I have a confession: I love paranormal T.V. shows. Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, Paranormal State, Paranormal Cops, etc. I’ve watched them all because I don’t think there is much better than a little shiver of fear to go along with the bigger questions in life. But my love of ghost stories didn’t start with there. It started long before the creation of reality television because even as a kid, I loved just a little tingle of terror. Which means I read lots of scary books growing up.
The first book that sparked my interest in ghosts actually was read to me by my grandfather (in addition to his rousing recitation of “The Cremation of Sam McGee”): McBroom’s Ghost by Sid Fleischman. This isn’t a particularly scary tale, being more silly and funny, but I loved the mystery of ‘what was the ghost, really?’. I must admit I no longer remember the identity of the ghost but luckily I can refresh my memory with a library copy. I’m afraid my childhood copy disappeared, much like an apparition.
The next book that has really stuck with me from childhood was very creepy. I admit I probably don’t care for dolls or dollhouses because of reading this particular book. In it, a young girl finds a dollhouse in the attic of her great-grandparents’ house and it is an exact replica of the real house. Soon the little dolls in the dollhouse begin to act out the murder of the great-grandparents in order to reveal the true identity of their killer. Yeah, that’s still really creepy. You can find an awesome review of The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright here.
The last spooky tale, one that I loved as a teen, is the chilling Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan. This book really nails the Gothic horror story. There is a young woman sent to a creepy boarding school under mysterious circumstances. This school is run by a sinister headmistress with ulterior motives. And finally the reveal of the truth behind the student’s missing time: possession by ghosts. I remember this story as being ominously atmospheric with a constantly rising pressure of impending doom, which is the hallmark of the best ghost stories in my opinion.
And this summer, the GR Reads committee wants to scare me (and you, too!) all over again with the chilling Ghost Writers: Us Haunting Them. Some of the stories are personal experience, some are pure fiction, but all are written by Michigan authors. In addition to the book, a number of companion programs are offered including meeting a few of the authors, a ghost story campfire, and a cemetery walk.
Spooky. Maybe I’ll just stay home and read.
The Night Strangers: A Novel by Chris Bohjalian
Ghost Stories edited by Peter Washington
Her Fearful Symmetry: A Novel by Audrey Niffenegger
Ghost Stories of Michigan by Dan Asfar
The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories: From Elizabeth Gaskell to Ambrose Bierce edited by Michael Newton