About the Author
Artist Paul Hoffman studied painting and printmaking, completing his first extensive illustration work on assignment in Egypt, drawing ancient wall reliefs for the University of Chicago. His work graces books of many genres--children's titles, textbooks, short story collections, natural history volumes, and numerous cookbooks. For Spooky New Jersey, he employed a scratchboard technique and an active imagination.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
It was late October, and we were relaxing in the common room of the firehouse, watching TV, when the phone rang. It was nine o'clock. A call at that time of night usually meant a fire or a public assist of some kind. There were only three of us on duty at the moment; the lieutenant, Joe, and me. I like to be first at things - first to go into a burning house, first to answer the phone, first to the dinner table - so I jogged into the bunk room to the nearest extension to answer the call.
"North Plainfield Fire Department," I said into the phone, expecting the dispatcher's voice, calling us to a fire.
Instead, a woman started babbling to me half in English and half in Spanish about some emergency she was having at her house. I couldn't understand what she was saying, except for the words "ghost" and "haunted". I asked her to slow down and tell me what the emergency was.
The woman took a deep breath and said: "We need you to come at once. There is a terrible ghost in our house and we want you to remove it."
"A ghost?" I said aloud in an incredulous tone.
The lieutenant's head appeared around the frame of the door. He looked intrigued. "What is it?" he asked. I motioned him to silence and said into the phone: "Lady, this is the fire department. Do you have a fire or an emergency of some kind?"
"An emergency, yes!" the woman said at once. "We have a ghost. Please come!"
She sounded really frightened. I glanced over at the lieutenant, who was bursting with curiosity by this time, and covered the mouthpiece of the phone.
"It's a public assist. Some woman wants us to get rid of a ghost in her house," I told him.
"A ghost?" the lieutenant's face lit up with glee. "Oh, we gotta take this call!" ....