Friday, November 01, 2013

Friday Reading Assignment: Ghost Stories

I am a day late and a dollar short for Halloween, but tomorrow is All Soul's Day, so let's talk ghost stories. (Who else remembers spending All Soul's Day obsessively saying Hail Mary's in order to release souls from purgatory?)  Anyway,  horror is not my genre.  I would rather read science fiction than horror, and I think I am the only person in America who has never read a Stephen King novel.

Our jack- o'- lanterns.
We're devotees of the old skool butcher-knife
carving method

The scariest story I have ever read is "The Entrance" by Gerald Durrell, which is the last story in the collection The Picnic and Other Pandemonium. (Excellent review here.)  I read this story years ago, and to this day, I can't look at a mirror when I am alone in the dark.  The fact that Durrell is known for his humor makes the story doubly frightening.  It's like biting into something that you assume will taste like an apple and that turns out to be a ghost pepper.  If you want to scare the pants off yourself,  look no further.  (But you might want to consider draping sheets over all your mirrors for a while.)

Speaking of scary, in the early years of our marriage, Jon and I spent a week house sitting for his parents.  I was hugely pregnant with Ian and got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.  As I walked toward the bathroom, I saw a figure approaching me.  I had enough time to see long hair and a curvy shape and identify the figure as female, but not enough time to feel frightened until I walked smack into whatever it was that was walking toward me.  Scream?  I raised the roof.  Then in all the fuss and pandemonium and turning on of lights it was discovered that the bathroom door had somehow become closed and there was a full-length mirror hanging on the back of it that I had never noticed, and I had been walking toward my own reflection.  Mirrors:  scary as fuck.

Gratuitous Halloween costume pic.  They were handing out the hats at a "Happy Birthday Canada" party that my sister attended in Washington, which inspired me to be a Canadian for Halloween.  The shirt is an old rowing shirt from the Friendship Regatta in Buffalo. During the War of 1812, there were some fierce battles between Buffalo and Fort Erie, the town on the Canadian side, so now, every July, there's a festival to celebrate the fact that we've given up that sort of thing.  Did you know it's the 150th birthday of Canada this year?

Happy Birthday, Canada

What's your favorite ghost story?


  1. It's not a ghost story, but one that gave me the creeps for years was Spider by Patrick McGrath.

    Last night my daughter and her friends watched Paranormal Activity 3 and 4 while I was in the room. They warned me that it was terrifying but I laughed hysterically at what they found so scary: a horde of grandmother zombies hiding in the garage.

  2. I think my favorite ghost story is "A Christmas Carol."

    I think the best horror writer remains Edgar Allen Poe.

    1. Edgar Allen Poe is the master, no doubt. I had a sensible English teacher in 8th grade who assigned us all of Poe's most horrific stories. She knew what would hold our attention, LOL. She even dug up a film of The Fall of the House of Usher that was fantastic.

  3. Wow. That would freak me out, too.
    I used to teach a class in gothic fiction. "The Turn of the Screw" was pretty freaky. Equally terrifying was the novel "An Absolute Gentleman" which wasn't about a ghost, but a serial killer.