TBT^2: On Ghost Stories

It’s that time of year again—the so-called “spooky season,” when Halloween decorations go up, scary stories get told, and overwrought bloggers with delusions of grandeur stage over-the-top concerts from their front porches (well, maybe that last one is just me).  As the weather turns cool and the leaves begin to fall, it’s almost impossible not to settle in with some hot coffee and a good collection of ghost stories.

So, for the second year in a row, I’m looking back this TBT to 2019’s “On Ghost Stories,” a post that now will hold the distinction of being a perennial favorite.

One might think that as scary as the real world is, we’d spend less time reading spooky fiction.  It seems the opposite is the case.  Perhaps the idea that malevolence is not necessarily the result of human frailty, but rather due to wicked supernatural influences, is oddly comforting.  That evil is the result of our fallen nature—and, of course, the malignant supernatural influence up on it—is a bit easier to forget, perhaps, when reading about some ghostly figure wreaking havoc in the English countryside.

More likely, it’s just that we enjoy being scared—when we can easily flip off the television or close the book.  Horror is fun when there are no real consequences attached to it.  Then again, just watching horror movies probably isn’t healthy (I’ll report back if I suddenly get any macabre urges).

Well, whatever the reason, a good ghost story is hard to pass up.  With that, here is “TBT: On Ghost Stories“:

Today marks the first day of October, perhaps my favorite month of the year.  We’re already getting that first crisp coolness in the air here in South Carolina, and it’s feeling more and more like autumn every day.

So with Halloween just thirty days away, I thought it would be fun to look back at a post from last “All Hallowe’s Eve Eve,” as I wrote at the time:  one all about ghost stories.

I finally finished slogging my way through The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories, thanks in no small part to quarantine.  It’s an excellent collection, and I stand by my recommendation from last October, but there are a handful of stories that are way too long—or dense.

I’m now reading through a more accessible, far lighter read:  the classic Tar Heel Ghosts by John Harden.  It’s a collection of North Carolina-based ghost stories published in the 1950s, so it has that pleasing sense of implicit patriotism and love of place that is now so sadly missing from our cynical, cosmopolitan writing of today.  Like The Story of Yankee Whaling, it possesses a refreshing innocence about and love for its subject:  no hand-wringing over now-unfashionable ideas, no condemnation of a lack of diversity, no talk of “marginalized” groups being “unrepresented.”

I picked up the book sometime in my childhood on a family trip, but I don’t think I ever finished the collection.  I’m rectifying that all these years later, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.  I also plan to reread Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree, one of my favorites to pull out this time of year.

Here’s hoping you find some spooky tales of your own to curl up with on these cold, October nights.  Here’s October 2019’s “On Ghost Stories“:

It’s Halloween!  Well, at least it’s All Hallow’s Eve Eve, but that’s close enough for some ghoulishly delicious ghost stories.

I love a good ghost story.  The Victorians did the genre best, but many writers since have honed it further, adding their own unique twists and scares.  Even Russell Kirk, the great conservative philosopher, was a fan of ghost stories.  Indeed, his bestselling book was a ghost story.

For the Victorians, ghost stories were told at Christmastime.  This timing, while peculiar to modern readers, makes sense intuitively—Christmas is a time for remembering the past, in part (perhaps especially) our honored dead (just ask Washington Irvingif he comes by to haunt you).  The “ghosts” of departed loved ones linger closely during those long, frosty nights.  The inherent nostalgia of Christmas and the winter season—and bundling up next to a crackling fire—sets the perfect mood for ghostly tales.

Nevertheless, what other time of year can beat Halloween for a good tale of witches and werewolves; of monsters and mummies; of ghouls, goblins, and ghosts?

As such, I’d encourage readers to check out “Nocturne of All Hallow’s Eve,” a deliciously frightening, blood-soaked tale of the supernatural and the macabre from Irish-American author Greg Patrick.  Alternative fiction website Terror House Magazine posted it back in September, and I’ve been saving it to share on the blog until now.

Patrick’s style conjures the dense verbiage of Edgar Allan Poe.  Indeed, he overdoes it a bit (see his more recently published “The Familiar“).  But his subject matter is pure Halloween—the tenuous space between the natural and the supernatural, the mysterious rituals, and on and on.

If you’re still in search of some ghostly reads, check out The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories.  It’s the collection I’ve been reading since my trip to New Jersey this summer.  It’s a truly spine-tingling collection that covers some of the great—and many of the undeservedly unsung—writers of the genre, the men and women who truly created and molded what makes a good ghost story.

So wherever you find yourself the next couple of nights, curl up with a good book, a warm fire, and a good ghost story (and maybe someone else, if you’re so inclined).  You and the ghosts will be glad you did!

10 thoughts on “TBT^2: On Ghost Stories

  1. ‘One might think that as scary as the real world is, we’d spend less time reading spooky fiction. It seems the opposite is the case.’

    Maybe it’s because we remember that one is fiction and the other is factual. The reality of the world as it is today is less easy to stomach but the fiction of fear can be something we quite enjoy falling into. I get that with horror gaming. I’d love it if you could do the latter in VR but unfortunately we’re not quite there yet.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Port – if, on the other hand, one prefers to watch videos, I highly recommend Sir Spooks, Nuke’s Top 5, and Chills – they are all YouTube channels. As one might expect, some of the submitted clips just sort of make you roll your eyes (even I can figure out how the fake was done), there are a surprising amount of clips for which there is simply no explanation and that leave a big question mark.

    Should I tell you my very own ghost story?

    Liked by 3 people

  3. We bought the house we live in from my husband’s best friend, Tom. Shortly after we moved in, Tom passed away. One day, I was alone in the house, sitting right where I am now, doing stuff on the computer. Try to imagine the layout of my house: my computer room is a spare bedroom. If I look to my right, there’s a short hallway that leads to a second spare bedroom and inbetween the two bedrooms is the bathroom. If one leaves the bathroom and walks straight ahead, one is in the dining room from which one can either go left to the kitchen and living room or right to the master bedroom and the front of the house. You sort of have to know that to understand the rest.

    I’m sitting alone in the house, here in my computer room, doing whatever and I hear foot steps. I kind of cock my head to one side and listen – Lon must be home. But I don’t hear anything but foot steps and I look to my right and seems like the foot steps are coming from the bathroom and crossing the dining room floor. Hmmm. I called Lon’s name but there was no answer. Hmmm. Oh well. This foot step thing went on for over a week – so predictably that I could match the events with clock; it seems ‘walking’ occurred between 3:30 and 4 p.m. every day. I thought about this for awhile, over several days, and came to the realization that that particular time of day, Tom would have just gotten home from work. I know this because Lon and Tom worked together for years at the VA. They were in the same shop for many of those years. Once I had figured that out, I told Lon about the ‘walking’. He was sort of perplexed – wondering if I’d ‘lost it’ but then he laughed and we decided, if we were going to be haunted we’d rather be haunted by Tom, who was a dear friend and would never hurt us. it got to be a joke – Lon would get home, come into the computer room to say hello and he’d ask if Tom had been here and I laugh and say yes, but he was a few minutes late today – that sort of thing.

    Fast forward several months. We used to play poker on Saturday afternoons and had several friends who came to play. One of them was an elderly gentleman, Pops, who was just a sweet man and I was very fond of him. He came for poker early one Saturday, so he and I sat on the couch chatting, waiting for Lon to get home from an errand. As we sat chatting, a key went into the back door, clicked … and nothing happened. Pops was watching the door, expecting Lon to come in but the door never opened. You see, he heard the key in the lock, too. Pops was quiet for a few minutes, watching the door. He finally said, “You have one of them?” I instantly knew what he was referring to. I said Yes. About 10 minutes later, the key went into the lock again and this time Lon came through the door. Pops never came back to play poker ever again.

    There’s more. Should I go on?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Please do but I should add that we bought Maximum Overdrive and watched it last night, after you’d posted about it the other day. It can happily sit alongside Plan 9 From Outer Space and perfectly explains why Stephen King doesn’t direct much. Everything about that film – the writing, the acting, the story, the pacing – was atrocious (though I’ll never fault AC/DC) but it was so bad, it was kind of good, just like Plan 9. We’ll be keeping it for a view per decade but crikey, they even roped Pat Hingle into it and he was as bad as everyone else.

      Anyway, back to your story…

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Audre, Tina knew that film (MO) from old and liked it. I think she still does. God knows what that says about her taste! Maybe I shouldn’t think about that considering who she’s chosen to spend her life with! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yeah … probably shouldn’t go too far down that road. (wink) But look – it’s quite obviously a movie that had absolutely no pretention about itself. It touched on a fairly good – but not the best – story and then, like a small child will do, ever conceivable joke was thrown at it like paint on a canvas. It wound up being just simply a silly but engaging and fun movie to watch. Bruce Campbell movies are the much the same, I think.

      Liked by 3 people

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