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This was read to me when I was in elementary school (in Ashland, KY if that's relevant) probably around 1987-1990 (it's possible it was a book used in education at the time, or was a Scholastic or Newberry winner, and that's why it was read). The protagonist is a caucasian male, in either the United States or the United Kingdom (I remember the primary language being English, and some of the references making sense for what I was familiar with) who has recently moved onto a rural farm with his family, I think after living in the city. He has difficulty making friends at first, is creeped out by the sounds that the farm house makes at night, and keeps seeing a young boy, who resembles himself, off in the distance (walking on a fence?), who disappears when he tries to catch up to them. He researches the house he's living in, and learns that a boy his age disappeared decades ago. His parents don't believe that there's anything supernatural going on, but he's convinced that the boy dies somewhere on the property, and needs his bones laid to rest.

After that, it gets a bit muddled, all the more so because I was absent one day when they were reading the book (I think at or near the end), and I got a summary of events. I think he finds some bones and buries them (in the middle of a rain storm?) and not long afterwards, he meets up with a boy much like the one he kept seeing in the distance who lives on one of the nearby farms, with an implication that this might have been the boy he kept sighting, not a ghost, but I remember it being ambiguous. Also, there may have been a man with a trained (or at least befriended) corvid, which was also a partial explanation of how things got moved around by the "ghost" (the bird having grabbed shiny objects and moved them other places). Lastly, I have a vague memory of the boy seeing strange shapes in the static of a TV left on at night, although that might be cross-pollination from the Poltergeist films (which I didn't see until much later, but occasionally heard references to).

I suspect it was a short book, less than a hundred pages, since it was being read to us over the course of a few days, a few chapters at a time. I think the title had "Grave" in it, and the cover had a drawn image of a cracked gravestone. Given it was a Catholic elementary school and the teacher was reading it to us, I doubt it was explicitly a horror book, probably more of a ghost story.

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  • "The ghost's grave" Book by Peg Kehret.
    – Adzetto
    Dec 9, 2022 at 19:35
  • @adzetto Can you elaborate on that with an answer? Dec 9, 2022 at 23:20
  • I believe the book you are referring to is Peg Kehret's The ghost's grave. It was released in 2005 and is a book for youngsters. The protagonist of the novel is 12-year-old Jason, who moves to an isolated farm in Washington State with his family. He realizes that he can see and hear things that no one else can, including the spirit of a little boy called Sam who died on the farm many years ago. Jason goes out to discover what happened to Sam so that he may give him a decent burial and stop being plagued by his ghost with the aid of several new acquaintances, including an old neighbor.
    – Adzetto
    Dec 9, 2022 at 23:26
  • That seems to far post-date when I know I had the book read to me, but perhaps they re-released it. Again, I'd say provide this as an answer. Dec 10, 2022 at 1:37

2 Answers 2

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After a lengthy search of ghost stories with the word "grave" in the title, I came upon Ida Chittum's The Empty Grave, circa 1974.

Front cover of The Empty Grave

This review gives a pretty good review of the plot.

Eleven year old Allen is excited to be moving with his dad and mom into their first and very own house in the country, a three story old mansion with crumbling stone foundations surrounded by weeds in front and woods in back. Their only neighbor is an old man named Mr. Mills who is reputed to be rather odd. Soon Allen starts hearing creepy noises in the large house. Then during his exploration, he finds a broken tombstone for Morris Twilling, a twelve year old boy who had died a hundred years before—but in the Twilling graveyard behind the house, Morris’s grave has been dug up and is empty.

Allen also finds a scrap of paper in a hidden journal with half a clue to some treasure buried by the long dead boy. Where is Morris and why is his grave empty? Who or what is making the strange noises? And is there really a buried treasure? I understand that this book was banned in some schools in the 1970s because of the supposed occultist themes of ghosts and magic. To be honest, I fail to see what occultism or witchcraft is stated or even implied in the book. It’s a simple ghost story with a Twilight Zone like ending. In the end, there is a lot less supernatural than one might assume from the title and cover.

Despite its short length (only 78 pages of large font with pictures), there are some interesting plot twists with a rather mysterious raven, confusion over a distant Twilling relative named Gary from out west who is visiting his aunt down the road, and the suspicious old man next door. Though the story itself ends up being more humorous than one might initially expect, the book is still marvelously good at raising the hairs on the back of one’s neck. It would be a great book to encourage kids to read, especially for youths with a penchant for ghost stories who are just looking for a good scare. There are a few common euphemisms like “heck” and “gee.”

The cover looks familiar, as does the summary of events, and the date range is right.

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Adzetto suggested The Ghost's Grave by Peg Kehret, first published in 2005.

What Josh thought would be the dullest summer of his life, spent with his eccentric great-aunt, turns chilling when he meets the ghost of a coal miner killed in a mine explosion. Willie has been waiting years for some kind soul to dig up his leg and rebury it with the rest of him--only then will he be at peace. Josh agrees to do the grisly deed, but when he digs in the old cemetery, he finds more than Willie's leg bones! Who buried the box of cash in the grave, and why? How far will that person go to get the money back? The Ghost's Grave is a deliciously spooky adventure from a master of suspense.

This hits several points, but was published far too late to be my book. However, otherwise, it is a close enough match that I wanted it available as an answer, in case somebody else eventually is looking for this book.

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