THANKSREADING 2018: New England Collectible Classics

Thanksgiving – the best holiday, FYI – is a week away, and I wanted to do something to acknowledge it here on the site. Wasn’t sure what it’d be, but I had a lot of time in my head today. I drove from northwest Vermont to northwest New Hampshire and back again this afternoon in the aftermath of the season’s first significant snowfall, and I figured it out.


For the next week, I’ll post a bit each day about a book or books that I’m thankful for. For whatever reason. Here’s the first bit of gratitude.


When I was a kid – around 11 or 12 if I remember correctly – my family went to the Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury, VT. A bookworm since first grade, I ignored the pressing of fresh cider and went right to the gift shop and found the book section. Among the Audubon nature guides, copies of Frank Bryan’s Real Vermonters Don’t Milk Goats, and coffee table books of Vermont photography, I found a series of thin volumes that would become an obsession and, eventually, a resource.

Known as the New England Collectible Classics Series, these books are a collection of New England folklore, weird history, and customs. With titles including Marvelous Monsters, Things That Go Bump in the Night, and Haunted Happenings, how could a pre-teen me say no? And as a writer of paranormal teen fiction set in New England, how could I not keep them by my side today? Over the past three-plus decades, I’ve read some of these well over a dozen times.

Written by the late Robert Ellis Cahill, the series opened up the northeast corner of the country in a way that was and remains wholly appealing to me. As a kid, I knew about Champ and had heard a few ghost stories here and there, but learning about the Dover Demon and the haunted Hoosac Tunnel and pirate activity along New England’s shores was mind-blowing. The more historical books that I dismissed in my younger days – Little Known War Wonders, Riotous Revolution, and Cruel and Unusual Punishments, for example – are as valued now by older me as the paranormal ones were back in the day.

The stories contained within this series played a fairly significant role in growing a powerful love of folklore within me, and it’s not hard at all to trace a direct line back from the stories I’m working on now to the work done by Cahill. And I’m so thankful for the fruits of his labors.

If I had the courage, I’d love to talk to Old Saltbox Publishing about re-editing the books, adding in more visual elements, and creating an omnibus of the series. Which, by the way, I don’t have the entire set of. I’ve got 19, but there’s at least 27 in all. I know I could just go online to find them and be done with it, but the ones I have were collected during visits to every New England state. That’s how I’d like to complete the set.

And when I do, I know I’ll be as thankful for the new additions as I am for the others.

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