For years after college, my friends and I would spend every Fourth of July in the woods of Maine, with nothing but grilled food, good beer, and ghost stories. Unfortunately, adulthood makes it harder and harder to keep that tradition, and even though we won't be camping out this year, I'm still trying to keep the spirit alive by sharing some of my favorite literary ghost stories to read around the campfire.
If you have ever gone camping, then you know that no trip to the woods is complete without two things: gooey s'mores and ghost stories, preferably enjoyed at the same time. Whether you're reciting spooky tales you grew up listening to, or reading a new horror novel by the light of the campfire, you want a story that will give you chills. The only problem is, you've done the classics so many time, none of them scare you anymore.
If you like ghost stories, then by now, you've probably read Henry James's famous "The Turn of the Screw," Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," and Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," but that doesn't mean there isn't a haunting story out there that can still surprise you. If you're looking for a new fireside read, try one of these nine literary ghost stories that you might not have read yet.
"Is Your Blood As Red As This?" by Helen Oyeyemi
As if you need another reason to be totally creeped out by puppets, the haunted marionette in Helen Oyeyemi's "Is Your Blood as Red as This?" will give you one. An ambitious short story that takes place at a bizarre puppeteering academy, this ghostly selection from What is Not Yours Is Not Yours will have you questioning what it really means to be alive.
'The Ghost Notebooks' by Ben Dolnick
In this supernatural love story, a young couple learns that their idyllic new home may be haunted by grieving ghosts and sinister spirits from the past. A chilling tale that explores loss, heartbreak, and the enduring power of love, The Ghost Notebooks is the perfect fireside read.
"Harry" by Rosemary Timperley
If a ghost story is good enough for children's book legend Roald Dahl, it's good enough for me. Rosemary Tumperley's "Harry," one of the many fantastic creepy kid's tales from a collection edited by the Witches author, tells the story of a woman, her daughter, and the imaginary best friend that haunts their lives. A chilling narrative that isn't too scary for the kids, this is the perfect story to share with the whole family.
"Letter from a Haunted Room" by Lisa Sewell
Edgar Allan Poe might be the most famous poet to pen ghost stories, but he isn't the only one who can create haunting verse. In her short poem "Letter from a Haunted Room," Lisa Sewell manages to build an intense sense of dread and fear neither the reader nor the narrator can escape.
“Don’t Look Now” by Daphne du Maurier
In this heartbreaking ghost story, a devastated mother and father try to recover from the drowning death of their young daughter. But after a strange encounter with two sisters at a cafe in Venice, where the couple is vacationing to escape their pain, they begin seeing strange things, and a chain of events is set off that will change their lives forever. A masterfully crafted narrative, "Don't Look Now" is haunting in more ways than one.
'Lincoln in the Bardo' by George Sanders
While there aren't any frightening spirits in this tale, Lincoln in the Bardo is still a titillating ghost story that makes for wonderful company at the campfire. In it, a grieving Abraham Lincoln returns to his dead son's crypt, where the ghost boy and a cast of characters look on from purgatory. Beautifully written and deeply emotional, this is the kind of ghost story that will leave you in tears.
"Horror Story" by Carmen Maria Machado
In this short, five minute read from Her Body and Other Stories author Carmen Maria Machado, a couple is haunted by an unseen presence in their apartment, one that disturbs their lives both physically and emotionally. Will the spirit drive them out of their home or r them apart from one another? You'll have to read "Horror Story" to find out.
'The Afterlives' by Thomas Pierce
What happens when you die? Jim Byrd, who was pronounced dead for a few minutes, can't remember. But when a ghostly figure appears in his life, the 30-year-old begins to question everything he thought he knew about life, the one here on earth and the possibility of one after. Funny and original, The Afterlives is a ghost story for readers who would rather laugh with joy than shriek in fear.
'The Grownup' by Gillian Flynn
If you've read any of Gillian Flynn's novels, than you know the Gone Girl author knows how to craft a truly terrifying tale. In The Grownup, she exchanges domestic horror for a straight up ghost story set in a haunted Victorian home. A gripping psychological thriller, this is one short story you won't want to go camping without.