By Jeff Baker
(October 28, 2018)
For years on Halloween I would celebrate by reading through some of my favorite ghost and horror stories. In the last few years I’ve posted a list (and sometimes links) on my Facebook page. As I’ll be busy Halloween Night, I’m going to post some of them here. The times we are living in are grim and call for watchfulness and activity, not lethargy but we have always needed the escape of a good tale well-told. So, without further ado…
THE BROWN HAND by Arthur Conan Doyle.
I am a big fan of Doyle’s fantasy and horror stories, and I first read this story nearly fifty years ago when I was in grade school, but didn’t pay attention to who wrote it. For years I thought it was Kipling. Doyle based the story on an old Indian legend, and although it does not feature the author’s most famous character, it does involve some detective work. I cannot note the passage of time by a square of moonlight from a window without flashing back to this story.
THE EVERLASTING CLUB by Arthur Grey.
Grey set most of his stories during the turbulent history of his college (Cambridge) in earlier centuries, such as this tale of college partiers who never really grew up and really should have been more careful with what they agreed to. This fine frightener is told in the form of an evaluation of the mysterious “Minute Book” of the title club.
Grey was a friend and colleague of the author of THE HAUNTED DOLL’S HOUSE, M.R. James. Likewise a Cambridge Don, and a master of the classic ghost story, this one blends humor with the tale of an object that replays a tragedy and the ghostly vengeance which followed. Incidentally, his stories were written, not for Halloween but to be read at Christmastime, a traditional time for English ghost stories.
British writer Ramsey Campbell follows in James’ example in liking to read his stories aloud to an audience. I can’t settle on one Campbell story so I’ll recommend his collection WAKING NIGHTMARES, the first of his I read. M.R. James is an offstage character in Campbell’s story “The Guide.”
THE LEMURES by Steven Saylor features his detective of Ancient Rome trying to solve a supernatural occurrence, in a story full of the Roman beliefs about ghosts.
I’ll add my own contribution to the festivities; my story DUSK AT MARSDEN TOWERS was my Christmas ghost story for 2017 and appeared on this blog on December 29 of that year. No co-incidence the name of the hotel sounds like a house in King’s “Salem’s Lot.”
So turn the lights down low (not too low) pull up a book or laptop or e-reader and happy reading! Happy Halloween!