Ghost Stories — Review
It is the time of the year for things that go bump in the night–evenings that quickly turn into darkness, a flooring of damp leaves that muffle footsteps, a crispness in the air that makes sounds a touch keener. These are the conditions for a good ghost story. I don’t believe ghost stories in the spring. They are maudlin when told in the winter, and summer definitely has the wrong atmosphere to rope me in. However, October is perfect.
Yes, there is King and Poe. However, when I want the true heebie jeebies, I reach for the short stories of Joyce Carol Oates. Her tale “Night-side” about a psychic researcher and his skeptical colleague still haunts me . . . because what if it is true? I remember reading the ending over and over again, shocked by what she proposed. It remains the most terrifying ghost story I’ve read to date. (Yes, you can call me cowardly. I don’t want to search for stories more frightening than that one.)
Currently, I’m listening to an Audible presentation of tales inspired by the early 20th century writer M.R. James titled “The Conception of Terror.” I’d never heard of James before and now I’m intrigued. In the early 1900’s, he was Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge with a healthy respect for ghost stories. His plot arc of small English villages or out the way places coupled with the dangers of the occult is now a classic plot arc, referred to as “Jamesian”. Audible updated the stories to current times, dramatized them, and, yes, they are as haunting and surprising as they were in the original versions.