My editor was the marvellous Philippa Dickinson, who also published Dragon Warriors. When a new TMNT book was being commissioned (the publisher usually contracted for two or even four at a time) I first of all had to produce a treatment (they're not just for movie scripts, whatever Wiki says) outlining the story. This one, Get That Ghost!, never got used - but if you're interested in the process of creating a franchise book, this is step one. Oh, and happy New Year!
GET THAT GHOST!
After an arduous night training exercise in Central Park, Splinter agrees that he needs to lighten up his ninja teaching and make it more fun. He sets the Turtles on a very unusual scavenger hunt to test their initiative.
The last item on the list to be scavenged is “a spook”, and the Turtles all independently wind up at a reputedly haunted house near the park around midnight. They get inside and are nervously exploring when an eerie sound makes them all jump—
“—And just a glimpse of a shadowy figure at the top of the stairs – particularly because the moonlight was visible right through it – sent us running like startled rats,” Leonardo breathlessly explains to his master when they reach home.
Splinter winces. “I believe you will find the proper expression is ‘startled cat’, Leonardo,” he says quietly. “Now, there are no such things as ghosts, my sons,” he tells them.
“Then what do you call those creepy, wispy things that glide around haunted houses scaring the pants off innocent turtles, master?” retorts Raphael.
“It was doubtless a trick of the moonlight, Raphael – perhaps reflected in a mirror. A good ninja does not hastily jump to extreme conclusions. Also, none of you wears pants.”
“I don’t get it,” says Michaelangelo. “Didn’t your list say for us to find a ‘spook’, Master Splinter?”
Splinter looks a touch embarrassed. “My handwriting is not always very readable, I know,” he admits. “I’d actually written ‘spoon’.”
Raphael instantly grabs a spoon from the sink. “I win the scavenger hunt!” he announces.
However, when the Turtles tell April about their weird experience the next day, she isn’t so skeptical as Splinter. “A reporter has to keep an open mind. My boss would say I’m crazy, but I say, if ghosts do exist then we ought to find out about it. Who’s for a return visit to that house tonight?”
The Turtles are none too keen at first, but they can’t let April down. They show her back to the house and take her to where they saw the apparition. Suddenly a ghostly figure walks right out of the wall beside April, and they all beat a hasty retreat. April keeps hold of her video camera, though, and when she later plays the tape back they get a closer look at the ‘ghost’. The face stirs a hazy memory with April, who checks the files at Channel 6 and comes up with a file on a Professor Crankel, who was a brilliant but eccentric scientist. The file says he died many years ago when a ray-gun that he’d developed backfired on him.
“So he must be a ghost!” cries Michaelangelo.
“Maybe, maybe not,” says April. “Would a ghost show up on video tape? I really think we’d better go for another visit.” She looks at their none-too-keen expressions and laughs. “Is this my intrepid band of heroes? You’re never afraid to face a hundred of Shredder’s soldiers. Surely one little bitty ghost doesn’t scare you?”
“Of course not,” snorts Leonardo. “A ninja is never afraid.”
“I’m a turtle, not a chicken,” says Raphael.
“Count me in,” adds Donatello.
“Uh, guys...” says Michaelangelo. “I’d love to come, but I don’t want to miss the midnight horror movie.”
“Relax,” April tells them. “We’re not going at midnight. There’s no time like the present.”
“Three o’clock in the afternoon?” says Donatello. “Aren’t ghosts usually asleep then?”
“Don’t argue with her, you dope,” whispers Raphael as they follow April out. “Do you want to be there when it’s awake?”
They return to house, but this time sneak in and manage to surprise the ‘ghost’. In fact Professor Crankel turns out not to be a ghost at all. He explains to them how the accident with his ray-projector years ago partly transferred him to another dimension, so that ever since he has been ghost-like and unable to touch anything solid.
“Like the ray-projector that Krang uses to teleport troops from Dimension X,” says Michaelangelo. “It must be a hard life.”
“That’s why I live as a recluse in this old house,” says the professor. “I can’t mix with normal people anymore. I can’t touch anything. I can’t even put on any clothes apart from what I was wearing when the ray struck me.”
The Turtles are sorry for him, but then they have a lucky accident. While Leonardo is making some tea, Michaelangelo starts playing with the ray-projector and inadvertently fires it at the teapot. That, too, turns intangible and none of them can pick it up – until the professor saunters in and absent-mindedly pours himself a cup.
“You can touch anything else that’s been treated with the ray!” Donatello realizes. “All you have to do is turn it on anything that you’re going to use, and then you’re okay.”
As the Turtles and April leave, the professor thanks them for their help. “I’m sorry I didn’t say anything the first couple of times you came round, but I was so startled and you ran off before I had a chance. I hope I didn’t scare you fellas too much.”
“No way,” replies Raphael. “There’s only one thing that scares us, and that’s missing our dinner. See you around, Prof!”