The winter months are officially upon us, which means now is the perfect time of year for a ghost story. After all, it used to be a well-worn custom to sit around a hearth in December and terrify each other with yarns about spiteful phantoms and the mere mortals who must face them. So let’s resurrect that particular tradition with these five unusual ghost stories that will haunt you in more ways than one.
The Ghost Sequences
Without a doubt, A.C. Wise is one of the foremost ghost story writers working today. With her recent collection, The Ghost Sequences, you could pick virtually anything out of the table of contents at random, and find a great ghost story. However, if forced to choose, you can’t go wrong with the eponymous tale. Originally appearing in the Echoes anthology, “The Ghost Sequences” is presented as an unusual art exhibition centered around ghosts, put together by a group of artist friends who are eager to advance their careers. Needless to say, things don’t go exactly as planned. A fitting story to end a stunning book, I can’t recommend this collection enough.
If you’re a ghost story fan, you don’t want to miss it.
"A Cure for Ghosts"
Truth be told, every time I get the chance, I recommend this story, because it’s truly one of the best ghost stories released in the last decade. It’s also an ideal example of how much you can accomplish in a flash fiction story. There’s a breathtaking amount of world-building, character development, and most importantly, an ever-growing sense dread despite the matter-of-fact voice of the narrator. The end result is an unsettling tale that will have you thinking twice the next time you visit any historical sites. Over the past year, Eden Royce has received much-deserved praise for her debut novel, Root Magic, and “A Cure for Ghosts” is proof positive that you should seek our all her amazing short fiction as well.
"Postcards from Natalie"
Calling this one a ghost story might not be a wholly accurate description, especially since Carrie Laben’s 2016 tale defies all genre expectations. It’s strange and beautiful and undoubtedly haunting, but it’s also so much more than that
A Shirley Jackson Award winner for Best Short Fiction, the straightforward and unassuming narration belies a deeper loss and melancholy. The tale follows the young Mandy whose older sister Natalie has fled their unhappy home, leaving Mandy with their dour mother and nothing more than an occasional postcard sent home by the itinerant Natalie. Soon, the postcards—along with Mandy’s everyday life—take on a much more ominous tone. A perfectly spooky tale, and one that’s ideal to read during the chill of the winter.
It’s been almost ten years since I first read this surreal and devastating story, and it’s been living rent-free in my mind ever since. Like Carrie Laben’s “Postcards from Natalie,” calling “Raphael” a ghost story might be oversimplifying it. However, by the time it’s all over, there’s most definitely something haunting the protagonist Gabe, and that something will get under your skin and stay there. Even beyond any literal phantoms, the story hits home the idea that the living can become ghosts just as easily as the dead, with Gabe and his three closest friends feeling invisible both in their middle school and in their own lives. Together, they create a “scare” club, which leads to shocking and supernatural consequences. These days, since his award-winning streak with The Only Good Indians and My Heart Is a Chainsaw, Stephen Graham Jones is rightfully known for his incomparable longer fiction, but “Raphael” is a potent reminder that Jones can write top-notch horror at literally any length.
The Ghost Ships: A Christmas Story
True to its title, the great Angela Carter crafts a truly fantastic Christmas ghost story, which was originally published posthumously in American Ghosts and Old World Wonders. In this strange exploration of colonial American life and the Puritanical ideals that are still plaguing our country even now, the tale follows the pious denizens of New England who refuse to celebrate Christmas due to its pagan origins. However, three ghostly ships arrive in Boston harbor, bearing undeniable reminders of the holiday, much to the dozing colonists’ chagrin. Carter’s lush prose and impeccable wit are on full display here, as she crafts a playful tale that satirizes religion and the traditions that are all around us. A most unusual holiday story, this one exemplifies Angela Carter’s undisputable talent and shows how much her fiction still resonates three decades after her untimely death.