendship
t one time there was a ghost out in the brick barn on the back of our place.
There are several opinions that people hold regarding ghosts, and not one of them would clinch an argument. Some people will swallow the idea of ghosts in general but draw the line at any one ghost in particular. And there are people who will take to ghosts because they're naturally morbid. Or because they're in touch with earlier times, like my great-uncle, Miles Armsworth. Then there are some who claim they are reserving judgment on the entire subject until science has its say.
Since I'm having my say now, I tell you we had a ghost and she haunted our barnloft. It was a girl ghost, and while unnerving, not hideous. And though she was not particularly welcome, she made herself very useful in the weird ways that ghosts operate. You probably wonder why a girl dead many years would take an interest in the activities of living strangers. But as I found out, ghosts have feelings too, and if they are not human, at least they once were.
In a way, the ghost belonged to me. But she was a secret I could not keep, and so other people were drawn in. A boy is hard to believe, as the ghost herself once said. But whether they believed me or not, a number of people would have met a terrible end but for her intervention and mine.
And when you come to consider it from all angles, the ghost even saved my sister Lucille from a fate worse than death. Today, she's Mrs. Lowell Seaforth, one of the most respected young women in town, ask anybody.
While I wasn't ever snatched from death or dishonor myself, the ghost left her mark on me too. It all happened when I was no longer a child nor yet old enough to be anything else. I was getting long in the leg but was still short on experience. This is always a difficult age to sort out or live through. All I know for sure is that ever after the ghost, I was changed somewhat and possibly wiser.
The whole story of this business starts a good while back, as stories will. It was a time when people were still talking about the marvels of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition World's Fair of 1904 held down at St. Louis. At least my mother's cousin, Mrs. Elvera Schumate, talked at length about it. She'd come to money sooner than the rest of us due to marrying the late Mr. Schumate. And where she wanted to go, she went.
Visiting the World's Fair gave her a lifetime of contemplation on mankind's diversity, as she often says. There's hardly a topic you can raise without reminding Cousin Elvera of a point of interest down at the fair.
Because of the ghost, I happened to venture out into the world a good deal farther than St. Louis. But this hasn't stilled Cousin Elvera's voice on the subject of her own experiences which she gladly relates to anybody who'll listen.
“Attend my words, Alexander,” she'll say, grabbing hold of my arm, “the world outside Bluff City is full of mysteries and wonders undreamed of in your limited experience.” There have also been some mysteries and wonders closer to home that confounded even Cousin Elvera, though I don't know as she gives them much thought anymore.
Back at the time of the ghost, electrified street cars were beginning to give Bluff City an up-to-date appearance. They hooked up with the interurban network and you could even cross the Mississippi River at various points. People said that if you kept switching from car to car you could travel all the way to New York City or Denver, whichever place you wanted to go to.
My dad's uncle, Miles Armsworth, who was a roamer, once rode clear to Wheeling, West Virginia, on the interurban in three days and a night. It took him five days back, though, and he said that was because he'd been misdirected and rode a day in the wrong direction. My mother said it was because he drank.
There are trolleys passing day and night behind our barn. They go on to cross the trestle over Snake Creek near the end of the line. In seasonable weather, they run the open-sided cars, and you can hear the people talking as they glide behind the barn.
You'd think that kind of continual buzz and clatter would send a ghost off looking for a more deathly type of place to haunt. But it didn't.
William Howard Taft of Cincinnati had just finished up being president of the United States. It was 1913, and I was turning thirteen years old. That's the time I'm telling you about.
There was a spunky streak in me that led to occasional trouble, nothing serious. It didn't bother anybody much except my teacher, Miss Winkler, who by her own admission strives for “the habit of perfection.”
She and I have had our run-ins, but I won't call the roll of them since they don't bear on this story. In fact, Miss Winkler was one of the last holdouts when it came to facing up to the actual existence of ghosts.
She'd have been a lot more pleased with the both of us if she could have gotten me to knuckle down and apply myself to scholarship. “You could be one of the sharpest tacks in the carpet if you would only find yourself a direction, Alexander,” she'd say. But she never leaned on me to her full capacity for fear of locking horns with my mother.
She did call in my dad one time for a private word. As much as I got out of him later was that she said though I had “the gift of a glib tongue,” I lacked the moral sense for preaching or leadership. And as my father, he'd be doing his duty if he aimed me toward a useful trade.
Since my dad prefers useful trades himself to the line of work he's in now, he agreed with her. So I went every Saturday for a while to The Apex Automotive Garage to learn the mechanic's trade, which is the coming thing.
Apex had converted from a livery stable when people started switching over to automobiles. A friend of mine, name of Bub Timmons, was learning the trade there too, so I enjoyed the work.
There isn't any knowing where this might have led except one day old man Leverett brought in his Haynes-Apperson with the brake band spewing out fabric and copper wire. He'd bought that Haynes-Apperson used in 1907, so it was past its prime anyway. It was one of those old-timey models with a whipsocket.
Bub and I went to work and stripped the wheel down and commenced repacking it. But we ran short of brake lining and filled in with what we could find.
The outcome of this was that on his way home old man Leverett set his brakes at the level crossing on the Ocean-to-Ocean Highway west of town. The brakes gave out on him, and the auto nosed up on the track just as the Wabash Railroad's
City of Joliet
came highballing through.
The locomotive caught it just behind the headlamps, and you could pick up Haynes-Apperson parts anywhere along the embankment for a mile. They found the front left wheel, and that led them to discover it was half packed with cotton wadding. And they found old man Leverett face up in the ditch already saying he'd take his mechanical business elsewhere and have a word with his friends too. So that was the end of my apprenticeship. Apex kept Bub Timmons on for some reason, though I don't begrudge him a trade. He needs the work. But I was kind of at loose ends after my mechanical learning came to nothing. The next thing I was to learn about was girls.