The Booksmith on Haight Street will be turned into a 19th century spiritualist haunt on Thursday, May 6 when the author and illustrator of a new young adult novel, Picture the Dead, don period costumes for a reading of their work.
Oh, yeah. That local man of mystery, Lemony Snicket, will be acting as ghost.
The event is the formal launch of Picture the Dead, described alternately as a ‘illustrated paranormal teen romance novel,” or a book with a “Cold Mountain feel.” It was written by Adele Griffin and illustrated by Lisa Brown, who draws the three-panel book reviews for the Chronicle. She is also married to Snicket (aka Daniel Handler)
That family is known for its fun and sense of humor and the book launch promised to provide both. Those who wander into the Booksmith can try their luck communicating with dead spirits, or if that doesn’t work, get their picture taken with a paranormal being. (Snicket)
Griffin and Brown got the idea for Picture the Dead a few years ago when their two families rented an enormous house outside of Boston for a vacation. While there, they got this sense that there was another, well, non-human presence, in the house.
“We thought it would be restful but it ended up being different,” said Brown. “It felt like there was a presence in the house. It wasn’t us, it wasn’t the kids. It was like we were in someone else’s house and we were the invaders. It wasn’t sinister, but you felt you weren’t alone.”
Then Brown and Griffin stumbled upon an antique Victorian trunk in the basement. Crammed inside was an old scrapbook filled with Civil War photographs ringed in black, and “spirit photos” that purported to show the dead communicating with the living. Spiritualism and séances were popular in the latter half of the 19th century, the pair point out on their website.
“It was almost as if it was inviting us to this story,” said Griffin.
The trunk proved to be a conversation piece and Griffin and Brown soon found themselves collaborating on a historical novel set during the Civil War. It centers around Jenny Lovell, an orphan living with her uncle and not-so-kind aunt. When her fiancé dies in the war, she soon begins to sense that his spirit is not at rest. Jenny attempts to find out how and why her fiancé died, and her questions bring her into an alliance with a spirit photographer. Secrets spill out and soon nothing is as it appears.
The pair did extensive research for the book and based the settings and many of the details on actual events and people. Brown studied daguerreotypes from the Library of Congress and drew her illustrations using those portraits as a guide. She then put the pictures on her computer and remastered them.
The Booksmith event on Haight Street starts at 7:30 pm. If you can't make the party, Redroom.com will be streaming the party live.