I loved "Green Ghost" with emotions that bordered on obsessional when I was a child. As is likely the case with many kids, Christmas was a time of mania in my family's household, a fevered race to a deadline when a cornucopia of toys would be laid out before the rolling eyes and salivating mouths of my older sister, younger brother and myself. I received "Green Ghost" in my 8th year on the planet and I'm unlikely to ever feel as satisfied with anything again as I was the year I received this giddy glowing game.
Having said that, the game itself was not nearly as fun as just OWNING it was. Like "Mousetrap," Green Ghost was much more fun to set up and mess with than it was as a game in the proper sense. For starters, the through-line of "Kelly," the lost ghost child, was difficult to follow or get too worked up about. You never knew...was "Green Ghost" a mom, dad, or...? And the ghost babies were depicted as small, pale green thimbles that were much more fun to stick on your fingers than into the spinner board. Because the ghost kids had no facial features it was impossible to care about "Kelly" and the plight of the ghost child being lost in the swamp...and after all, being ghosts, would being lost in a haunted swamp really be such a bad thing? Kelly had the other ghost kids to play with in the batwing/snake/bone-filled pits, after all. And further, what made Kelly so special? The instructions for the game never made this clear.
I also found myself wondering, just where WAS this haunted swamp? Whose haunted house was it...why was there a half-sunken boat? And who was Green Ghost when he/she was alive? Of course it was all just a game so it didn't matter but it was perplexing.
Of more importance was the playability of the game. The spinner that "GG" sat on never really worked that well--rather than "spinning" the big, blobby ghost would usually just move a few places with that characteristic croaking/clicking sound. If you practiced (and lord knows I did, for hours) you could manipulate the ghost spinner so it always came to whatever number you wanted it to move to, and you could win the game every time. However, you had to be careful and hold the spinner down while you spun it once you started adding ghost kids to it--if you spun wrong you'd send ghost babies flying everywhere. Similarly, the plastic legs that held the game aloft were always a flimsy fit and would sometimes fall out mid-game, upsetting the board. Eventually I lost one of the six plastic legs and had to balance the board precariously on my leg to get through the game.
Lastly, the "glow" effect never quite worked out right. Even if you stuck the game under a bright light for an hour before playing (yes, I experimented, we didn't have video games in those days) the glow effect would only last about 10 minutes and in five or less the board would grow so dim it was hard to see what you were doing. Often as not we would get impatient with "re-charging" the thing every few minutes and finish the game--if we finished it at all--with the lights on.
But it really was a fun game, overall, just for different reasons than one might initially think. Reaching into the crypts and not knowing if you were going to find something disgusting inside was a laugh--the feathers felt particularly yicchy, or so my sister would reiterate as she squealed in horror again and again (eventually she refused to play the game with me any more and I don't suppose I blame her, as I started putting "surprises" in the pits, to my own amusement and her dread).
It was fun to set up the baby ghosts on the spinner and just spin it around randomly, the spinner making that awful croaking sound until mom sent us all to the TV room so we'd quit making so much racket. More than anything I just liked setting up the board and STARING at it, glowing softly, imagining myself wandering some radioactive, forgotten swamp where only a ghost would feel at home.
In the pantheon of old games, particularly games with a "horror" element, however cheesy, "Green Ghost" holds a unique place in history as the first, and perhaps ONLY, glowing game still beloved by those who remember playing it as kids. Long may the memory of the Green Ghost haunt us all!