Thursday, October 3, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Betty Ren Wright's The Pike River Phantom

Whether you are 9 or 99, there's always something magical about a scary story. Back in the Stone Age, I remember the brave girls (and it was always girls) carrying around scary story books like they were badges of honor. "Look at me, I'm not afraid of the Pike River Phantom!" their eyes would say. Meanwhile, other girls (like me) would take a quick peek at the cover and decide it was NOT the genre for me. Please, don't even leave it on my desk!

Now that I'm older, the cover of this classic reads more kitschy than frightening, and I can giggle that I was so afraid of this? Getting a good scare is still tons of fun, however, especially during Halloween, and especially when Betty Ren Wright is the author.

Betty Ren Wright (I just have to say her full name!) is a very efficient writer. In a book of only 153 pages, she manages to flesh out the story of 12-year-old Charlie Hocking, a Milaukee transplant new to the small town where his father grew up, and where all Charlie's troubles begin. His father is an ex-con, and his cousin Rachel, who also lives in the same house, is perfect. How can anyone compete with that? Throw in a ghost with a dilemma and a Fourth of July parade, and you've got one entertaining story. While I didn't encounter anything revolutionary in this book, Wright's skill as a writer of suspense kept me on my toes. Also, the way she portrays family relationships, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes baffling, always necessary and complicated make this book ring emotionally true. Yes, it's only 153 pages, and yes the cover has a picture of a ghost lady chasing some kids down the stairs, but it was a good read.

Overall, five stars. Come for the ghost story, stay for the happy ending. Wax nostalgic with your friends about book fairs, and for the time when kids were allowed to do scary things--like ride their bikes in the woods by themselves! (yes, Charlie does this often in the book!)

Haven't had enough? For more frightening fun check out an earlier review of middle-grade classic, Stonewords: A Ghost Story.

Photo Credits

The picture of of The Pike River Phantom came from here. Thanks!


  1. Yes! I read this book as a kid and was scared by it. I need to read it again now to see if I've matured in my 'creepy' factor or not!

    1. LOL! I'm sure you have. The funny thing about reading it when you are much older (and maybe because we are nerdy writers?) is that you can see the structure of the story, and how she is intentionally leading you to a scary moment...and even if you can see it, you still get scared anyway!