As a fantasy and paranormal author, October has to be my perfect month of the year, culminating in Halloween and the Day of the Dead on November 1st. Of course, this world in which I love to read and write exists all year round, but October is the time to focus on such things as ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night! To celebrate all things supernatural, here is my round-up of my five favourite scary stories!
photo by Vadim Bogulov @ Unsplash
Number 1: A Skinful of Shadows (Frances Hardinge)
If I had just 10% of Frances Hardinge's imagination, I'd be happy. She has an amazing ability to create detailed worlds within the real world which send tingles up anyone's spine. A Skinful of Shadows is a wonderfully delicious story set against the backdrop of the English Civil War. At the start, Makepeace's mother continually locks her in a graveyard overnight, in an effort to help her learn to stop ghosts from getting inside her. What is going on? Is her mother just plain mad? As the story unfolds and Makepeace is sent to live with her father's family, the terrible truth of the reason for this skill unfolds, and Makepeace finds herself drawn into a battle for survival with both the ghosts of her ancestors and the real armies and politicians who are fighting for control of the country. A must-read for lovers of creepy and sinister stories.
Number 2: The Children of Green Knowe (Lucy M. Boston)
I read the Lucy Boston stories of the old manor house at Green Knowe again and again as a child. The first book, The Children of Green Knowe, is now a classic among children's ghost stories. At the start, the main character, a young boy called Toseland (Tolly) has to get to the house by rowing boat because of the recent floods - in the dark too! - and so the Gothic, atmospheric setting of the story is immediately established. Tolly proceeds to spend his time there with only his great-grandmother for company, but he quickly realises he's not alone, and that his new playmates are actually members of his family who lived at the house in the seventeenth century.
Numbers 3 & 4: Thin Air & Dark Matter (Michelle Paver)
The similarities between these two books by Michelle Paver are striking. They both take place in remote wintry locations, they are both about a group of men who have to face their harsh environment and they are both really, really creepy! Set in 1935, Thin Air is the story of a group of climbers who set off to conquer the Himalayan peak of Kangchejunga. As they travel, are they being affected and confused by the elements? Or is something more sinister going on, something which has been left over from a previous expedition? Meanwhile, in Dark Matter, a 1937 expedition travels to a remote island off the coast of Svalbard to collect scientific readings. One by one, the team befalls a mishap until only one man is left alone to do the work, to face the elements and to defend himself from an angry vengeful presence from the past. Paver's other parallel between the two stories - that of setting them both in the 1930s - means that the characters are without any of the technical support that the modern world can offer, and this only adds to their isolation and fear.
Number 5: The Turn of the Screw (Henry James)
Henry James's story has everything a great ghost story needs: a remote and rambling country house, two orphaned children, Flora and Miles, and a new and enthusiastic governess who is put in charge of them. As she settles into life at the house, the governess begins to see a man and a woman in the house and in the grounds. She learns of the relationship between Miss Jessel, the previous governess, and her lover Peter Quint, and gradually realises that the two people she can see are their ghosts. What's more terrifying for her is that she becomes convinced that the two dead people are communicating through Flora and her brother, and that the children are being drawn into a world of supernatural deviousness and secrecy. Unfortunately, her efforts to save the children from this evil results in tragic consequences.
Maggie Holman loves to read spooky stories but she also writes them. Her paranormal story collection The Wishing Sisters & the stories-within-a-storyThe Things We've Seen are both available at Amazon, along with the supernatural novella The Knocking. Find out more about them @ Books and read extracts for free @ Read for Free. Her short story Watch Out for the Master is included in the Tangle & Fen anthology, released this month by Crone Girls Press.