Written By Amicus Arcane (AKA John Esposito)
Artwork By Kelley Jones
Something we never really talk about, ironically because I myself am a writer, are books. There are lots of great Disney books for all ages and the sad truth is that I haven’t read nearly enough of them. Well, coaxed by a fellow member of Club DMK on Facebook, I decided to give the newest Disney offering a go. Herein lie my thought on Tales from the Haunted Mansion: Volume 1: The Fearsome Foursome. Read on IF YOU DARE!!!
Essentially, this is book is the collected stories of four youngsters, Noah, Willa, Steve and Tim. These four are huge fans of horror stories and have even formed a club to tell their best stories. Of course, things go a bit awry when they head to a nearby haunted mansion to see what is up with the place. There, they meet our author Amicus Arcane, who decides to tell them stories from the library that just so happen to be ABOUT them. From there, each character gets a creepy story to chew on as they drift deeper into the night.
Anyone who was or is a fan of Goosebumps is going to immediately fall in love with this collection of creepy tales. They’re scary, but not so bad that a youngster wouldn’t have fun with them. I’d say that this is a great next step for any child who already likes Goosebumps or any youngster that likes the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney. Be warned though, these stories involve ghosts, zombies, evil sea monsters and being buried alive, so if your youngster is not up for any or all, maybe avoid it for a few years.
As a child, I loved creepy stories. From Goosebumps to Bunnicula, I couldn’t get enough so I felt right at home in these pages. What I really loved about the stories was that they were contained within a greater mystery. As the book neared the end, I had a pretty good idea of what was going on, but seeing it come to fruition was really wonderful. The book promises a dreadful night, and it delivers.
Something else folks will probably appreciate is that the book maintains much of the comedic feel of the Haunted Mansion. The narrator likes to jump in often to give us a creepy foresight into what’s going on. I’m sure kids would enjoy reading this to themselves, but something tells me that reading this book out loud by flashlight with friends or family would be the best way to enjoy it. The narrator is wonderful as he often waits for things like “And then they cried from laughing” to add in things like “Don’t worry dear reader, they’ll soon be crying from FEAR!” It’s fantastically hokey and I loved it.
The illustrations, done by Kelley Jones, are awesome and really give some nice visuals to the story. They never took center stage but always gave me a little hint of what was to come or sealed the deal (or the coffin) on the story I’d just read. Overall, it’s also good to know that while these kids all end up in pretty dire situations, they are all heroic. Noah, for example, has a terrible stepfather, but still risks it all to save him. These are characters you really do root for, even if they sort of deserve the bad that comes for them. I was also happy to see the diversity of these stories. They all deal with different themes and different sorts of scares, which made each one feel fresh and new.
And while I won’t spoil it here, towards the end there are some absolutely awesome homages to the actual Haunted Mansion that made me grin as they appeared. They are subtle but if you know what to look for, you will get a kick out of them. So most certainly check out this book if you or your family like a good spook and love some great stories to read about things that go bump in the night. I loved it, despite the fact that it was for a younger audience, and I’m sure both parents and children are sure to get some fun out of this one!
As a side note, I’d really like to read some more series or books in the Disney fiction world and talk about them here on the site. Reading is important! I think. It is right? Anyway, have a book or perhaps a series you’d like me to read and report back on? (OMG, it’s like school!) Leave a comment and let me know what it is!