One night, while drawing the curtains on her apartment windows, Deborah Abela saw her one and only ghost. In the pitch black, kneeling on her bed, she saw a face. Her beloved but frail nanna had died five or so years before but there she was, younger and watchful.
''I remember staring at her and then she just faded from view. I took from that that nanna was still looking out for me,'' Ms Abela said.
Do not tell the children's fiction writer the apparition was a figment of an overactive imagination. Ms Abela has never doubted the fidelity of her memory nor the drawing power of a ghostly tale - it informs her popular Ghost Club story series.
Walker Books Australia's managing director, Sarah Foster, has declared it one of publishing's ''happy coincidences'' that children's authors are returning to the old-fashioned ghost story.
She credits the literary ''zeitgeist'' of fantasy fiction, popularised by rich imaginative worlds of dragons, druids, wizards and witches - think Harry Potter - for the leap in manuscripts submitted with ghostly themes.
Random House's children's publisher, Zoe Walton, has also noticed a resurgence in the scary story, nominating Belinda Murrell's Ivory Rose alongside Ms Abela.
Other recent books include Charlotte Calder's The Ghost at the Point, Karen Tayleur's Love Notes from Vinegar House and Sonya Hartnett's latest book, Children of the King. And R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series, very popular in the 1990s, is being re-released.
The interest in fantasy is a search for true meaning and empowerment in an overwhelming and confusing world, says the children's writer Susanne Gervay.
''The ghost creates fear and uncertainty and, at the same time, forges a new pathway to resolve real terrors,'' she says.
''An adult readership will plod on through dreary plot because they have been told there are issues or larger messages but with children you have a two-second opportunity to engage them, they cannot be tricked.''
The fascination in the afterlife took off in Victorian times, an era of unparalleled industrial and social change. Charles Dickens's membership of the Ghost Club, an eclectic group of ghost enthusiasts that still meets monthly in London, inspired Ms Abela's Ghost Club tales of plucky sibling ghost catchers who negotiate happy endings between the spirit world and real life.
From reading to children, Ms Abela has discovered that ghosts are not something frightening for cultures in which the presence of ancestral spirits forms a key part of their belief systems. To other children, the ghost story contains what the 19th century ghost writer Montague R. James described as a ''pleasing terror''.
In children's fiction, the size of the scare depends on age. At primary school level, the ghosts are more thrills than chills - they are a bearer of wisdom helping to bestow psychological strength on the mortal child, a messenger with unfinished business or a cipher for difficult questions and the keeping of secrets.
Whatever its permeations, the ghost story is universal to children's fiction, Gervay says. ''There's not a single person who hasn't grown up spending nights around a campfire telling ghost stories.''