Boys and Ghouls


One day, a brother and sister move with their family into a new house. They share a big bedroom right up in the attic at the top of the house. The room has a window that opens through the roof.

Each night, when it’s time to go to bed the two children open the window and look out. They can see birds sitting high up in a tree. As it gets dark they can see the lights from big buildings far away. They can see the lights of planes up in the sky. Sometimes they can see the moon. They can hear buses turning at the bottom of the road, sirens, and parties in houses nearby…

Then they close the window, get into their beds, and wait for sleep to come. One night, after they had been in the new house a couple of weeks, they were lying in the dark when they heard a tap on the window. Scared, they hid under their duvets. Who could get up so high to knock on their window.

The next morning, they wondered what it could have been? Probably, a bird or a branch of a tree in the wind, they decided. But that evening, when they opened the window to check, they saw there were no trees close enough to tap their branches on the glass. They shrugged their shoulders and went to bed.

In the dark, the two children were just about to fall asleep when they heard: Tap-Tap-Tap.

‘What could it be?’ whispered the girl.

The next voice they heard was one they’d never heard before:

‘Let me in’, it pleaded, ‘Please, let me in.’

The two children gasped and buried themselves as deeply into their beds as they possibly could. The tapping started again, and the same voice: ‘Please, let me in… I just want to come and play.’

The girl peered out over her duvet. ‘Who are you?’

‘I’m a ghost,’ said the voice. ‘But I’m friendly. I’m just lonely, that’s all. When I saw there were children moving into this house I was really excited because I’d have someone to play with again. Please let me come in and play.’

The two children weren’t sure what to do.

‘Don’t open that window!’ the boy said to his sister.

‘No need!’ laughed the ghost - and a wobbly white shape slid through the wall into their room, hovering just off the ground. The children couldn’t believe their eyes.

‘Let me show you some tricks,’ chuckled the ghost and passed backwards and forwards through the roof and the floor. The two children watched the ghost do this at least a hundred times. It was so weird and funny. And then the ghost said, ‘I’m tired. Thanks for playing. See you tomorrow night!’… and vanished into the night.

At breakfast time, the girl said to the boy: ‘Do you think that ghost we aw was real?’

Her brother nodded. The he added: ‘And if he comes back tonight, then we’ll know for sure.’

The girl frowned, puzzled. ‘What do you mean he? That was a she not a he.’

And they started to argue about whether the ghost was a boy or a girl. That night, they waited to see if the ghost would return. Before long, there was that same tap at the window, and the ghost appeared.

‘We want to know something,’ explained the boy. ‘Are you a boy or a girl? I think you’re a boy, but my sister thinks you’re a girl.’

The ghost laughed. ‘Of course. You can’t tell, can you? I have a ghost body, not a boy or girl body. And I have a ghost voice, not a boy or girl voice. Let’s turn it into a game. You can ask me any question - apart from ‘Are you a boy?’ or ‘Are you a girl?’ and I will answer with just Yes or No. See if you can think of a question that proves for certain which I am.’


Task Question:

  • So the boy and the girl started to think. Was there one question that could prove - absolutely for certain - whether the ghost was a boy or a girl?


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Ages: All | All

Subjects: Epistemology

Themes: Identity