A Host of Ghosts


As I have mentioned, many times, in many ways, I love Quiet Horror. And, for my money, ghost stories are the epitome of Quiet Horror as an art form. To create fear using only subtlety and shadows, whispers and the wind is an amazing feat. But, rather than wax poetic about atmosphere, let me toss this idea out and see whose pants leg it runs up....

Ghost stories, like all good Quiet Horror, require both give and take. The author offers you the framework of a fear, constructed of hints, suggestions. You, as the reader, have to clothe that nightmare from the closet of your subconscious. As an example, the character in a story is frightened by a shadow. Now, if you aren't invested in the story, you wonder what his problem is. But, if you let your imagination supply the special effects that your subconscious offers up, you know what it was about that shadow that scared him. Because, sometime in your life, you've jumped at a shadow. You may have blown it off, the shadow may have resolved itself into a sensible collection of familiar shapes, but part of you remembers what you thought you saw. The author knows this, and offers you a chance to summon that memory, to be a part of the story. And that moment when that exchange of imagination happens is the prize only true readers can appreciate, because, after all, isn't that why we read? We don't really want someone to show us a monster. We can build something far more impressive all by ourselves, when the input is right.

A wonderful story that hits this particular nail home is "EX-LIBRARY" by Chet Williamson, in the anthology The Seaharp Hotel. An illustration from the story "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come To You, My Lad" by M.R. James in an old, discarded library book displays the ghost in the story as it was envisioned by each person who read that book over the years. A book as a battery, storing imagination.

It doesn't get much better than that, does it?


Okay, I got that out of my system, lets move on to some recommendations. For short stories, a good anthology is a fan's best friend. You can try the entire buffet, and go back for more of what you like by finding collections of that particular author's work. I suggest Phantastic Book of Ghost Stories edited by Richard Dalby, Victorian & Edwardian Ghost Stories edited by Richard Dalby, and Lost Souls: A Collection of English Ghost Stories edited by jack Sullivan for a start. Some stories are overly reprinted, but there are plenty of forgotten gems to be found this way.


For me, these are some of the short story authors I enjoy (Those whose collections I own, and recommend, are starred):


E.F. Benson*

Ambrose Bierce*

Algernon Blackwood*

Fitz-James O'Brien

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu*

Richard Marsh

Oliver Onions

Ralph Adams Cram*

Walter De La Mare*

Robert W. Chambers*

Lafcadio Hearn

M.R. James*

F. Marion Crawford*

William Hope Hodgson*

Kealan Patrick Burke*

William Meikle*

Glen Hirshberg*


For novel length works, I will switch to the books themselves:


The Elementals by Michael McDowell

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

The Off Season by Jack Cady

For Fear of the Night by Charles L. Grant

Inheritance by Joe McKinney

Audrey's Door by Sarah Langan

Sweetheart, Sweetheart by Bernard Taylor

Stage Whispers The Collected Timmy Quinn Stories by Kealan Patrick Burke

Nemesis The Death of Timmy Quinn by Kealan Patrick Burke

The Seance by John Harwood

Spirit by Graham Masterton

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Creative Spirit by Scott Nicholson

Ash Wednesday by Chet Williamson

Mirror by Graham Masterton

The House That Jack Built by Graham Masterton

The Loveliest Dead by Ray Garton

The Ghost Writer by John Harwood

Haunted (David Ash, #1) by James Herbert

The Ghosts Of Sleath (David Ash, #2) by James Herbert

Wildwood Road by Christopher Golden

The Uncanny by Andrew Klavan

The Manse by Lisa W. Cantrell

Torments by Lisa W. Cantrell

Breed by Owl Goingback


The Suiting by Kelley Wilde

If You Could See Me Now by Peter Straub

Ghost Story by Peter Straub

The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons

The Devil in Gray by Graham Masterton

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Bag of Bones by Stephen King

Hell House by Richard Matheson

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Curfew by Phil Rickman

The Dark by James Herbert

Dead Lines A Novel of Life . . . After Death by Greg Bear

The Longest Night by J.N. Williamson

A Winter Haunting by Dan Simmons

The Uninvited by Dorothy Macardle


Happy hauntings!