Stories From the Kid’s Table: Ghosts of Fog and Smoke. Written for the Institute of Children’s Literature.


Charman! Charman! Char… Stop! Don’t do it! Anybody from Ventura California knows what will happen if you call out this phantom’s name three times in a row: he’ll come in the hour of the wolf and, and take you away! But where does the terrifying Charman come from? Hobo Jungle? perhaps, but do you dare journey alone to search for: The Ghosts of Fog and Smoke…

As the Ventura River deltas into the Pacific Ocean, the dark out-of-the-way wetlands form a wildlife refuge known as Hobo Jungle. This secluded jungle beckons to the beachcomber to risk the unknown and discover secrets lurking beneath dark cypress tress and tangles of undergrowth.

It’s not easy to get to the jungle on foot. If it’s low tide, a good rock scrambler travels along the rugged beach. High tide forces the adventurer to use the dreaded train bridge. No one knows when the next locomotive will hurl across the narrow, rickety structure, which is suspended thirty feet above jagged rock and piercing cactus. Those who have encountered the train have had to hang over the side and prey the strength of their hands held out.

There! We’ve made it. The ocean breeze tousles the groves of wild fennel draping the salty air with a hint of licorice. How cool it feels to walk barefoot on the bluegrass covered sand dunes.

Ancient wind-gnarled cypress trees guard the center of the jungle. Look up into the fluttering golden-orange leaves. No, wait! Look again, it’s tens of thousands of monarch butterflies! They fill up entire trees and are waiting for some sign from nature to begin their migratory journey south. The sky is a kaleidoscope of graceful, fluttering wings. Hold still, you’ve got one in your hair.

Sitting on a lonely beach, you will see a hazy gray wall appearing on the horizon; it moves closer and closer until everything is enveloped in a thick, damp curtain. The fog has rolled in. Now  all sound is muffled, all vision obscured. Somewhere beyond the whisper of the surf as it pulls back over polished rock, we hear the plaintive cry of a distant foghorn.

The smell of a campfire demands attention; it’s not called Hobo Jungle without good reason! A figure looming out of the mist could be a transient, a criminal hiding out, or maybe even one of the local haunts. Look! It’s Charman! Run for your life! Fly over that narrow  train bridge, and don’t look back.

Hobo Jungle is the place your mother tells you not to go to. But where else can a careful observer catch a glimpse of a snake or a wild cat or possibly a ghost? The jungle is wild and cut off from the world. Sneak out some summer night. We’ll set up camp and stare into the glowing embers of our fire. Maybe we”l survive, maybe we won’t.

Go with a group and take the jungle over with wild Indian calls, barbecued lunches and hours of hide and seek. “Olly, olly oxen all home free!”

Travel the jungle alone and the gnarly cypress tree seem to lurk overhead as if watching every move. The heart pounds at the mournful wail of a distant foghorn or a sudden snap of a twig. Every fiber of being is tingling, alert,ready for anything. The primordial allure of the jungle could never exist in any safe place. Go there for a visit, but beware!Image  


About lisasstories2013

Lisa Noble is a published writer and artist. Her stories, poems and art work have appeared in the following: Poet's West Journal, The Sound, Sage Woman, The Beltane Papers, Mixed Metaphors by the Seattle Art Museum, Voices of Choice, 33 Angel Times, Metro's Paint me a Poem: as part of Metro's 1999 Poetry on Buses Lisa's poem: "Low on the North West Food Chain: was featured on several Metro Buses. Since 2006 Lisa has been a regular contributor to We'Moon publications. Lisa is a graduate of the Institute of Children's Literature and is the author of the 3-part Charman Chronicles series. Book one: "The Charman Chronicles: The Book of Fire" Is available on in book and Kindle form. (See Frieda Cramer's book review on the Kindle display!) Lisa's motto is: Support Literacy, Read to a Kid" thus the theme of this blog which will feature her favorite children's stories. Lisa has also self published two chapbooks and is the creator of the "Halfway to Babylon" project slated to come out in 2014. Lisa has shown her art work in group and solo exhibitions. Most recently being a part of the "Artful Henna" exhibition at the Art Not Terminal Gallery curated by Kree Arvanitas and Jeannie Lewis. View Lisa's work on her on-line shop: and on this blog.

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