From the book table: ‘The Big Book of Ghost Stories’

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In honor of Halloween, this week’s book table find is the new 800+ page Black Lizard anthology, ‘The Big Book of Ghost Stories.’ Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I’m a sucker for finding new ways to scare myself be it movie, haunted house or creepy tale. I was the kid at the sleepovers who made everyone else play ‘Bloody Mary’ in the bathroom mirror, so I was excited to have something new to try when this enormous collection arrived on the DC table.

The collection was edited by the great Otto Penzler, who owns The Mysterious Bookshop in New York and has overseen a number of other books on zombies, villains and other adventure stories. But for me, the great thing about this book is its 100 percent ghost focus. As Penzler writes in his introduction, “Some stories that frequently have appeared in other ghost story anthologies have nothing at all to do with ghosts. They may be trolls, or evil plants, vile fungue, monsters, or other creatures of that ilk. Rightly or not, I have attempted to be a bit of a narrow-minded purist about it all…”

Ghosts, to me, have always been the scariest of the scary creature genre. I can’t get too worked up imagining a Twilight-like vampire or a brain-eating zombie lurking in my kitchen at night, but the thought of a ghost – a tortured soul lost in an old apartment building or school – is eerily real. Don’t we all wonder about what happens when we die? It’s easy to imagine in a dark room late at night that the rustling curtains came not from the wind, but from something a little more ominous…

The enormous collection is divided into themes and has something for all ghost story-lovers from the funny (Mark Twain’s ‘A Ghost Story’) to the traditional (Washington Irving’s ‘The Adventure of the German Student.’) ‘The Big Book’ brings stories from big names like Joyce Carol Oates, Willa Cather and Mark Twain and a number of more obscure authors who are still incredibly creepy.

Otto also included one of my favorite classics ‘The Monkey’s Paw,’ which has some of the best suspense scenes in any ghostly tale – ‘At the foot of the stairs the match went out, and he paused to strike another, and at the same moment a knock, so quiet and stealthy as to be scarcely audible, sounded on the front door. The matches fell from his hand. He stood motionless, his breath suspended until the knock was repeated…”

So if pumpkins and Big Bird costumes don’t exactly make your hair stand on end, sample something from ‘The Big Book of Ghost Stories.’

–Maddy Mahon, assistant producer

  • Jamie

    I see that you’re spending less time discussing an Obama 2nd term than you did discussing a possible Romney presidency yesterday. What’s up with that?