Hallowe’en is drawing nigh, "whare ghaists and houlets nightly cry" (thanks, Robert Burns!) — so for our October What-We're-Reading post, we Wenches are sharing some favorite ghostly and paranormal stories.
Classics, cozy mysteries, romance, fantasy, paranormal, scholarly and tales of real ghostly encounters . . . haunted houses, ghosties and beasties – we’ve included some downright spooky fun in the following picks. So if you’re not too busy answering the door and tossing treats to little witches, vampires, superheroes, butterflies and fairy princesses – and if you're in the mood for a Halloween thrill — check out some of these great reads!
Andrea Pickens/Cara Elliott
I confess that I don’t read horror, or much paranormal, so am woefully ill-equipped to offer any first-hand recommendations for Halloween reads. What can I say—the genre just doesn’t tickle my fancy. However, I did spot this intriguing-looking book. Haunted—On Ghosts, Witches, Vampires, Zombies, and Other Monsters of the Natural and Supernatural Worlds is just the type of take on the subject that I’d find appealing, and so have put it on my TBR pile. Here’s the blurb: “An award-winning scholar and author charts four hundred years of monsters and how they reflect the culture that created them.”
I love paranormals as long as they’re light and not filled with violence. I cannot begin to name all the series I scarf down, many of which I’ve mentioned before. The ones that leap to mind immediately are Ilona Andrews’ Innkeeper Chronicles where you can have everything from ghosts to aliens, Juliet Blackwell’s Witchcraft Mysteries where the heroine is a witch who keeps bumping into things in the night, and of course Darynda Jones’ Charley Davidson series which is a tour-de-force of humor and sexiness and a heroine who is the passage between earth and heaven. Then there’s Angie Fox, who can inject humor into anything from biker granny witches to southern spirits, just choose your preferred creature:
Mary Jo Putney
When Susan suggested that we choose ghost stories for the October WWR, I wasn't sure if I could offer much since I'm not into horror or ghosts. And then I thought of Ammie Come Home . . . .
Barbara Mertz was a prolific popular fiction author, writing mysteries as Elizabeth Peters and Gothic and supernatural stories as Barbara Michaels. (Not to mention non-fiction Egyptology books as Barbara Mertz since she had a PhD in Egyptology.) There were always great plots, appealing characters, humor, and romance in her books, and often cats or dogs. I've enjoyed her books for many, many years.
And her first bestselling Barbara Michaels book, Ammie Come Home, is most definitely a ghost story. Forty-ish government worker Ruth Bennett has inherited a beautiful historic Georgetown house from a distant relative, and her much-loved niece Sara is living with her while attending college. Then a rather accidental séance calls forth frightening energies and a dark and terrible story from the past begins to play out again through Ruth and Sara and their friends….
There are two romances and even after all these years, it's a jolly good and scary ghost story. I reread it before writing this recommendation, and there are no cell phones and numerous comments on Sara's mini-skirts and other '60s elements, yet I didn't really find the book dated because the characters and the story are still compelling.
Ammie Come Home is a classic and I imagine many of you have read it. But if you haven't, maybe it's time you did!
I don't read many ghost or horror stories, though I do like some paranormal series, as long as they're not too violent. One of my favorites is the Mercy Thompson series, by Patricia Briggs — though I've read everything of hers and haven't been disappointed yet. I think it was Pat or Mary Jo (or both) who put me onto Patricia Briggs, so that's a triple recommendation. The first book in that series is Moon Called.Another series I enjoyed is the Parasol Protectorate series, by Gail Carriger — Victorian-era paranormal hijinks — and a good few chuckles. Start with Soulless. And if you want a not-too-spooky or violent Victorian-era ghostly experience, I recommend The Medium by CJ Archer. The first in a trilogy, it's free on the various e-book platforms.
Finally, can I recommend the London Steampunk series by Bec Mcmaster. Set in the Victorian era, Bec takes a clever and interesting twist on vampirism and the ton (that we all know and love from Regency-era novels. In her world, vampirism is a virus, granting health, strength and longevity — and as such is jealously guarded by the noble families of England. When the time comes, the head of each noble family passes it to his eldest son.
When I was in my teens I absolutely adored ghost stories and even dabbled in reading horror fiction. I’ve obviously become more timid as I’ve got older as the scary books don’t hold the same appeal for me as they used to do. However, I still love dual time and time slip stories and many of them are in essence ghost stories. I also love books with other paranormal elements to them whether it’s mythology like the Percy Jackson series, or magic, like in Phillip Pullman’s books, or alternative worlds.
Mist Over Pendle by Robert Neill is an old book but as it’s about witchcraft if feels like the perfect re-read for Halloween. It a brilliant re-construction of the famous story of the Pendle Witches of Lancashire and weaves a tense and atmospheric tale full of menace. There is also a delicious romance running through the story between the magistrate’s spirited niece and an ambitious gentleman seeking advancement in his career that lightens the mood. Their dialogue sparkles. I’ve recently also bought Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt as this is a different perspective on the witch-hunt from the point of view of the women accused.
When it comes to Halloween, though, I have my own spooky experiences to savour. One day I will write a book around my encounters with the ghostly Cavalier who inhabited my former home…
I love ghosts – books, true accounts, ghost shows like Ghost Adventures, Ghost Hunters, my all-time favorite Most Haunted and others. Stories of hauntings have always fascinated me, particularly real accounts, as well as fictional ghost stories that rely on apprehension and history rather than gruesome horror. In high school, I read everything I could find by Hans Holzer, one of the first ghost-hunting experts; his accounts of real hauntings–such as Ghosts: True Encounters–and his ability to release those trapped souls kept me up late and got me started as a lifetime reader of ghostly tales.
In fiction, I agree with Mary Jo on Barbara Michael’s masterful Ammie Come Home—one of the best I’ve ever read. I’ve also enjoyed Juliet Blackwell’s Haunted Home Renovation series, starting with If Walls Could Talk. The classic tales of M.R. James thrilled me in college, and belong in any good ghostie library–and for a little Halloweeny, haunting atmosphere, I love an older book on my shelves, Simon Marsden’s gorgeous photo collection Phantoms of the Isles. I've got a ghost story or two of my own up my sleeve, if I ever get time to write them, but in the meantime, there are lots more tales to be read!
Happy Halloween from the Wenches!