It’s almost Halloween, and it would be a terrible disservice if the Ricochetoisie didn’t know about the terrific new Black Lizard Big Book of Ghost Stories (Amazon). Edited by the great, great Otto Penzler, it’s -- as the title promises -- a giant 800+-page doorstop of a book packed with ghost stories old and new.
Likely of particular interest to Ricocheteers is “The Advent Reunion” (2011) by Ricochet’s own Andrew Klavan. It begins:
I’ve wanted to tell this story for a long time. It began when I was a young man, during my junior year at Harvard.
To come, as I had from a crumbling house on a sandy lane in a dying town just west of nowhere to the aged brick and history, high culture and customs, of one of the most prestigious universities in the country was a daunting journey for so experienced a boy. I spent my first year holed up in my room, buried in my books, working on my writing. Only after a very unpleasant summer break at home did I return to school determined to make friends.
How’s that for writing? Ostensibly just some introductory scene-setting, but imbued with a whole vocabulary of foreboding, secrets, and death. The whole book is chock-full of great works, culled from giants like Hawthorne, Irving, Twain, Wilde, Wharton, Cather, and Wilkie Collins; forgotten pulp writers as well as the remembered ones like Lovecraft, Derleth, Leiber; and modern masters like Andrew, Donald Westlake, Isaac Asimov, and Ramsey Campbell—to name just a few. If you like this kind of stuff, you’ll really like this.
TV ghost shows seem to be one of the current cable fads, riding the success of the paranormal plumbers of Ghost Hunters. If you play Spin the Dial, you can’t escape some fraction of the jitter-night-vision antics of the tattooed guys I call Ghost Taunters, or the oddball psychic-and-cop double act of The Dead Files, or various home-video-clip-job shows. The only one I’ll stop and watch is the one with maybe the worst title: Celebrity Ghost Stories. What I like about the show is that, silly reënactments played during narration aside, it purports to be someone (usually a c-list actor) just sitting in a chair and telling you a ghost story (that ostensibly happened to them).
I have no personal encounters of the spooky kind to relate, but I’ve known enough otherwise hard-headed people who claim to have that I can’t dismiss that something or other outside the “normal” range of human experience may be going on. Which brings me to what may well be a true-life ghost story for you:
My utterly unsentimental great-grandmother took her two little girls to a rented winter house in Georgetown one year around 1910. The first night there, she tucked the girls in and sat up to read or knit. She heard a noise, and upon investigating, found the basement door open. She shut it, made sure it latched, and went back to her pastime. Hearing a similar noise, she got up and found the door open again. Now slightly unnerved, she checked the lock on the front door and the windows, and went down into the basement, finding no trace of an intruder. Securing the door a second time, she went back. The door opened again, of course, and I think she put a box against it or something and went to bed. Next day, she talks to a neighbor who’s surprised to see that someone has rented the house “after what happened.” “What happened?” Well, the woman who’d lived there wasn’t right in the head and threw herself down the basement steps and died. Did she now? My great-grandmother went back, packed up, and never looked back.
So, what about you? Got any ghost stories for us? Happy Halloween!