Mother Ghost Nursery Rhymes and Other Tricks and Treats

Our gunk-ravaged copy of Mother Ghost.
One of the few things I enjoyed about elementary school was when we were handed a brand new Scholastic Book Club catalogue every three weeks or so. I loved those four cheaply printed pages of the Scholastic Book Club catalogue so much I memorized each issue in the way that I should have been memorizing my math book. I could tell you every novelization, abridged novel, record, tape, or poster available, what it cost, the names of each author, and even some of the code lettering (for the ones in which I was most interested). I did this in much the same way that I burned the TV Guide, which came in the Anchorage newspaper each Sunday, into my brain. (There were a lot less channels then, so it was a damn sight easier than it would be today. But I could tell you when anything was on, whether I was allowed to watch it or not.)

My excitement about the Scholastic Book Club catalogue (yes, I insist on the British spelling) was based around the fact that I could get my parents to spring for a few things in each issue. Since I was a book fanatic already, it was generally just books, but ofttimes I could convince them of other items. (Getting an issue of Dynamite! Magazine was an extra bonus!) The best part is that it didn't count against my allowance for that week, so it was a bonus situation. Sure, I had to wait 3-4 weeks for everything to show up in those pre-UPS/Fed Ex days. And just about the time that your stuff arrived, there was another Scholastic Books catalogue being dropped on your desktop at school. I should have had the system figured out early.

This cover was on Amazon.
We no longer have our cover.
I am uncertain whether I ordered the Scholastic record which had the story of Georgie the Ghost on one side and Mother Ghost Nursery Rhymes and Other Tricks and Treats on the other. The recordings date to 1968, but Scholastic would resell items in their catalogue for years and years. It is possible I ordered it when I was school age, though it may have been my brother Mark, who was born in '68, four years after me. Regardless, we have had this record in our family all this time, and it has always been a favorite. 

Though not necessarily for Georgie (I will talk more about him in a post later this month). What we loved was the hodgepodge of songs and poems that appeared in Mother Ghost Nursery Rhymes and Other Tricks and Treats. With music composed by future Sesame Street stalwart Joe "Bein' Green" Raposo, the performers are listed as Jean Richards, Karen Johnson, and Bob McFadden, who was the voice of Milton the Monster, Franken Berry, and Snark on Thundercats. For novelty record fans, he was also well-known for a hit song in 1959 called The Mummy, which was recorded with a young Rod McKuen (under the pseudonym, "Dor").

Mother Ghost Nursery Rhymes contains some original poems set to music, and true to its name, is also filled with some Mother Goose classics slightly rewritten to incorporate witches, ghosts, and monsters. Everything is on the non-truly scary level of a very innocent child, so there is no blood or death (outside of the ghosts) involved. The denizens of the night are all just so happy to say "Boo!" and playfully scare you. But they mean no real harm.

I have always had two bits from this record stuck in my mind. One is the poem In a Dark Dark Wood, where everything progresses every smaller in detail from its initial setting, but always with the "dark, dark" refrain. My brothers and I used to recite it, but would add ever more increasingly strange outcomes to what was lurking in the "dark, dark" whatever. The other is the scariest part of the record, a short song done in rounds called Have You Seen the Ghost of John? I have heard other versions of the song done elsewhere, but either because this was the first one I encountered or because it just is the most hauntingly done, this one has stuck with me.

Here is a full listing of the poems and songs in the full 5-minute and 34-second recording, along with my notes for each one:

Mother Ghost Nursery Rhymes and Other Tricks and Treats (1968, Scholastic Records CC-0619B) [5'34"]
Rock-a-Bye Monster [0:00-0:44] - Rewritten Mother Goose rhyme. "Down will come Monster, cradle and all!" You get it. 
This Little Ghost Went to Market [0:45-0:55] - This Little Piggy wearing a sheet. Best line: "This little ghost ate GHOST BEEF! YUM!" Yeah, it's a weird concept. 
Little Miss Spider [0:56-1:06] - Little Miss Spider, in the wake of sitting on a glider and eating her flies for the day, until she is scared away by Little Miss Muffet sitting on a tuffet. So, is this is a prequel? Or is the more famous poem a sequel that could be subtitled "The Spider's Revenge"? 
Witch of Willowy Wood (by Rowena Bennett) [1:07-1:35] - This one reminds me a bit of the animated short from Sesame Street called Wanda the Witch. Not really similar, and this is more of a song-poem than that, but I can't help but thinking she is wearing a weasel around her waist. 
A Six-Handed Monster from Gleating [1:36-1:49] - A fairly humorous limerick about the downside of having extra hands while going trick 'r treating. Don't be selfish, monsters! 
Oh Witch Mary, Quite Contrary [1:50-1:59] - Rewritten Mother Goose rhyme, this time with skeletons in the garden mix. 
Oh, You Put Your Right Bone In [2:00-2:12] - I guess this is a more anatomically oriented variation on the Hokey-Pokey. Much shorter than I remembered it being. Just one bone is introduced before it moves on to... 
A Goblin Lives in Our House [2:13-2:58] - A longer bit about the various noises that a goblin will make when they live in your house all the year 'round. Don't believe they have a goblin living in their house all the year 'round? Well, they will sing it to you again. 
In a Dark Dark Wood [2:59-3:46] - This was the big one for us... It starts out in a dark, dark wood, moves in succession to a house, a room, a cupboard, a shelf, and a box. And in that box? Well, you need to listen to the record... 
Have You Seen the Ghost of John? [3:47-4:30] - I remember there was a kid in our class named John that didn't like it when we sang this about him. Of course, he grew up to be about 6'7" by the time he was 14, so I doubt it was sung to him often after that. 
Peter Pumpkin Eater’s Party [4:31-5:34] - Peter Pumpkin Eater's wife seems to have turned into a witch, and this suddenly means that a huge party is being thrown at his pumpkin house (with perfectly awful refreshments). I really like this brief song at the end of the record, and kind of wish it were a little bit longer.
That's the record. If you would like to hear it yourself, I did find that someone has posted it on Youtube. You can listen to it below:


Maeve said…
Wow... I remembered every word. I forgot all about "A goblin lives in our house," but it came right back to me. My mother and I used to sing the "Ghost of John" round because of this record!
Anonymous said…
My siblings and I loved this record. Happily, I found and bought the record this year. Now I just need a phonograph again. I also found and bought a copy of Georgie the Ghost in hardback. Fun childhood memories. Thanks for your post!

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