Two years ago I thought I’d gather together links to a bunch of interesting online horror reads for Halloween — it’ll be a “thing” I do to make my blog stand out, I thought, before doing it again all of twice — but this month I caught a really good ghost story, which is one of my favourite genres, so I thought I’d dust off the old idea and do it again…
If you want life to be better than death, strip and shake it until something falls off
— by George Saunders
Work goes well. I manage to keep smiling and hide my shaking hands, and my midshift rating is Honeypie. After lunch this older woman comes up and says I look so much like a real Pilot she can hardly stand it.
On her head is a thumbprint. Like Ash Wednesday, only sort of glowing.
I don’t know what to do. Do I just come out and ask if she wants to see my cock? What if she says no? What if I get caught? What if I show her and she doesn’t think it’s worth twenty bucks?
A Kiss Before Dying
Not every ghost story is a total fabrication, but the truth can also be unbelievable
— by Pamela Colloff
According to legend, she would appear at the windows of the school auditorium at midnight—provided that students flashed their headlights three times or honked their horn and called out her name. The real Betty, it was said, had attended Odessa High decades before and had acted in a number of plays on the auditorium’s stage. But the facts of her death had been muddled with time, and each story was as apocryphal as the last: She had fallen off a ladder in the auditorium and broken her neck, students said. She had hanged herself in the theater. Her boyfriend, who was a varsity football player, had shot her onstage during a play.
So many teenagers made the late-night pilgrimage to see Betty that the high school deemed it prudent to paint over the windows of the school auditorium. During a later renovation, its facade was covered with bricks. But the stories about Betty never went away. Students still talk of “a presence” in the auditorium, one that is to blame for a long list of strange occurrences, from flickering lights and noises that cannot be explained to objects that appear to move on their own. Some claim to have seen her pacing the balcony or heard her footsteps behind them, only to find no one there.
Just One Question
A teacher should like all his pupils equally — whether they’re really there or not
— by Jez Patterson
She wasn’t a ghost because she was dressed in a white T-shirt, blue shorts and plimsolls–like the kids wore for physical education, although her t-shirt had no school badge on it. Her arms were pale and hairless, her fingernails short, but not bitten.
And she wasn’t a ghost because the room wasn’t any colder and the kids weren’t running out screaming.
And she wasn’t a ghost because, despite the frown, she didn’t give off those waves of melancholic oppression the dead are famous for exuding.
The seat next to hers had been empty and the next day I asked Milly to sit in it. Milly who did everything to please her teacher either because her parents taught her that was the way to get on in life or because she was one of those needy people who would always do too much. Milly shook her head, begged me not to make her change seats, started crying when I insisted, then wet herself.
That shook me more than any ghost that wasn’t a ghost.
The Victorian Supernatural
Did Darwin and the Industrial Revolution banish the supernatural world, or cause it to thrive?
— by Roger Luckhurst
The 19th century is routinely thought about as the era of secularisation, a period when the disciplines and institutions of modern science were founded and cultural authority shifted from traditional authority of religion to explanation through the scientific exposition of natural laws. The sociologist Max Weber spoke about this process as the disenchantment of the world.
In fact, it is much easier to grasp the religious and scientific strands of the century as closely intertwined. Every scientific and technological advance encouraged a kind of magical thinking and was accompanied by a shadow discourse of the occult. For every disenchantment there was an active re-enchantment of the world. Because the advances in science were so rapid, the natural and the supernatural often became blurred in popular thinking, at least for a time.
The Middle Toe of the Right Foot
the best kind of ghost story: simple, but well-told, with misdirection instead of a twist
— by Ambrose Bierce
To this house, one summer evening, came four men in a wagon. Three of them promptly alighted, and the one who had been driving hitched the team to the only remaining post of what had been a fence. The fourth remained seated in the wagon. ‘Come,’ said one of his companions, approaching him, while the others moved away in the direction of the dwelling – ‘this is the place.’
The man addressed did not move. ‘By God!’ he said harshly, ‘this is a trick, and it looks to me as if you were in it.’
‘Perhaps I am,’ the other said, looking him straight in the face and speaking in a tone which had something of contempt in it.
That was fun. Maybe I’ll do it again in 2018.