I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost

i-aint-afraid-of-no-ghostBoldly enter a haunted house armed with your wits and your handy Haunted House Preparedness Kit! Trap a spider, catch a mouse with some cheese, deter a ghost with ghost spray, and use your skeleton key to exit through a secret door. There’s nothing you can’t handle!

We read I’m Not Afraid of this Haunted House, written by Laurie Friedman, and illustrated by Teresa Murfin (Carolrhoda Books, 2005). Simon Lester Henry Strauss is not afraid of a haunted house, no matter what it throws at him. Witches, ghosts, vampires, ghouls, werewolves, goblins, graveyards, Frankenstein (and bride), one-eyed monsters…nothing can phase our hero. Except, perhaps, a little mouse!

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4.5” X 4.5” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • 1 set of haunted house kit labels template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 1 strip of white poster board (approximately 1.75″ x 16″)
  • 1 haunted house kit contents template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 1 clear plastic cup
  • 1 circle of tagboard or poster board to fit the mouth of the cup
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • 1 jumbo pom-pom
  • 1 small square of self-adhesive foam (approximately 0.5″ x 0.5″)
  • 1 button magnet
  • 1 wooden bead
  • 1 wiggle eye
  • 2 black pipe cleaners
  • 3 facial tissues
  • 1 long piece of string or yarn (approximately 24″ long)
  • 1 jumbo paper clip
  • 1 haunted house (more on this later!)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Below are the contents of the Haunted House Preparedness Kit. From left to right is a spider collection jar, a skeleton key, a piece of cheese, and a can of ghost spray.


First, the box! Color, cut, and attach the 2 front and back labels from the template. Next, use markers to decorate a strip of white poster board. Tab both ends of the strip inwards about 1″, then tape the tabs to the underside of the box lid. If you’re using a tissue box, just cut the top off the box and attach the poster board handle to the sides of the box.

The spider collection jar is a clear plastic cup flipped upside down. We used a 9oz “cocktail” cup because it has a nice wide mouth. Using a single piece of tape like a hinge, attach a circle of tagboard to the mouth of the cup. Make sure you don’t entirely attach the circle – you’ll need to open the jar later to stick your spider inside it.

The skeleton key and the ghost spray label are on kit contents template. Color the ghost spray label, and then wrap it around a toilet paper tube. To make the aerosol top of the can, hot glue a jumbo pom-pom to the inside of the tube, then peel and stick a square of self-adhesive foam on top.

ghost-sprayThe final item in the kit is a piece of cheese, which we made out of yellow card stock.  Draw holes on the cheese with black marker and hot glue a button magnet to its tip.

magnet-cheeseThe next round of items are the things you’ll be catching inside the haunted house – a spider, a ghost, and a mouse. First, the spider. Color a wooden bead with black marker and hot glue a wiggle eye on the front. Cut 2 pipe cleaners in half, then thread the 4 pieces through the hole in the bead. Bend the pipe cleaners to create wiggly spider legs.

spider-steps-1-and-2To make the ghost, wad up a facial tissue and fold 2 facial tissues over the wad. Tie the end of a 24″ string around the wad to create the neck of the ghost. Make sure to leave plenty of string free to dangle your ghost later! Use a maker to add eyes and a mouth.

tissue-ghostFinally, color and cut the mouse from the template. Tape a jumbo paper clip to the underside of its mouth. Later, this paperclip will attach to the magnet on the cheese.

mouse-and-cheeseThat’s everything you need for your adventures in the haunted house…now you just need the house! It doesn’t have to be fancy. Drape some sheets over the shelves in your stacks, or drape a tablecloth over a table and have kids crawl under it. But if you have a giant box,  2 smaller boxes, and a black light handy, go for it! Here’s the front of out house (plus a photobomb by Marissa).

front-of-haunted-houseI love the lanterns by the door. They’re LED candles inside plastic cups, which are attached to the box with black poster board. There’s a little poster board flourish hot glued to the bottom of the cup too.

lantern-detailHere’s a shot of the house’s interior, as seen from the front door. There are LED wall sconces, a mirror, a bookcase, old-fashioned portraits, a clock, and a fireplace that leads to the black light room. And there were also 4 activities for the kids…coaxing a mouse out of the mouse hole, catching a spider, spraying a ghost with “Bye-Bye Boo” spray, and using a skeleton key to exit through a secret door.


You got a peek of the black light room last week on our Instagram. This  room is Marissa’s masterpiece. She used glow-in-the-dark squeeze glue and black light Sharpie markers to highlight everything. We cut a little door in the side of the room so we could quickly slip the kids’ spiders inside.

black-light-spider-roomAt the very back of the house was a secret door, which was covered with tagboard strips made to look like wooden planks. The interior of the secret door box with lined with gray felt. To give it an underground kind of feel, I used a thick black marker to draw outlines of stones on the felt.

secret-doorHere’s a shot of the haunted house from the right side. Everything was was held together with lots of hot glue and packing tape.

right-side-of-haunted-houseThe left side of the house had the mouse hole, which we covered with black felt to keep light from leaking in. My kids did all the exterior decoration. Like the dead flower garden on the lower right?

left-side-of-haunted-houseSo! Here’s how it went! Kids lined up outside the house. When it was their turn, they handed us their spiders, mice, and ghosts. Then they entered the house with their kits.

waiting-to-get-inOnce inside, they listened for the mouse squeaking in the mouse hole (this was literally Marissa saying “Squeak squeak!” and wiggling the nose of the mouse outside the hole). Kids stuck the magnet end of the cheese into hole and “caught” the mouse. Into the kit it went!

catching-a-mouseNext, kids reached into the black light room, grabbed their spider, and put it in their collection jar. By this time, I had opened the trap door in the roof and dangled their wailing ghost in (I followed Marissa’s lead, enthusiastically saying “Wooo wooo!”). The kids doused the ghost with a ghost spray, causing it to drop to the floor of the house. Into the kit the ghost went.

dangling-ghostThe final task was for kids to shimmy into the secret room and use the skeleton key to unlock the door. We wouldn’t lift the door until we saw a key in the key hole!

skeleton-key-unlocksKids could go through the house as many times as they wanted, and we kept story time going 20 minutes past our end time to accommodate repeat explorations. It was…wait for it…a total scream! Awwww.

Did you notice the old-fashioned portraits in the kid catching mouse image? I have to give Marissa a shout out for her mad drawing skills here. She drew us! In Victorian clothing! I love my hat.

portraits-of-dana-and-marissaThe portraits are a nod to the day we spent sipping Victorian tea for this program. Fun!

Glow, Pumpkin. Glow!

pumpkin-balloonA no mess, no carve, no flame, gorgeously glowing pumpkin? You got it! Bounce these LED pumpkin balloons around at your next story time, sneak a few on the shelves on the 31st, or take a spirited evening stroll.

You’ll need:

  • 1 orange LED balloon
  • A black Sharpie permanent marker

I first spotted these LED balloons at JaZams, our local toy store. They’re made by a company called illooms. A variety pack of 5 latex balloons cost $6 , and a pack of 15 balloons cost $13. I’ve also seen illooms sold online at Oriental Trading Company, Amazon, and Walmart for varying prices. Party City sells just the LED bulbs (12 for $10). So that’s an option as well – buy the bulbs and a package of orange balloons.

illoom-led-balloonsThe illooms LED balloon has a round, hard tip at the top, and a tab sticking out of its neck. Pinch the tip while simultaneously pulling the tap to activate the LED. Then inflate the balloon (the directions suggest a pump, but I went with my lungs).

deflated-balloonThe round tip acts as a balloon weight that pulls the inflated balloon upside down, creating the the perfect pumpkin shape. Use a black Sharpie permanent marker to draw a pumpkin face on the balloon, and you’re good to glow!

Looking for a few more simple Halloween projects? Try a toilet paper roll jack-o’-lantern, a hanging bat exhibit, a shoulder snake, or an herbal amulet to ward off those pesky goblins. And as long as were talking about spooky orange vegetables, take a look at this Creepy Carrots story time.


Folk Tale Fan Art

the-singing-turtle-artwork-by-aliisa-leeOld tales get a modern twist when we asked artist Aliisa Lee to re-image twelve folk tale (and fairy tale) creatures as manga characters! Aliisa’s drawings, of course, were stunning. Singing turtles, badger tea kettles, and feisty dragons? Absolutely. Below are each of the characters, along with a very quick synopsis of their stories.



Once there was a golden deer who was King of the Banyan Deer. His herd lived peacefully in the forest alongside the King of the Monkey Deer and his herd. The Ruler of the country, however, was a man who loved to hunt and eat deer meat.  He surrounded the forest with a fence and told the Kings that every day, a deer from their herds must sacrifice his/herself to his table. One day, a mother deer was due to be sacrificed. She begged to wait until her baby was older. The Monkey Deer King would not consent to this, but the brave Banyan Deer King offered to go in her place. The Ruler was touched by the noble sacrifice of the Banyan Deer, and vowed never to hunt or eat deer meat again.

From Told in India, retold by Virginia Haviland, illustrated by Blair Lent (Little, Brown, 1973).

young-dragon-artwork-by-aliisa-leeYOUNG DRAGON (Taiwan)

Long ago, China was a great sleeping Father Dragon. Only the tip of his tail stuck into the sea. Nearby, three young dragons wrestled and played with each other. Eventually, they started nipping at Father Dragon’s tail, biting harder and harder until he awoke with a mighty ROAR. He lashed his tail so hard, the tip broke off and fell into the sea, trapping one of the naughty dragons underneath. Today, the tail tip is the Island of Taiwan, and the mountain range in the middle of the island is the trapped dragon. Father Dragon, now called the Himalaya Mountains, has gone back to sleep. The two remaining dragons continue to play in the Taiwan Straits and China Sea, causing storms and typhoons.

From Tales from a Taiwan Kitchen, written by Cora Cheney, illustrated by Teng Kung Yun-chang and others (Dodd, Mead & Company, 1976).

moon-rabbit-artwork-by-aliisa-leeMOON RABBIT (China)

An old hermit lived in a cave with a rabbit. Every day, the rabbit brought berries, herbs, and mushrooms for the hermit to eat. But then came a terrible drought. The rabbit traveled far, looking for food. When he returned to the cave, he couldn’t bear to tell his friend that he had failed to find anything. So he leaped into the fire, hoping the hermit would cook him and avoid starvation. But before the flames touched the rabbit, the Celestial Emperor lifted him to the calm surface of the moon. He praised the rabbit’s bravery and compassion, and sacrifice. The Moon Goddess was delighted to have such a noble companion. The next full moon, see if you can spot the outline of the Moon Rabbit!

From Cloud Weavers: Ancient Chinese Legends by Rena Krasno and Yeng-Fong Chiang (Pacific View Press, 2003).

the-firebird-artwork-by-aliisa-leeTHE FIREBIRD (Russia)

Tsar Vyslav Andronovich had a magnificent garden and a special tree that bore golden apples. But every night, a Firebird would fly into the garden and steal apples from the tree. Tsar Vyslav ordered his three sons to capture the bird, but only Ivan, the youngest, succeeded in plucking a feather from her tail as she flew away. A massive quest ensued, one that involved a gray wolf, a horse with a golden mane, a beautiful maiden, ravens, the water of death, the water of life, and two treacherous, back-stabbing brothers. Needless to say, it all ends well, with Ivan and Elena living happily ever after.

From The Firebird and Other Russian Fairy Tales, edited and with an introduction by Jacqueline Onassis, illustrated by Boris Zvorykin (Viking Press, 1978).

babe-the-blue-ox-artwork-by-aliisa-leeBABE THE BLUE OX (United States of America)

Winter can be hard, but this particular winter was so cold, the snow turned blue! One day, a giant lumberjack named Paul Bunyan went on a walk. He heard a little cry. Following the sound, he found a blue baby ox in the snow. Paul took the baby ox home and named him Babe. In time, Babe the Blue Ox grew to humongous proportions. But he was always a good and faithful companion to Paul Bunyan. By the way, do you know the Mississippi River was formed when a big ‘ol water tank wagon Babe was hauling sprung a leak? It’s true! I swear!

From American Folklore: Minnesota Tall Tales retold by S. E. Schlosser. Original source here.

anansi-artwork-by-aliisa-leeANANSI (Africa)

Nyame, the sky god, held all the world’s stories. Anansi the spider wanted those stories. So Nyame challenged Anansi to capture Hornet, Python, Leopard, and Fairy in exchange for the tales. Clever Anansi trapped Hornet in a gourd by pretending it was raining. He tricked vain Python into stretching out on a branch and then tied him to it. He bound Leopard in a web net, and stuck curious Fairy to a doll made of sticky gum. Nyame was overjoyed at Anasai’s success. He gave him the world’s stories, which Anansai shared with everyone.

From Children’s Book of Mythical Beasts & Magical Monsters (DK Publishing, 2011).

the-mechanical-nightingale-artwork-by-aliisa-leeTHE MECHANICAL NIGHTINGALE (Denmark)

A nightingale lived in a forest. Her song was so beautiful, the Emperor demanded she perform in his court. When she sang for him, the Emperor wept. He commanded her to stay in the palace, but the bird soon grew unhappy. Then one day, a gift arrived. It was a mechanical nightingale, one that sang when you wound it up. It quickly replaced the real nightingale. Time passed, and the Emperor grew very ill. When death came to claim him, the Emperor turned to the mechanical bird for comfort. But it remained silent, for there was no one to wind it. Suddenly, there was a glorious burst of song! The real nightingale sang away death, and the Emperor and the nightingale became good friends.

From Ardizzone’s Hans Andersen: Fourteen Classic Stories, selected and illustrated by Edward Ardizzone, translated by Stephen Corrin (Atheneum, 1979).

bayamey-artwork-by-aliisa-leeBAYAMEY (Australia)

When Ocean disobeys Bayamey, the Maker of the World, Bayamey transforms into a giant frog and swallows all the Earth’s water.  Earth’s creatures, fearing for their lives, try to make Bayamey laugh and release the water. Kookooburra Bird, Turtle, and Bumble Bee all do funny things, but nothing works. Finally, the Eel Sisters try an amusing dance. In doing so, they accidently tie themselves together and start arguing. The creatures laugh at their antics, and Bayamey just can’t help himself. He laughs and laughs! The water bursts forth and returns to Earth.

From Eleven Nature Tales: A Multicultural Journey, written by Pleasant DeSpain, illustrated by Joe Shlichta (August House, 1996).



A poor junkman frees a badger from a trap. The grateful badger transforms himself into a fine teakettle and crawls into the junkman’s basket. The junkman, hardly believing his good fortune, sells the kettle to a temple priest.  The priest is shocked, however, when the kettle grows legs and a head and starts dashing around the room! He returns the kettle to the junkman. Next, the badger teakettle suggests that he and the junkman put together a show and become rich. After many performances, the now-affluent junkman returns to the temple, explains his story, and offers the kettle to the priest as a gift. Rumor has it the kettle still resides at the Monrinji Temple!

From Told in Japan, retold by Virginia Haviland, illustrated by George Suyeoka (Little, Brown, 1967).

the-troll-artwork-by-aliisa-leeTHE TROLL (Norway)

Once there were three billy goats named Gruff. There was a hillside full of rich grass they wanted to eat. But first, they had to cross a bridge, and underneath that bridge lived a big, ugly, nasty troll. The youngest brother had just started across the bridge when the troll lunged up, roaring “WHO’S THAT TRIP TRAPPING OVER MY BRIDGE? I’LL EAT YOU UP!” The first brother assured the troll that the second brother would make a better meal. The second brother insisted the oldest brother was even bigger and meatier. The oldest brother got right down to business. He charged the troll and tossed him into the stream. And the troll was never seen again!

From Favorite Fairy Tales Told Around the World, retold by Virginia Haviland, illustrated by S.D. Schindler (Little, Brown, 1985).

the-fox-artwork-by-aliisa-leeTHE FOX (Greece)

One morning, a fox was looking for a bite to eat. She spotted a crow perched high in a tree, holding a piece of cheese in her beak. Calling up, the fox began to praise the crow for her shiny feathers, bright eyes, and strong beak.  The fox lamented, however, that she couldn’t hear the crow’s beautiful voice. The crow was feeling quite flattered at this point (and, it must be said, growing quite vain). She opened her mouth and croaked “Caw! Caw! Caw!” The cheese fell out of her beak. Quick as a flash, the fox gulped it down. The lesson to be learned? Never trust a flatterer.

From Aesop’s Fables by Jerry Pinkney (SeaStar Books, 2000).

the-singing-turtle-artwork-by-aliisa-leeTHE SINGING TURTLE (Haiti)

Everyone in the village is starving except Kanzo. His garden is bursting with peas! Some hungry birds decide to sneak in and have a feast. They loan their good friend Turtle feathers so he can fly with them. The secret snacking continues for days until suspicious Kanzo surprises them and captures turtle. But Turtle amazes Kanzo by bursting into song! Soon, people are paying money to hear Kanzo’s singing turtle, and Kanzo becomes rich. The King demands to hear the Turtle (and secretly plans to steal it for himself). But someone has switched the singing turtle for an ordinary one. The King is enraged at being made a fool of, and Kanzo and his family flee. And the Turtle? He’s probably still singing!

From When Night Falls, Kric! Krac!: Haitian Folktales, by Liliane Nérette Louis, edited by Fred Hay, Ph.D. (Libraries Unlimited, 1999).

Original artwork by Aliisa Lee