Favorite Ghost Story

As All Hallow’s Eve approaches each year, I read a lot of ghostly fiction (just finished “The Oxford Book of Victorian Ghost Stories,” which has a ton of short stories that aren’t found in many other anthologies – highly recommended).

What’s your favorite ghost story (short story, novella or novel)? I’m interested in ghosts, mind you; vampires, nameless and/or unnameable horrors from the depths of space and time, ax- or chainsaw-wielding murderers and their ilk can stay in the shadows for now.

If I had to choose one (and I guess I do, since I’m asking you to do the same) is probably “The Beckoning Fair One” by Oliver Onions. It has a general sense of unease throughout its text, with some really, really chilling moments – nothing leaps out of closets or clangs chains together, which makes it all the more successful, in my view.

I’m sure this isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, but this was always one of my favorite books as a kid: Jane Emily, by Patricia Clapp.

Three of my favorite ghost and/or horror stories:

  1. The Haunted and the Haunters, by the unfairly maligned Edward Bulwer-Lytton. A Lovecraftian story long before Lovecraft, with a dark descent into the occult.

  2. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. The Ghost of the Galloping Hessian chases schoolmaster Ichabod Crane along the Hudson River in this picturesque and bucolic classic.

  3. Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Innocence ended in this story of colonial America.

Since when are ghost stories about Hallowe’en? I always thought they were associated with Christmas.


Anyway, we can’t forget Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw.

Hands down, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.

I love the old classic ghost stories, but there are some goodies in modern times, too. Richard Matheson’s Hell House is a well-crafted haunted house tale that scared the bejabbers outta me.

:smack: You’re right.

The short stories of J. Sheridam Le Fanu and M.R. James are classics in the genre. All their stories are tremendous fun, well-written and guaranteed to scare the pants off ya.

M.R. James’ “Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad.”

Online at http://gaslight.mtroyal.ab.ca/owhistle.htm

The Mezzotint by M.R. James.

I heard it on the radio when I was a child and it scared me so badly that for a long time I was unable to go into the front room of our house, which had a picture similar to the one central to James’ story.

“The Phantom Rickshaw”.

Do you like Kipling?

Don’t know; I’ve never Kippled.


Can I get some opinions on what this story? What is it really about? I have an odd feeling that it’s a Protestant criticism of remnant Catholicism in England. Among the evidence: Colonel Wilson’s “views of a pronouncedly Protestant type” in contrast to the local vicar, “an estimable man with inclinations towards a picacresque ritual” whom the Colonel believes is “a concealed Papist”; the discovery of the “underground” site; the ominous Latin invocation found; and the apparition that turns into a linen sheet (the Shroud of Turin as fetish?)

I’ve read James’s “Casting the Runes” and “Oh Whistle…” and my reaction…

WTF!?!? These are supposed to be scary?!? The “haunted house” at my 1970’s Evangelical church’s Halloween party was scarier than that! (yeah, up until the
mid-70s, a lot of Evangelical Christians still celebrated Halloween. Then Mike Warnke ruined it all. But that’s another story.)

I will say that the Runes-adapted movie “Curse of the Demon” does remain scary in my memory (haven’t seen it in years!)

I do have a soft spot in my heart for SLEEPY HOLLOW, which objectively ISN’T scary because it’s 99% clear that Brom Bones chased Ichabod off, BUT there is that 1% bit of uncertainty because of the question- “what did happen to ol’ Ichabod?”

Dung Beetle:

Thank you; I knew I could count on Dopers not to leave my straight line hangin’.

It might take me a while to find the actual book, but I found a book of so-called Spanish fantasy once and found it to be mostly ghost stories. Lovely, melancholy stuff.

I’ll certainly second The Beckoning Fair One. A beautiful story. I steadfastly REFUSE to second Henry James’ Turn of the Screw. Not only has everything that I’ve ever tried to read by Mr. James put me to sleep, but a PBS dramatization of TotS caused me to nod off. Sentences of 75 words, paragraphs of 5 pages? When is a reader supposed to have a tinkle?

My favorite: The Open Window by Saki. Quick, fast, unexpected, and you don’t even get what happens until after it’s over.

Plus, the girl is foxy.

I am and I still do. Mike ruined a bit more than halloween…

I am such a scaredy cat, I feel embarrassed for saying the scariest I’ve ever read was The Thing At The Foot of The Bed.

Back in the 60’s & 70’s the BBC filmed a series of Victorian ghost stories which were shown at Christmastime. One of the best was the above story. It starred Michael Horden and directed by Jonathan Miller and was very scary.

Other notable films in the series were another M.R. James story *A Warning to the Curious *, and the Dickens ghost story *The Signalman *, starring Denholm Elliott and directed by Andrew Davies. These films are now available on DVD and are well worth seeking out.