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I'm looking for a book of ghost stories I read as a child. The book was older when I read it, probably published in the 1960s or 1970s. It was probably between 50 and 100 pages, with occasional line art illustrations. In particular, I remember one illustration of two or three of the three main characters (two teenaged boys and a ghost) on the staircase of an old (perhaps abandoned) house.

While it advertised itself as a book of ghost stories, and it had a table of contents with titles for the separate yarns, I remember that there was an over-arching frame story that made it necessary to read the book in order, as a short novel, to understand what was going on in some of the later stories. The frame story concerned, I believe, the two teens who dug up and reburied the remains of a murdered peddler, whose ghost had appeared to them, in the opening story. One thing I more recently remembered about the exhumation was that before they had dug down to find the peddler's bones, they first unearthed the rusted remains of the metal wares he had been selling, which the killers had also dumped in the grave.

After his reburial, the ghost hung around in grateful dead (not the band) fashion. Most of the later stories were then recounted by the ghost to the teens; they dealt with other spirits he had met, both before and after his own death. The one story with an element that I remember very vividly tells of a meeting that the peddler's ghost has with another spirit, who has a noose around his neck that it says he has been wearing for decades. It seems, therefore, that this is the ghost of a hanged man. However, as his tale is told, it turns out that the man's death sentence was ultimately commuted, but that he was required by the judge to wear the noose around his neck as a reminder of his conviction and reprieve.

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One book I enjoyed as a kid matches your descriptions of the anthology.

I tried to solve the one way it doesn't match: the stories didn't have an over-arching frame story that all of the others stories were parts of. (Similar to "The Martian Chronicles", maybe?)

But the one story itself does match your description of the story so well that I read it again and had to put this answer out there.

  • There were four different publications of "The Arrow Book of Ghost Stories", from 1960 to 1972.

  • It is a slim book, with just over 100 pages.

  • Most of the stories are only a few pages, with the rest just normal "short stories".

  • It does line art drawings every few pages, one for the start of each story and another one or two in the stories.

Some of those drawings as well as the stories were vividly memorable to me all these years. (So were the stories of Cobbie Bean's cat and the lady water ghost.)

I got to wondering, what if the story about the teens digging up a murdered peddler were in another anthology?

"Spook's Bones" by Louis C. Jones was about two boys who help a ghost by digging up his bones and sneaking in a more proper burial. The ghost had been a tin peddler about 100 years before, a real mensch, whom someone had murdered for his savings, all in his pocket.

He does indeed hang around in a grateful dead fashion. He is so warmly grateful that he agrees to the boys' request that he come back to the old, seemingly haunted, neighbor's house and to tell them about the other ghosts.

It apparently wasn't in any other anthology that had its stories connected in a theme. ISFDB shows it only in four publications of the Arrow Book of Ghost Stories. (But ISFDB misses things.)

I would like to read the story about the man who has to wear a noose in life like The Ancient Mariner had to wear that dead albatross.

I hope you're still out there, have access to your account, and find this answer so you can verify whether that story has a twin, and whether anything in the Arrow Book satisfies your search.

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  • I got excited when I saw that The Last Apprentice, has "Spook's Bones" and has an overarching story where "As sixty-year-old John Gregory reflects on the past, he reveals how the world of ghosts, ghasts, witches, and boggarts was exposed to him and he later became the Spook, even though his first intention had been to join the priesthood", but it looks like it's a different spook's bones.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Mar 12 at 13:21
  • I hope they still have access to their account (some people I answered did not), and let us know, because i want to read it. I'll also search for a Last Apprentice that isn't "borrow unavailable". Commented Mar 12 at 16:18
  • :-D Buzz has been around for years, and was last here earlier this week, so I think we're good. Might take time for him to find a copy, of course.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Mar 12 at 16:44
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    @OccamShave Yesterday was actually an atypical day in that I didn't log in at all. This looked like a good possibility, but I looked at in on the Internet Archive: archive.org/details/arrowbookofghost00kram and it definitely didn't match. The trope of a murdered peddler's ghost was actually a pretty common one for a long time. For example, the spirit that the Fox sisters originally claimed to have contacted was a dead peddler. However, in the course of reading "Spook's Bones" I did remember a couple more things about the book I was thinking of, which I have added to the question.
    – Buzz
    Commented Mar 13 at 2:48
  • @Buzz Thank you. It's nice to know that, and I'd like to read it too when it's found. I liked the Arrow Book so much (written for kid's taste, but I was one) that I bought an old paperback book of it years ago. Watching for the ancient-mariner style noose wearing also. Commented Mar 13 at 4:17

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