There are many ways to scare yourself this
Halloween season. You could attend a haunted house, where non-union actors will attempt to frighten you with jump scares and corn syrup blood. You could stay home and marathon all of Netflix's where union actors and the immortal spirit of Shirley Jackson will terrorize you with screams and images of vintage furniture. Or you could gather up your most spook-able friends and read some The Haunting of Hill House, ghost stories by candlelight. Sure, it may sound low tech, but there's a reason that ghost stories have been around for so long. They are a tried and true method of scaring the bejesus out of your loved ones. Here are a few tales about ghouls, ghosts, and hauntings of all sorts to freak out your friends (and yourself) this Halloween.
Some of these stories have been around since the Victorian Era. Some of them are new to the digital age. All of them will make you feel just a little less safe in your own home. So read on for a wide array of ghosts and ghost-adjacent happenings, and try to avoid graveyards/mansions/staircases/cats and anything else that could be potentially haunted for the rest of October:
1 'Lacrimosa' by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Ramon keeps seeing the same homeless woman, pushing her squeaky cart through the streets of Vancouver. But he can't escape the feeling that this woman is somehow connected to La Llorona, the legendary ghost-woman who roams the world, forever searching for her drowned children. But he left La Llorona and all those superstitious stories back in Potrero with his family... or did he? You'll just have to read
"Lacrimosa" to find out. 2 'Click-clack the Rattlebag' by Neil Gaiman
If you're already a little bit scared to climb darkened staircases in drafty old houses, then I invite you to psychologically terrorize yourself and everyone else you know with
"Click-clack the Rattlebag." It's the story of a man taking a little boy up the stairs to bed. That's it, that's all that happens. But in the hands of Neil Gaiman, that's more than enough to create a compact, bone-chilling haunted house tale. 3 'The Upper Berth' by F. Marion Crawford
Being on a ship at sea is already an existential terror. In
"The Upper Berth," however, things get even creepier when one particular berth seems to compel its occupants to fling themselves overboard. If you're looking for a classic, old school ghost story with a nautical flare, this is the one for you. 4 'His Face All Red' by Emily Carroll
A man sees his brother, drinking and carousing with the other folks in their village, behaving as though everything is normal. But that's not possible, because this man killed his brother just last week.
"His Face All Red" is a gorgeously illustrated ghost story made to be read on a computer, and guaranteed to freak out all of your Halloween guests (and their brothers). 5 'The Black Cat' by Edgar Allan Poe
Why are black cats supposed to be scary, anyway? Well, possibly because of Edgar Allan Poe's infamous ghost cat story,
"The Black Cat" (and, you know, due to misogyny because of their historical association with witchcraft). Read it for an oh-so-classic tale of one man's irrational hate and fear towards a sweet cuddly kitty. 6 'The Damned Thing' by Ambrose Bierce
Imagine the Ghostbusters, but instead of a group of goofy people banging around NYC busting ghosts, they were one person stalking through the remote wilderness, hunting an invisible apparition of unknown origin. That's the basic plot of
"The Damned Thing," a classic of the "remote cabin ghost" genre. 7 'Stone Animals' by Kelly Link
Let's be really clear, here: I'm issuing a blanket "NO THANKS" to any and all media involving statues that move when you're not looking. However. If you're going to torture yourself with a haunted statue story, Kelly Link's
"Stone Animals" is a funny, upsetting, delightfully creepy option. 8 'The Old Nurse's Story' by Elizabeth Gaskell
Ah, a good old fashioned Victorian ghost story. Sure, the Victorians were uptight imperialist goofs, but they sure knew how to tell a tale of Gothic woe.
"The Old Nurse's Story" follows a phantom child wandering across the cold, desolate moors, as fairy tale characters begin to gather in the dark of the woods... 9 'Old Habits' by Nalo Hopkinson
Not every ghost story
has to be wall to wall terror. "Old Habits" introduces us to a bunch of ghosts who live in a ghost mall, where they are forced to relive their traumatic deaths once every day. If your Halloween get-together is less about scares, and more about laughs and contemplating the bleak truth of mortality, then this is the spectral shopping mall for you. 10 'The Daemon Lover' by Shirley Jackson
Shirley Jackson is the immortal queen of horror, so it should come as no surprise that her short story,
"The Daemon Lover," is a masterfully spooky tale that will convince you to stop dating entirely. A young woman awaits her beloved groom on the morning of their wedding day. But as the day goes on, it's looking more and more like her lover isn't going to show... and like he maybe never existed at all... 11 'He Who Takes Away the Pain' by Chesya Burke
Who needs Advil when you have a shadow man who comes and "takes away your pain"? Of course, things aren't quite
that simple in "He Who Takes Away the Pain." It's part ghost story, part plague story, all creepy. It'll make you feel angry about healthcare and stare into the shadows in your bedroom at night, looking to see if He's there.