Count Dracula, the Little Witch and the Phantom of the Courthouse paid an early visit to the students at Mills-Parole Elementary School yesterday, part of a Halloween reading program with volunteers from the Anne Arundel County State's Attorney's office.
For the third year in a row, about 20 members of the prosecutor's office, many in costume, read stories to classes at the Annapolis school and handed out treats.
Count Dracula -- Deputy State's Attorney William D. Roessler in real life -- evoked wide-eyed stares and squeals as he walked through the school's hallways with red streaks of fake blood dripping from the corners of his mouth and a black cape flowing behind him.
But he wasn't there to sink his teeth into anyone.
Mr. Vampire, as students called him, came to read stories from the book "More Night Frights" to a group of fourth-graders.
And with simple special effects, changing his voice and jingling a set of keys, he was a hit with students like Christina Christenser, 8.
She shook her head and urgently mouthed "no" as Mr. Roessler read the part in "The Red Bandanna" where a group of girls untie the bandanna around a fellow camper's throat as she sleeps, producing a startling result.
"I knew the head was going to fall off," Christina said. "I heard another story that was almost like that."
She likes hearing adults read stories aloud because they don't have to skip words they don't know, she said.
Adults should read aloud to young people often, said Andrea Horton, the school's media specialist and organizer of the visit.
"It's important for children to be read to at any age," she said. "There's nothing like having someone just sit with you and share a story -- the closeness. And having someone come in from the outside, it's just another way of teaching children the importance of reading."
And the readers enjoy it, too. Kathy Sprows, coordinator of the bad checks unit, and Debbie Levi, a secretary, seemed to have as much fun reading and illustrating "The Little Witch" as a class of third-graders had listening.
Ms. Levi sat in a rocker, narrating the story, as Ms. Sprows, dressed in a black dress, pointy black hat and green face paint mimicked the voice of the little witch, animals and talking trees.
"It gives you a warm fuzzy feeling," Ms. Sprows said. "It was just a pleasure."