A While back someone asked me what some of my favorite ghost stories were, so I thought it would be fun to come up with a list of favorites and share them here. Although it is hard to write a truly scary story, they are often chilling in their own way and if a reader is willing to suspend belief a bit or just give over to the storytelling the atmosphere will often do the trick and at least make the reader wonder, "just what if this was real . . . ". These are mostly short stories with a few novellas and a novel or two thrown in for variety.
In no particular order, here are a few of my favorites (links are to my own posts where I have written about them). A number of these I have revisited, too, and have found them just as satisfying a second or third time around as the first.
- Don't Look Now, The Blue Lenses, The Birds, and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier -- Daphne du Maurier is always good for a thrilling, suspenseful story. "Don't Look Now" is one of my all-time favorite scary stories and one I like to revisit from time to time. It has a wonderful Venetian setting that is quite dark and broody. "The Blue Lenses" could have been a Twilight Zone episode. When a woman is recuperating from an operation to restore her eyesight, the lenses in place temporarily make her "see" with a frightening clarity! "The Birds" is nothing like the Hitchcock film. The short story is much darker and bleaker, and in my opinion much more frightening. And Rebecca is another of my favorite novels--Du Maurier herself described the novel to her publisher as "a sinister tale about a woman who marries a a widower...psychological rather than macabre."
- The Turn of the Screw by Henry James -- This is a story I found quite perplexing when I first read it. It's one that is open to interpretation and you can go round and round thinking about it. Of course that makes it even better, I think. Just what did the governess see? Another story I really need to reread.
- Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You My Lad by M.R. James -- I think it's my favorite by him of the small handful I have read. The thing with James's stories--they are much more about atmosphere than actual chills, since by contemporary standards they are very tame stories. Still, they're perfect fall, and especially October/Halloween reading.
- Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been by Joyce Carol Oates -- Boy, does Oates do creepy well. It's an unsettling story to read. Most of the story concerns a young woman alone in the house, her family not expected back for hours and the run in she has with a young man. The story plays out in Connie's head, and it is all very claustrophobic.
- There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury -- I love Ray Bradbury and really need to read more of his work. This story takes place in a post-apocalyptic America in 2057. The thing that makes Bradbury's stories work so well, is their plausibility. He really was ahead of his time I think.
- Miriam by Truman Capote -- Another one for the really creepy category. Stories involving young children, especially when they take on malevolent roles are always slightly disturbing to me. In this case it is a matter of imagination vs. reality. Uncertainty tends to throw me for a loop and makes me question whether a story might be real or not--and just in questioning these things makes me wonder what if it could be true...
- The Tower by Marghanita Laski --This is one I have read and reread and have recommended to others. It's a frightening story, disorienting, and I could see it as another Twilight Zone episode.
- The Woman in Black by Susan Hill -- This is a classic ghost story and another of my favorites. I have read it several times. I know a story has spooked me if I think about it later when I'm home alone and all of a sudden an image will come to mind and give me goosebumps or make the hairs on the back of my neck rise. Of course there's the mind at work again. That is The Woman in Black all over for me.
- Ghost Story by Peter Straub -- This was last year's RIP read. It was an unnerving read, very much a slow burn sort of story that took me a while to get through but well worth the effort in the end.
- Dark Matter by Michelle Paver -- I don't often get scared reading ghost stories, but in the right frame of mind, in the right setting--with the lights dimmed and the shades drawn on a dark and stormy (and maybe even cold!) night--this one might make me look over my shoulder once or twice. It's full of wonderfully scary atmosphere.
- The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson -- Shirley Jackson's story is quite subtle. There are all sorts of repressed emotions swimming below the surface in this story and evil lurks behind closed doors just waiting for the right visitor to come along and stir things up.
- The Victorian Chaise Longue by Marghanita Laski -- This novella is quite similar really in intentions to her short story "The Tower". Both deal with locked doors/spaces--both literally and figuratively.
- The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters -- Once again Sarah Waters has written a ripping good tale that kept me glued to its pages late into the night until I could no longer keep my eyes open, and got me up early the following morning to finish. It's clever and complex and relies as much on the reader's perceptions and beliefs as on the storyteller's ability to convincingly describe events that take place in this chilling tale.
I'm hoping to come across more good ghost stories (too add to my "collection") this RIP season.
Do you have an favorites when it comes to ghost stories/stories of suspense or the macabre? Strangely I have a soft spot for the genre.