As the days grow shorter and nights get colder, people begin to usher in the winter season. They gather around bonfires, start bobbing for apples, wear costumes and go trick-or-treating. It’s Halloween, folks! The ghosts and the goblins are among us which has a way of drawing people to the supernatural. I’m getting a lot of requests for the old, tried and true horror stories that seem never to grow old. Here are some of the best, but be prepared to be scared.
Charles Dickens: Supernatural phenomena was at a high point during Dickens’s lifetime. You might remember “A Christmas Carol” was a ghost story. Here is a book by Dickens’ titled, “Complete Ghost Stories,” that highlights his natural inclinations toward the macabre. In this compendium of eleven ghostly tales each is at times charming and others disturbing with murder, suicide and terror woven in. He remarked that he always loved a good ghost story himself. This book is a different Dickens but you will enjoy these chilling stories.
Edith Wharton: This is a name you may not know but she was a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist. When she passed away in 1937 she left a legacy of mystery tales and the supernatural. She was traumatized by ghost stories in her youth that led her obsession into creating a series of spine-tingling tales filled with spirits beyond the grave. The book is, “The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton.” As one reviewer put it, “If you are a fan of elegant, realistic fiction but like a few chills from time-to-time, Wharton’s ghost stories may belong at the top of your list.”
H.P. Lovecraft: What an unusual name for an author of horror, fantasy and science fiction. His major inspiration and invention was cosmic horror. He wrote that life is incomprehensible to human minds and the universe is fundamentally alien. You can read his book, “The Whisperer in the Darkness,” that has become a cult following. In the Introduction of the book M.J. Elliott wrote, “We can never escape that gnawing fear that there is something unnatural, something evil, waiting just around the corner…welcome to H.P. Lovecraft’s world.”
R. L. Stevenson: Robert Louis, as we know him, penned one of the greatest horror tales ever written when he wrote, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde.” In seeking to discover his inner self Dr. Henry Jekyll discovers a monster. He faces horrible consequences when he lets his dark side run wild with a potion that transforms him into the beast, Mr. Hyde. Stevenson had been intrigued about how personalities can affect humans and how to incorporate good and evil into a story. There are other sinister tales in this book — shipwrecks and madness, demonic possession and vampirism. The book was published in 1886 and lives on today in a new book..
Gaston Leroux: This author also may not be known to you but his book, “The Phantom of the Opera,” you probably know because of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical. The Phantom (his name was Erik) was born hideously deformed and as a result ran away from home and fell in with a band of Gypsies. Eventually, he made his way into the labyrinth of cellars in a Paris opera house. There he encounters Christine Daae whom he trains in secret to become a great singer. His obsession is beyond his reach and he is doomed which leads to the dramatic
tragic finale. Leroux, whose specialty was investigative journalism, based his story on true-life incidents. Many adaptations of his book hit the movie screen — a 1925 film starring Lon Chaney, the 1943 remake with Claude Rains and, of course, the musical. By the way, the musical arrives in Dayton in April 2018. Read the book first then see the musical.
Why is it people seem to like horror stories. I can’t answer that question. The best I can come up with is a quote from Dale Thomas, an amateur horror writer, who said, “Sometimes I want an adrenaline rush, for my heart to pound like a drum and the thrill of being chased by a predator. So, that’s why I love horror.”
These are not old, musty books I’ve offered here. They are not hardbacks or paperbacks, but newly released “quality trades” with elaborate cover graphics that you would be proud to have in your library.
Happy, scary reading, everyone!
Marianne Murray Guess is the owner of New and Olde Pages Book Shoppe in Englewood. She lives in Laura, Ohio.