“The Night the Ghost Got In” by James Thurber. The ghost is only the beginning of the family’s problems that night.
“The Water Ghost” by John Kendrick Bangs. The heir of Harrowby Hall decides to end his family’s Christmas Eve curse.
“The Open Window” by Saki. Like many of Saki’s stories, this has a hysterical twist at the end. I have been thinking up ways to rewrite this story in a contemporary setting.
“To Starch a Spook” by Andrew Benedict. Teen ghostbusters go into action to help the girl’s father, who is supposed to work on a house crawling with ghosts.
And for kids
The Best Halloween Ever by Barbara Robinson. I don’t think this book is nearly as good as her first, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. But my kids enjoyed it when we read it out loud. And while the plot has huge gaps, the narration by Beth is entertaining as usual.
I love parodies. And I love the Sherlock Holmes stories, so reading a Sherlock Holmes parody is a lot of fun. But only if the parody is good-natured. If I read a story and sense the author’s aim is to be mean-spirited, then all the fun drains out of the parody.
I enjoy humor writing, but my absolute favorite author is Patrick F. McManus. I only discovered him a few years ago and I am so glad I did. I have enjoyed his stories and essays over and over again.
Mr. McManus wrote most of his articles for Outdoor Life and Field & Stream. Then these were collected into books, which was how I found them. Beyond being able to tell the difference between a rod and a rifle, I know nothing about fishing and hunting, but that hasn’t kept me from laughing myself breathless when I read Mr. McManus’s stories. His tales about the woes of outdoor pursuits are general enough for anyone to understand. I also like his stories about growing up in rural Idaho in the ‘30’s and ‘40’s because coming from a small hometown myself, I understand rural humor. His stories also remind me of the tales my dad tells of growing up in West Virginia.
I have so many favorite Patrick McManus stories that it is hard to choose which ones to discuss. But since I have been talking about figurative language, I will highlight the stories where Mr. McManus anthropomorphizes animals. I think these are some of his most hilarious tales.
Mr. McManus has written many stories about a stray dog that moved in with his family when he was a boy. He describes Strange as having the opposite characteristics of those listed in the Boys Scout motto. In “Strange Meets Matilda Jean” from Real Ponies Don’t Go Oink!, he writes:
“If I threw a stick and told him ‘Fetch,’ he would give me this insolent stare, which said, “Fetch it yourself, dumbo. You threw it.” Then he would flip a cigarette butt at me, blow out a stream of smoke, and slouch back into his doghouse. (Well, no, of course, he didn’t really smoke cigarettes, but that was the essence of his attitude, as though he had watched too many movies about hard-boiled detectives.)”
In other stories, crows deliberately warn wildlife that he is out hunting, hummingbirds become menacing if their feeders are left empty, and in “My First Deer, and Welcome to It” from They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They? “the deer danced and clowned and cut up all around me, smirking the whole while” as he loads his rifle.
Patrick McManus has even written a guide to humor writing, The Deer on the Bicycle: Excursions Into the Writing of Humor. He has also written a mystery series featuring Sheriff Bo Tully. I didn’t like these stories as well, even though I am a big mystery fan. But it’s been awhile since I read one, so I will try again. To learn more about Patrick McManus and his books, click here.
By the way, very few of his short stories have any kind of bad language in them. I have read many of them to kids, who sometimes stop breathing from laughing so hard.