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The Ghost of Tillie Jean Cassaway

The Story

The child in the woods--is she ghost or girl? The old Cassaway place has been deserted since young Tillie Jean drowned and her parents left their house in the hollow. People say the girl's ghost roams the countryside. Both 12-year-old Willie Barbour and his sister Hilary (unbeknownst to each other) see and make friends with a strange, wild child who claims to be Tillie Jean. After scary experiences, they discover the truth, and learn that even living human beings have hidden sides. The ghost remains ghostly--sensed, but never revealed.


Warm family relationships of the Barbour family and sibling rivalry form the backdrop for the tale, along with the special way of life for people who live in Holman's Hollow. Readers see another side to the poverty of isolated rural folk. There is more than the despair often depicted. The people that Hilary and Willy come to know talk in an old fashioned way some call ignorant. But these dignified, if eccentric, old ladies are knowledgeable about things that matter. Having few material possessions, they never think of themselves as poor--not as long as they have a vegetable garden, flowers, and good neighbors.

Of course, there are always scourges to be dealt with--an old hermit who lives on an island, threatens children, but longs for companionship; and a gossip who's so outrageous she's fun to laugh at. Children and adults can enjoy this realistic tale.

Children often ask me, "Is the story true?" I say no, I made it up. Of course, no one can make up everything. What we write is based on life experiences. However, this is my own ghost story. The logical part of my mind spun it into something more--a mystery involving true-to-life children.

First published in 1978 by Four Winds Press, a division of Scholastic Magazines, New York, it is now available again as an Authors' Guild Backinprint.com edition. Although text and illustrations are duplicated from the original, the print-on-demand version has a soft cover, and different cover art. Order from IUniverse for $9.95.

The Introduction

In hill country there is always mystery. Things are hidden around the bend or in the dark of the woos or over the mountain. If there were such a thing as ghosts, they would be in the old, old mountains of Appalachia. Time lingers there. A child's spirit, taken too soon from life, might want to stay, be of morning mist hovering over crooked rivers, be of evening shadows deepening against the mountains.
Some say Tillie Jean Cassaway is such a spirit--that even yet she looks, yearns, for someone to help her come back--someone who can hear, who can see. Others say no, she is happy now, content in the spirit.