Ellen Harvey Showell

Selected Works

Children's Fiction: Ghost Stories and Mysteries
A realistic tale set in Appalachian hill country. 12-year old Willy and his sister dare to befriend a wild child of the woods--even though she is said to have drowned years ago. They take separate paths to discover the truth about her--just in time to prevent another tragedy. An Authors' Guild Backinprint edition.
History of American Women In Science: Inventors
True to the author's bent, this non-fiction book starts with an original fairy tale. Otherwise, it presents real stories of fascinating women inventors from colonial days to outstanding scientists of present time. Co-authored with Fred M.B. Amram. Ideal for homeschoolers.
Musical Plays for Children to Perform
A young girl who loves to dance finds a fiddle-playing boy on magical Blue Mountain. An Appalachian fairy tale with traditional and original songs. Based on the novel by the same name.
A musical play on words, ideal for elementary or middle school productions. Six syllables become a word that has to find its meaning -- a hilarious exploration of language. Fun, jazzy songs and dances. Could complement a poetry or creative writing unit.
Death Penalty
In this one-act play described as "Powerful," "Deeply moving,", Men and women with opposite feelings about the death penalty confront condemned persons and each other--and a medical technician confronts his own soul. "It makes you think." Especially suitable for death penalty focus groups. Feel free to downloadthe script.

What's Said About It


Showell evokes the Hill Country well...her ability to maintain mood is manifest and heightened by Gammel's ethereal, shadowy, grey and white drawings." ALA booklist

The Ghost of Tillie Jean Cassaway


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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.