Jay Whistler was born to tell tweens spooky stories, and not just because her birthday falls on Halloween.

As a kid growing up in suburban Detroit, the middle-grade author says she had her share of haunting experiences. Kitchen drawers in her family’s home opened on their own before her eyes, she said. And then there was the strange figure in old coveralls who would walk through the basement and vanish without saying a word.

Now wherever Whistler travels she explores the area’s haunts. So it’s only fitting that she has tailored the ghost stories of San Antonio, her new hometown, for her target audience.

Whistler’s new book, “The Ghostly Tales of San Antonio,” is an adaptation of the 2013 book “Haunted History of Old San Antonio” by Lauren and James Swartz, the married couple behind Sisters Grimm Ghost Tours in San Antonio.

Part of the “Spooky America” series by Arcadia Publishing, “Ghostly Tales of San Antonio” rounds up the usual and not-so-usual suspects of the Alamo City’s haunted history. Only these ghost stories are designed to scare up curiosity in young readers about life in the past as well as afterlife in the present.

“I wanted to give them a lot of the history, but kind of make the hauntings a little more mysterious so they draw their own conclusions,” said Whistler, who started the book soon after moving to San Antonio last October. “It’s about presenting the history of an area in a way that really appeals to kids.”

That history starts with an introductory overview of San Antonio. Then it’s off to several paranormal hotspots in and around town.

At San Fernando Cathedral, sightings of red orbs are said to be the souls of Mexican and Texian casualties from the battle of the Alamo, while ghostly figures seen wandering the pews are believed to be clergy or wealthy patrons buried at the historic site.

Then there are those old hotels whose souls never checked out: The Menger Hotel with the ghost of Teddy Roosevelt calling for Rough Riders volunteers at the hotel bar. The Emily Morgan Hotel with specters of surgeons from its early days as a hospital. The Hotel Gibbs, formerly the Gibbs Building, with a woman in 1940s attire exiting the elevators no longer in use.

Whistler also unearths the more obscure tales from in and around the 210.

"The Ghostly Tales of San Antonio" is based on a more grown-up book by Sisters Grimm Ghost Tours owners Lauren and James Swartz.

“The Ghostly Tales of San Antonio” is based on a more grown-up book by Sisters Grimm Ghost Tours owners Lauren and James Swartz.

Express-News file photo

The hill at Comanche Lookout Park is said to be haunted by retired Army Col. Edward Coppock, who died in 1948 before he and his sons could finish building his dream castle on the site. And the Huebner-Onion Homestead and Stagecoach Stop in Leon Valley is said to still be home to Joseph Huebner, who died there in 1882 after mistakenly guzzling a jug of kerosene he mistook for whiskey.

Whistler does skip over the Swartz book’s more salacious and sordid details.

The section about San Antonio’s red light district is instead referred to in Whistler’s adaptation as the “Sporting District” with a focus on the area’s gambling instead of prostitution. And Whistler leaves out the story of Clemente Apolinar, whose gruesome murder of a teen boy in 1921 resulted in his own gruesome hanging at the Old Bexar County Jail.

“(These are things) kids don’t necessarily need to know,” Lauren Swartz said. “I would say our book was about a PG-13, and they brought it down to a PG.”

For Whistler, that meant striking a balance between historical accuracy and haunted history, written in a tone that’s kid-friendly without being condescending.

“I 100 percent believe these things have happened to people, that they have experienced what they say they have experienced. I believe that there is probably some basis in truth,” Whistler said. “With that being said, I think it’s important to not traumatize kids.”

With that in mind, she compares hauntings to a video loop rather than an otherworldly interaction.

“It’s like a scene replaying itself,” Whistler said. “And that for a kid is not scary.”

Whistler said her own childhood experiences were benign. She said she took the opening kitchen drawers for granted. As for the silent figure in coveralls drifting through the basement, she stopped seeing him when she was 14 — after she saw “The Exorcist” and stopped going into the basement.

Whistler said she understands some parents may feel uncomfortable with their children reading about or believing in ghosts. But she stresses that her primary goal with “Ghostly Tales of San Antonio” is for kids to enjoy learning history from these kinds of stories.

When you’re exploring the past, there’s nothing like a ghost for a guide.

rguzman@express-news.net | Twitter: @reneguz

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