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Five Hauntingly Good Reads

There is something particularly scary about a really good ghost story; those intangible beings that were once living breathing people like you and me have the ability to scare in a way that many other monsters can’t quite manage.

From Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with Marley’s chained ghost, to Stephen King’s The Shining and the many ghosts that inhabit The Overlook ghosts have been an integral ingredient for many horror stories and here we have selected five hauntingly good reads that we think deserve a special mention.

Dolly – Susan Hill

There’s something about the way Susan Hill writes that make her ghost stories particularly unnerving. She has an almost Enid Blyton feel to her books and her child characters would fit perfectly into any Famous Five novel and it is this contrast that makes the subject matter so jarring. Cousins Edward and Leonora are to summer with their spinster (to all intents and purposes) aunt Kestrel. The offspring of polar opposite and permanently feuding sisters Edward and Leonora come from completely different backgrounds with Leonora spoiled and indulged and Edward a sensitive and introverted boy and have nothing in common other than their unhappiness at being dumped with their aunt. When Leonora receives a package containing the doll she has been desperate for things take a sinister turn and the doll comes to embody everything that is wrong with the girl. Written in the style of a memoir from Edward’s perspective Dolly is evocative, atmospheric and truly unnerving.

Bag of Bones – Stephen King

King has so many ghost stories it was hard to pick just one but in Bag of Bones he really captures the essence of what it must be like to be the focus of a vengeful ghost’s attentions. Mike Noonan is an author who hasn’t been able to write anything for a long time, in fact he’s not written a word since his wife’s death and he is haunted by dream of their holiday home in Sarah Laughs. When there he sees a little girl Kyra Devore wandering down the middle of the road and inadvertently becomes involved in a family feud when he picks her up. The granddaughter of Max Devore Kyra is the centre of a custody battle but that is not the only battle her mother and by association Mike, are going to have to face. Old scores need to be settled and a ghostly presence doesn’t care who gets hurt in order to exact revenge on those who wronged her.

The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson

Probably one of the best known ghost stories it may come as a surprise to note that Shirley Jackson’s novel never actually introduces us to any ghosts, everything in this book is hinted at or inferred and it is left to the reader and the characters to decide just exactly what is going on in Hill House. The 80 year old mansion is the setting for a ‘ghost watch’ organised by Dr. John Montague, a man fascinated by “supernatural manifestations.” Joined by headstrong Theodora, his assistant, and Luke, a well-to-do aristocrat and Eleanor Vance who’s extremely lonely childhood qualifies her to be a part of Montague’s bizarre study the four are subjected to all manner of strange and supernatural happenings all of which seem to be focused on Eleanor. The Haunting of Hill House is a dark tale of loneliness, depression, sadness, obsession and fear and it’s definitely worth reading, just make sure you have all the lights on.


Ghost Story – Peter Straub

The Chowder Society, a group of five elderly men who had been meeting for years with the object of telling each other tales of every kind is suddenly reduced to four members when Edward Wanderley dies suddenly in the middle of one of the soirees. They continue to meet up and continue to tell their tales which take on a definite supernatural bent and the more fantastic the tale the stranger the telling, tales that continue long after the teller has stopped talking, stories that didn’t want to end. Next would come the dreams shared simultaneously and foretelling the fates of the four remaining members of The Chowder Society the dreams become ever more horrifying and force the men to face up to their past and realise that no one truly escapes their past, especially when that past includes murder. Powerful, haunting, terrifying, this is the book that launched Straub’s literary career and ensured he would forever be ensconced into the halls of literary Horror greats.

Heart Shaped Box – Joe Hill

Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre, the horrifying, and the obscene, everything from Freak Show skeletons to Snuff Movies and nothing is off limits so when he receives an email saying ‘Buy my stepfather’s ghost’ of course, that’s just what Jude did. Arriving in the guise of a dead man’s suit this latest addition to Jude’s collection may appear to be innocuous but of course appearances can be and often are deceiving. Soon after the suit’s arrival things start happening, inexplicable things, sudden freezing chills, the dogs barking incessantly and nothing else has ever brought with it the appearance of a ghost, an elderly man with scribbles for eyes and a presence that has Jude running for his life. Heart Shaped Box was Joe Hill’s debut novel and he certainly made sure he arrived with a bang and a scream with this supremely scary story.

Just don’t blame us for any sleepless nights.

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