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Ghost of a Hanged Man

Awards & Honors


ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers



       "Vande Velde has combined elements of classic ghost tales with a Wild West setting in this absorbing and often chilling story of revenge, justice, and the power of love." 

—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review

Ghost of a Hanged Man 

Ages: 8-12

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish

Status: This book is out of print and is not available, even as an e-book. It can be found–if at all–in libraries or used book stores.

Book Description:

An outlaw condemned to be hanged threatens to wreak vengeance from the grave on those responsible for his death.


Where do you GET those ideas?


While visiting New Orleans, I learned something I found fascinating: In New Orleans, cemeteries consist of above-ground crypts. Because the city is so low (most of it is below sea level) and the ground is so wet, early settlers made the disconcerting discovery that buried coffins had a tendency to work their way back up to the surface. (Imagine being the first person to discover that!)

Years later, I bought a book for a friend who was interested in fortune telling. Before giving it to her, I was glancing through the book--which had a section on tarot cards--and saw a card with a picture of coffins floating on a river, which reminded me of what I had learned from our New Orleans tour guide. I kept looking and saw more interesting cards and decided that I wanted to write a story which included fortune telling and tarot cards, but which also included--literally--coffins that wouldn't stay buried.


After the jury proclaimed Jake guilty, and after Judge Wade said he was to be hanged by the neck until dead, Jake stood up and asked if he could say something to the courtroom.

Judge Wade frowned. He said, "You've been given more than enough chances to speak out, and you chose to sit there smirking instead." But Judge Wade was a fair man, and so he relented. "All right, have your say. But make it quick."

"Oh, it'll be quick," Jake promised. Still, he turned around to look at the members of the jury and the spectators. Then he turned back to the Judge. "You may kill me," he said. "But if you do, I'll come back. I'll take you with me."

In the moment of stunned silence that followed, he seemed to have all the time in the world to turn around yet again. "And you," he said pointing to Pa, who'd been the one to arrest him, "and you," he pointed to Mr. Chetwin, who'd been the foreman of the jury and who'd been the one to announce the jury's decision, "and--"

Judge Wade was banging his gavel like crazy, the crowd was all talking at once, and Emmett Sanders, Pa's deputy, grabbed hold of Jake's arm.

"And you," Jake told him, not shouting, not threatening, just soft and serious. "And all your families, too."

Picture of New Orleans cemetery

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