Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Spooks Deluxe by Danton Walker

I think that must be my favorite title for a ghost book. It also has the best endpaper:
Spooks Deluxe Endpaper

Aren't those just the cutest little ghosts?

This is the back cover of the book, since the front is text only.
Spooks Deluxe back cover

Danton Walker was an old fashioned gossip columnist, man about town and bon vivant. Officially, his beat was Broadway but he did not limit himself.

Danton Walker was also a man who believed in ghosts. That is how his book Spooks Deluxe begins. He proclaims his belief in ghosts and scoffs at those ghost book authors who show doubts.

He met a lot of interesting people in his hob-nobbing nighclub-hopping social whirl, and he asked many of them if they had any ghost stories to share. Many of them did, including Burl Ives, Mae West, Ida Lupino, Walter Pidgeon and a bunch of people I've never heard of that must have been minor celebrities of the 1950s.

I was happy to see James Reynolds, a favorite author/artist of mine mentioned in the book. Apparently he was also a stage designer for the Metropolitan Opera house and tells a tale about a woman who goes to see the opera. Her friend had planned to go but had to cancel at the last minute. So the friend's ticket is sold back to the box office, and a terribly rude woman takes her seat. She calls out rude comments to the singers, makes lots of noise with her program, and worst of all, elbows her poor seatmate in the ribs. When the woman complains at intermission they tell her there was no one in the seat! The ghost is said to be the wife of a former opera director who used to carry on like that when she was alive.

Mae West gives a long description of her interest in spiritualism and relays several ghost stories that happened to her family.

Most of the stories are quite short. Some are sad, some are funny and some are not that interesting. The biggest charm of this book is the glimpse it gives into New York society life in the 1950s. Danton Walker was a very breezy and engaging writer and I got the feeling that he genuinely liked and was interested in the people he wrote about, dead or alive.

Spooks Deluxe was published in the UK as That Ghost I Saw and republished in the US in 1969 as I Believe In Ghosts

Review of Danton Walker's Guide to New York Nightlife on Freebird Books

Mr Two Million Circulation - Danton Walker article in Time Magazine

Final Fling - Danton Walker Obituary in Time Magazine

Link to Danton Walker Books on Amazon.com

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