GROWING PAINS: Next Generation's Kids Still Like to Be Spooked




"In a black, black town, there was a black, black house. In the black, black house, there was a black, black room. In the black, black room, there stood a black, black coffin."


Many adults remember sitting at night somewhere in a dacha attic with friends and frightening each other by sharing similar ghost stories. The terrible stories about the Red Hand, the Black Sheet or the Green Fingers were very popular among children in my day; the more stories someone knew, the more respect his friends had for him or her.


I often participated in such "readings" when I was 8, the present age of my son, Yegor. The ghost stories with their graves and cemeteries gave me the creeps, and I ran home without looking back, feeling safe only after I made sure the door to our apartment was tightly locked.


A couple of years ago, a friend of ours gave us a book, "Fearful Stories for Fearless Children," a compilation by popular children's author Eduard Uspensky of some treasures of children's frightening folklore.


Yegor was only beginning to read at the time, so he couldn't read more than a couple of words over the course of 10 minutes, so I didn't worry that the book would affect his tender nerves. But the next night, he came into our bedroom spooked; my husband ushered Yegor back to his room and had to sleep the rest of the night with our son in his little bed.


When I asked Yegor the next morning what had scared him, he answered wide-eyed, "I read the titles." I opened the book and read the titles, too: "The Woman With the Black Gloves," "A Snake's Love," "The Nocturnal Guest." That's probably enough for a child with an active imagination. I tucked the book away, on our highest shelf.


Now that summer vacation is in full swing and there's no need to do homework, children can spend more time with their friends. And it's not so easy to spare Yegor's tender feelings any longer.


Ghost stories still comprise one of children's main evening entertainments at the dacha, and Yegor recently has rounded out his knowledge on the subject. The stories he knows are almost the same as when I was a girl, but they probably have more gory details, as in today's blockbuster movies. There are some new main characters as well; along with the traditional skeletons, corpses and vampires, there are now cosmic stains that devour policemen or computers outfitted with poison keyboards.


Narrated in a snappy language, the stories excite both interest and fear in Yegor. They seem to frighten him more than action videos, with their more realistic villains and murders that he sometimes sees on television. But now he is grown up enough to manage his fear and not wake us up at night.


But when I go to bed, I catch myself wanting to double-check to see that our door is locked tight.