“Ghostwriter,” the early-1990s PBS children’s show filmed in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, is coming out on DVD next month – offering glimpses of local streetscapes from that era.
In the show, Jamal, Lenni, Alex, Gaby, Tina and Rob — Fort Greene kids who all see the same ghost – team up to solve mysteries with the aid of the unseen title character, who sends clues in words.
“We were looking for a neighborhood that was urban, multi-ethnic, but also had a bit of history to it,” recalled Liz Nealon, who worked as an executive producer for the show. “When we first scouted Fort Greene, I said, ‘This is it.’”
While the indoor action was filmed in a Manhattan studio, the “Ghostwriter” crew solved mysteries in Fort Greene Park, chased the THABTO gang around the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and spent afternoons in Jamal’s bedroom, on the top floor of a white Victorian house that seems at home on Vanderbilt or Clinton. Gaby and Alex lived behind their family’s bodega on a corner off of Lafayette. Local mainstay Spike Lee appeared in an episode.
The show looked like nothing else on PBS at the time: a live-action show featuring a multi-ethnic cast of teens in a real urban setting. The goal of “Ghostwriter,” which aired from 1992 to 1995, was to get children excited about reading, writing and solving mysteries.
The show was taken off the air before the kids had the chance to solve their biggest mystery — who was Ghostwriter, anyway?
Producer and writer Kermit Frazier revealed Ghostwriter’s true identity in a recent interview.
“Ghostwriter was a runaway slave during the Civil War,” he said. “He was killed by slave catchers and their dogs as he was teaching other runaway slaves how to read in the woods. His soul was kept in the book and released once Jamal discovered the book.”
How the book got into Jamal’s basement was never revealed, but the story fits in with Fort Greene’s history – the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church was a stop on the Underground Railroad.
“We wanted the history, even though we never got to tell the story,” Ms. Nealon said. “Fort Greene was a place that Ghostwriter, when he was alive, would have stopped in.”
i am. speechless.