Tag Archives: ghost stories

Meet The Winter People

The Winter PeopleThe Winter People
Jennifer McMahon
Anchor Books
MMPB, $7.99
ebook  $7.99

If you’re in the mood for a creepy ghost story that provides plenty of chills, and who this time of year isn’t, then you might want to check out The Winter People. You may have the book. It’s on sale at a lot of the big box stores, such as Wal-Mart. Don’t let that stop you.

Set in the countryside near a small town in Vermont called West Hall, this is the story of Sara Harrison Shea, who died under mysterious circumstances 1908, not long after her daughter was found at the bottom of a well.  Sara’s ghost is said to haunt the area, and she’s something of a local legend.  Her secret diary has even been published.

Or what pieces people have been able to find of it.  But don’t worry.  The missing pieces are included here.  Much of the story takes place in modern times and concerns 19 year old Ruthie.  She lives off the grid with her mother and younger sister in what used to be Sara’s farmhouse.  Ruthie returns home late one night to find the lights on and her mother missing.  This isn’t typical of her mother, especially not in the dead of winter.  While trying to find some clue about where her mother could have gone, Ruthie discovers a copy of Sara’s diary in a secret compartment of her mother’s room. Continue reading

Getting Familiar with the Spirits

26801331Familiar Spirits
Donald J. Bingle, ed.
Compiled by Donald J. Bingle and William Pack
54o40′ Orphyte, Inc.
Paperback, 166 p.,  $19.95
ebook $4.99

This collection was funded through Kickstarter, and I supported it.  I chose both the electronic and a signed print version as my rewards.  I think I got my money’s worth.

I’ve always liked ghost stories, although they used to scare me to death when I was a kid.  I’ll admit when I pledged this particular project that I was expecting a slightly longer book.  I guess I’ve gotten spoiled by the Ragnarok Publications doorstoppers.

But like I said, I think I got my money’s worth.  With the exception of Jean Rabe, all of the authors in this volume were unfamiliar to me.  All of the stories were of professional quality.  With the exception of Jean Rabe’s offering, none of them tried anything fancy with voice or style.  The authors, while each having a different voice, told their tales in a straight-forward manner.  There were plenty of chills to be had, and none of the ghosts could be mistaken for Casper.  That’s a good thing.

Here’s what you get:

Sarah Hans tells of a battered wife’s revenge from the grave in “The Cold Earth”.  A wife’s ex-husband still blames her for his troubles, even after he’s dead, in Dolores Whitt Becker’s “All I Have is a Photograph”.  William Pack gives us a teenager’s first experience with the dead when he helps to clean out his recently deceased aunt’s house in “Stepping into October”.  “Green Lady” by Lynne Handy tells the story of a new wife’s encounter with a vengeful ghost after she moves to America to take up residence on her new husband’s estate.

In “What Happened at the Lake”, Wren Roberts gives the terrifiying account of a mother with two autistic children, and what happens when the older child demands to know where his yonger brother is after the brother has drowned.  This was one of the most chilling in the book because so much of the horror isn’t supernatural.  Kate Johnson’s “The New Girl” goes exploring  where she shouldn’t.  “The Hut” by Cathy Kern deals with a ski trip gone bad and a haunted ski hut.  In “Legend of the Sea Captain”, Ric Waters lets us know why you shouldn’t go walking along the beach before dawn.

I’ve always had a fondness for cemeteries in my fiction, and T. S Rhodes delivers with “Statuary”.  Melanie Waghorne shows us how “Irene” can find meaning in her life when the ghosts that only she can see and hear won’t leave her alone.  And finally, Jean Rabe gives us some canine ghosts (and a pet cemetery) in the dark “Cold-Nosed and Cold-Hearted”.  This one was written in a bit of dialect, something that’s fallen out of fashion, but I thought it added to the story and gave the narrator a unique voice.

Not all of the stories are scary, and some of them have a rather upbeat tone and/or ending.  But the ones that are scary are quite chilling.  Like I said, the book isn’t long, which means the stories are nice little October treats, just like all that candy you used to get on Halloween.  But without the stomach ache the next morning.

As I mentioned earlier, I got both the print and electronic editions.  I bounced back and forth between them, reading some stories at home in the paper book, and some in electronic format as I had a few free minutes throughout the day.  The print book is a high quality product.  The pages are sturdy paper, the cover has a deliciously creepy (and somewhat disturbing) cover, and the print has a font size that’s easy on my aging eyes.  The electronic book is well formatted.  The links in the ToC take you where they’re supposed to.  All in all, both versions are a good buy.

You Pay a High Price When You “Pay the Ghost”

Pay the Ghost“Pay the Ghost”
Tim Lebbon
Ebook short story $0.99

I became aware of “Pay the Ghost” when Tim Lebbon posted a link to it on Twitter.  I’ve been so distracted the last few weeks that I wasn’t aware of the Nicholas Cage movie coming out next weekend that’s based on it.

The premise is a man’s daughter disappears shortly after asking him if they pay the ghost while they’re taking a walk on Halloween.  He has no idea what she means by that question, but he’s going to find out.

I’ll not say more about the story because it is after all a short story.  It’s dark and creepy, and it has a bite at the end.  I read it yesterday afternoon while I was waiting on my son to finish an after school activity.  The chill it gave me was a nice relief from the nearly 100 degree heat.

I’ve not read much Lebbon, but what I have read has been good.  I’ve read a couple of shorter pieces set in his world of Noreela and intend to read more.

Here’s a clip of the movie.  Obviously there are some changes, but it looks like they kept the core of the story intact.

 

 

What You Can’t See Can Kill You if You’re Snowblind

SnowblindSnowblind
Christopher Golden
Paperback, St. Martin’s, $9.99
ebook $9.99 Kindle Nook

There’s something about a ghost story in the winter, when the weather keeps you indoors, that’s just satisfying.  This is especially true if, like me, you live in a warm climate and some years don’t see winter weather.  This is not one of those years.  While I’m not completely stuck in my house, we’ve had enough ice and snow to make driving one of those things you do only if you have to, and there’s more falling frozen stuff on the way.

So I found the timing for reading Snowblind to be perfectly synched with the weather.  And make no mistake, Snowblind is a great winter read and a chilling ghost story. Continue reading

A Look at Weird Tales 362

weird-tales-issue-362-front-coverBefore I start the review, I’d like to thank Doug Draa for the review copy and apologize for taking so long to get the review posted.  The review  copy is a PDF file, and I’d intended to read it while traveling over the summer.  For some reason, my ereader (a first generation device) wouldn’t open the file.  Anyway, since I hate reading for fun on a backlit screen (which I do enough of for work), it was a while before I managed to read it.  So thanks and apologies, Doug.  I promise to do better in the future.

There are a total of seventeen pieces of fiction, five poems, a tribute to Parke Godwin by Marvin Kaye,an interview with Joyce Carol Oates, and a look at how one of the illustrations was developed by Jeff Wong.

Overall, I found this issue to be a strong one, though not without a few stories which weren’t to my taste.  The theme for this issue is The Undead.  And no, not all of the themed stories are about zombies.  Just some of them, which is good because I’m not a big zombie fan.  But overall I found this issue to be a great read for Halloween. Continue reading

Travelling Through Northwest Passages

TimeNorthwest Passages
Barbara Roden
Prime Books
hardcover $24.95 (out of stock)
ebook $6.99 Kindle Nook Weightless

I’ve chosen to officially kickoff my Halloween related posts with Northwest Passages by Barbara Roden.  Barbara is one half of the team behind Ash-Tree Press, the other half being her husband Christopher.  (You could say I unofficially started with Maplecroft or possibly Bleeding Shadows.)

I chose this particular volume because it’s been a while since I read any ghost or spook stories in the classical vein.  If you’re familiar with Ash-Tree Press, you know they’re the foremost publisher of ghost stories in the world.  So you would expect an author like Roden to know her stuff.  You’d be right, too. Continue reading

Christmas Ghosts

FR-Christmas-Ghosts-ebook-cover-webChristmas Ghosts
Krisitne Grayson, ed.
WMG Publishing
trade paper $15.99
electronic $6.99

It’s good to read outside your comfort zone from time to time. I’m not really the target audience for this anthology. But I found it a nice, enjoyable collection of ghost stories that are a perfect fit for the season.  I meant to have this posted a little earlier, but things have been hectic enough that I didn’t finish the book until last night.

The stories here cross a variety of genres, but at heart they’re all romances. Now there are certain conventions of the romance genre that can’t be violated if the story is to be considered of that genre. Editor Grayson (the romance author persona of Kristine Kathryn Rusch) explains this in her introduction.

The main thing is that the two lovers have to end up with each other. While I like an upbeat ending, I prefer a little more suspense in the outcome of the relationship. I guess you could say I’m not that much of happily ever after kind of guy. I find unrequited love more interesting thematically.

Of course, knowing things won’t work out every time is just as unsatisfying.

Anyway, you aren’t here to read about me. You want to know about the stories. They’re all worth reading. They span a variety of time periods and encompass a number of other genres. All of them involve ghosts in some form, although the ghost isn’t as central to the story in some of the tales as in others. Continue reading

The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard: “The Spirit of Tom Molyneaux”

Howard HorrorThe Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard
Robert E. Howard
Del Rey
trade paper $18.00
ebook 12.99 Kindle Nook

This probably isn’t one of Howard’s better known horror stories, and I think in part it’s because it wasn’t published in Weird Tales or any of the other pulps his supernatural tales appeared in. It was published as “The Apparition in the Prize Ring” in the April 1929 issue of the short-lived Ghost Stories.

One of Howard’s life long passions was boxing. He wrote serious and humorous boxing stories, and even in this case, a supernatural boxing story. The Robert E. Howard Foundation Press is currently in the process of publishing Howard’s complete boxing stories in 4 volumes.

This isn’t a particularly scary story, but the ghost angle is central to it. It’s narrated by the manager of boxer Ace Jessel. Jessel is an up and coming fighter, but he doesn’t have the killer instinct to be a great boxer. This is one of Howard’s stories where race is a factor. Jessel is black, as are Tom Molyneaux, the boxer from the previous century he worships, and Mankiller Gomez, the boxer he fights.

There is a clear contrast between the wild Senegalese Gomez (named after the Mexican promoter who first brought him to the ring) and the civilized Jessel. In fact the only use of the N-word is by Jessel in reference to Gomez. To say that Howard engages in the racial stereotypes of his day is to oversimplify his portrayal of race in this work.

Jessel is slated to fight the heavyweight champ when Gomez comes on the scene and takes the title. Soon everyone is trying to get the two men in the ring. Eventually it happens, even though it’s intuitively obvious even to the most casual observer that Jessel doesn’t stand a chance.

Jessel has a life size painting of Molyneaux. The manager comes across Jessel standing before it and asking Molyneaux for help in the upcoming fight. So unbeknownst to Jessel, he takes the painting to the fight. When Jessel is about to go down for the count, he holds it up where Jessel can see it. The painting shakes, and a cold wind blows through the arena, and especially in the ring. Jessel gets up and whips Gomez, winning the title. Only the ref, Jessel, and the manager can see Molyneaux’s ghost.

I know I’ve made the ghost aspect seem trivial and have brushed off the boxing, but I can’t do this story justice in a description. Howard is at the top of his game as he describes the boxing match. The thunder and conflict we see in Howard’s sword and sorcery are all on display. There aren’t a lot of scares in this one, but that’s not the point. The ghost is just the McGuffin that propels the boxing story. This is a different side of Howard many fans haven’t seen. If you’re not familiar with Howard’s boxing stories, this is a good place to start.

Waiting Until Helen Comes

Wait Till Helen ComesWait Till Helen Comes
Mary Downing Hahn
Sandpiper
trad paper $5.99
ebook $5.99 (publisher’s price)  Kindle ($3.99) Nook ($4.99)

I was in the children’s section of B&N the other day looking for a book my son had asked for and decided since I was spending money I really didn’t need to be spending, I’d pick this book up as well. I’d had my eye on it, and now is the time of year for a good creepy ghost story. The blurbs on the cover indicated that it was more scary than most books of this type.

After having read the book while visiting my in-laws over the weekend, I can say some people might find it scary, but I never really did. But then I’m probably not the intended audience. The book is geared for middle grade readers.

Wait Till Helen Comes is a ghost story, and it’s well done. I’m not saying this was a bad book or that I didn’t enjoy it, but that I’m no longer in the demographic it was intended for. I suspect when I was 12 it would have given me nightmares. I find that ghost stories don’t scare me nearly as easily as they did when I was a child, something I’ve written about before.

The story is told from the point of view of 12 year old Molly. Her mother has recently married Dave, who was widowed when his wife died in a fire. His daughter Heather survived, and she makes life miserable for Molly and her younger brother Micheal. Molly’s mother and Dave have moved the family from Balitmore to an old church in the country that has been converted into a house. Molly’s mother is a painter while Dave works in ceramics, so they’re basically starting their own artists’ colony.

Of course there’s a ghost in the cemetery attached to the church property. The ghost of a small girl named Helen, who was just about Heather’s age when she died in a fire in a nearby home nearly 100 years ago. Heather already manipulates the family dynamic, lying about how Molly and Michael treat her. In fact, until the end of the book, Heather has no redeeming qualities, being a totally vile little beast.

Dave, of course, always believes her. Molly’s mother knows something is up, but usually takes Dave’s side of things. The presence of Helen only makes things worse.

The family dynamics got old pretty quick. Dave was pretty one dimensional, usually accusing Molly and/or Michael of picking on Heather or else trying to be their friend with no middle ground. Of course this book was written for a middle grade audience, so the characterization is probably appropriate for that age range.

As are the scares. There are a couple of scenes I found creepy. They didn’t really scare me, but then I’ve read ghost stories for adults by some of the acknowledged masters of the genre. You know, guys like Burrage, the Bensons, Wakefield, and M. R. James. Not exactly writers for children. Wait Till Helen Comes is for children, albeit older, more mature children. Still there are limits on what is acceptable as far as scares and story endings are concerned in a children’s book. Like I said, I’m not the intended demographic.  Ms. Hahn as written a number of ghost stories for the middle grades, and I might read more.  I used to devour this type of thing back when I was in the targeted age range.

One other thing about this book, and it’s a plus in my mind. Originally published in 1986, there are some references that are now period rather than contemporary like the author intended, such as Molly’s use of her Walkman (look it up kiddies, or rather, Google it I should say) and her fondness for Watership Down (Is that book even still in print? I should Google it.) It was nice to be reminded of how the world once was.

Wait Till Helen Comes is a quick read, at least for an adult. It’s something you can finish in an evening. If you turn the lights down and get away from distractions, it’s a nice, seasonal volume.  You may not be as scared as a twelve year old would be when you read the book, but it still has its moments.

For something in a similar vein (but definitely not for children) with a different outcome and much scarier, try “Little Boy Blue” by Charles Birkin.  It’s available in two of Birkin’s collections, A Haunting Beauty (Midnight House, 2000) or The Smell of Evil (4 editions from 1964-1975, each from a different publsher).  Prices will vary widely on ABE.