A hundred years ago today, the Titantic went down with more than 1600 souls lost. Sure, I’ve seen the James Cameron movie, but my favorite depiction of that horrific moment of history came out 25 years ago with the publication of Richard Peck’s GHOSTS I HAVE BEEN.
Blossom Culp, the story’s main character, made her first appearance in Peck’s THE GHOST BELONGED TO ME as a member of the supporting cast. I could certainly understand why Peck wanted to spend more time with Blossom. In fact, GHOSTS I HAVE BEEN was probably one of my favorite books in elementary school. The first 120 pages or so are concerned with Blossom’s various activities from playing a ghost in a privy in the opening chapter to revealing the ‘shady dealings of a seance medium doubling as a con-man” in Chapter 10. Miss Spaulding, Blossom’s formidable teacher and principal, invites a local newspaperman, Lowell Seaforth, to come to school in hopes that Blossom will “settle down to a quiet life and be a team player” after she receives some attention for her activities. But Miss Spaulding is less than pleased by some of the details.
“But, Blossom, is it not enough to tell us of your many actual, activities…without fabricating?”
I opened my mouth to protest but closed it again.
“In short, Blossom, you may play at being a ghost ,as you seem never to tire of, but you cannot see one. This flies in the face of science.”
I’d sooner not fly in the face of science if it meant flying in the face of Miss Spaulding. So I sat swinging my feet and examining my boots, which were my old ones.
“And so, Blossom, for your own good and in the presence of the press, we must have on final confrontation with the truth. You have said that you have Second Sight, can see the Unseen, and have conversed with spirits. Is this true and will you go on record for it?”
I would and nodded.
“Very well, Blossom. Then prove it. Now.”
At that point, Blossom would have gladly negotiated for a thrashing but knew that Miss Spaulding didn’t make deals. She tried to conjure up something. Nothing came. It was not a good time for her Second Sight to quit on her until…
Then I heard the first rumble. The sound I’d heard once before. The rasp of two great objects grinding together–iron against ice. It was deeper than thunder and at first farther off. But the roaring was soon in my ears and then in the room.
The office began to throb and pound, like engines in the earth running out of control. I had hold of the chair arms to keep from pitching out. If this was not the San Francisco earthquake, it was near kin of it….Just before the desk lamp fell over, I saw Miss Spaulding’s pince-nez glasses slip down her face. Her hand clamped over her mouth. The bulp in the lamp exploded. Lowell Seaforth’s voice came up strong: “Damnation! What have we unleashed?”
You know that you want to find out! I promise that anyone who liked Richard Peck’s award-winning YEAR DOWN YONDER and A LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO will enjoy GHOSTS I HAVE BEEN.