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Haunted by the Past: Ghost Stories


As Hawksley Workman sings in “Autumn’s Here”, I think that ghosts like the cooler weather. Something about this time of year makes us think about the past, and all of the lives and troubles that came before. And of course Hallowe’en makes us wonder about that shadow in the corner and that figure drifting along the road... So as you hunker down for the darker and cooler evenings to come, and get your jack-o’-lantern ready for the front step, let yourself be haunted by strange tales about all manner of ghosts.



For the Downton Abbey fan, Sadie Jones’ The Uninvited Guests has all the hallmarks of a cozy Edwardian story, complete with matters of marriage, manners, and manors.  Except that all is not as it seems, and before the evening is out, there is the creeping awareness that something decidedly strange is underway. 





Helen Dunmore’s The Greatcoat may be short, but this atmospheric book will haunt you long after you’ve turned the final page. In 1954, the wounds of WWII were still fresh, and Dunmore gives us the sense that not nearly enough time had passed to lay to rest those lives so abruptly cut off. On one level about domestic dissatisfaction, on another a chilling reminder of how much was irrevocably altered by the war – this is a ghost story tied together with love and loss.




Even if you’ve never read a graphic novel before, The Spectral Engine by Ray Fawkes should be on your must-read list. An author and artist based in Toronto, Fawkes has pulled from Canadian history to find stories of mystery, disaster, and the supernatural – part of a rich (but little celebrated) storytelling tradition. His black-and-white artwork is by turns stark and evocative. Moving from Aboriginal history, to tales of the railway, to all-too-real contemporary urban fears, Fawkes brings a sense of fright, urgency – and unexpected compassion.




The Phantom Coach, edited by Michael Sims, is currently on order for our collection, but you can place your hold now and be one of the first to enjoy it when it arrives. Featuring ghostly tales from such familiar authors as Charles Dickens, Edith Wharton, Henry James, Thomas Hardy, and Arthur Conan Doyle, this edition includes notes and introductions to the stories and authors of the time. An excellent introduction to many fine Victorian authors, and a (trick-or-) treat for longtime fans of the period.




If you already know Edward Gorey, you don’t need me to say another word. If you haven’t yet met him and his whimsically macabre illustrated stories and poems – look no further than Amphigorey, which contains fifteen of his best known works. “N is for Neville who died of ennui”. . .




Happy Hallowe’en!



Image: The Phantom Coach

The Phantom Coach

A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Ghost Stories


By Workman, Hawksley