Dawsyn Wilson ’26  |   Published October 27, 2022

Halloween Lit

Trick or treat ... or read: Monmouth faculty member Kevin Roberts creates ‘Ghost Stories’ course.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – Total spending for Halloween this season is expected to hit a record $10.6 billion. The Oct. 31 holiday – much like the inside of a jack-o’-lantern – is lit.

KEVIN ROBERTS: English department lecturer has created Ghost Stories course. KEVIN ROBERTS: English department lecturer has created "Ghost Stories" course.Kevin Roberts, a lecturer in Monmouth College’s English department, has noticed that trend, leading him to create a lit course, “Ghost Stories.”

“I think a lot of people are interested in fright stuff and scary stuff,” said Roberts. “’Ghost Stories’ is not only a course for English majors, it’s for anybody. You get a little taste of what it’s like to analyze literature, and I think the topic is kind of fun.”

During the half-semester course, which started earlier this month, students are being exposed to several authors, including American novelist Peter Straub. When Roberts was determining content to include, he chose Straub’s Ghost Story as the course’s overarching work. He explained that the story might not have scared him, but it got under his skin and really made him think. In addition to that, he said, he chose Ghost Story because of its story’s elements.

GHOST STORY: One reviewer called Peter Straub novel the scariest book I've ever read.&q... GHOST STORY: One reviewer called Peter Straub novel "the scariest book I've ever read."“Straub uses a lot of stuff that is very traditional, very folklore-like, that has some verbal throwbacks to it, but it’s also a great story that builds and builds,” said Roberts. “It’s a good example of what a good ghost story does.”

Roberts also included several short stories from different authors, including Illinoisan Ray Bradbury’s October Country and Halloween Tree.

“One of my main goals is whether you believe in ghosts or not, I hope you get a chance to look at literature you might not have ever read before or heard before,” he said.

The greatest ghost story?

Roberts also selected a very familiar ghost story for the course, perhaps the most familiar of all.

“I think everybody knows some version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and what people forget is it’s kind of the most popular ghost story ever written,” he said. “A Christmas Carol has many adaptations from movies, plays and cartoons, and that’s how most people are familiar with it, but it’s a great ghost story, too. It’s one that we need to read, and a lot of people haven’t read it.”

Roberts, who also included another Dickens story, The Signalman, wants the campus community to know that the course is available and hopes his students will enjoy the new class.

“I want people to realize it’s not too scary, but it should be a lot of fun,” he said. “You’ll read some stuff that you haven’t thought about before.”

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