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I’ll say it once, I’ll cackle it a thousand times: children are far better at processing fear than adults. They are afraid of more things — everything is so big and new — but they deal with the fact that something scared them better than an adult. We just forget that.

Case in point.

Two good friends of mine from back up Chicago way, Val and Allen, were on a family road trip through the south and made a one night stop at my place on Friday. I was eager — EAGER! — to show off my spooky cabin-ish house.

Val and Allen brought their not-quite-four-year-old daughter Penny. Penny liked the skulls and decor. She liked the woods and singing frogs outside. Penny was very keen on seeing our fireplace in action, so I started a fire up, we procured beverages, and gathered front of the cheery roar.

We all listened to some Edgar Allen Poe audio fiction.

Now this is the point. Val and Allen present the world in a very straightforward manner to little Penny. And, with a little reassurance, she takes it all in very well. When she asked me how my adopted cat lost her eye, Val and Allen had me tell the disturbing story to her straight.

And so it was with Poe.

We started with Iggy Pop reading “The Tell-Tale Heart”. Penny was frightened and fascinated by Iggy’s eerie voice. She wanted to know every detail about “the man with the one eye.” We filled her in.

Then Christopher Walken read “The Raven”. Penny sat next to me, again hooked on the spooky cadence, with me giving her the occasional play by play and answering questions. “Oh! The raven is in his house?” “Why does he keep saying that?”

My literary partner was three years and some change, and I don’t remember having as much fun listening to Poe.

The little one went to bed, head full of dismembered bodies, evil eyes, and ill omens. And how did it effect her? The next day she asked her dad to tell her again about the raven and the man with the one eye. I think we formed some good brain wrinkles that night.

When they got back home, Val and Allen asked Penny what her favorite part of the whole vacation was. She said, “The scary house that was not haunted.”