This is the time of year when the fog rolls in and coats the land in a blanket of see-through mist. Things become strange and mysterious. Everything is dying. Christian's celebrate All Hallow's Eve and All Saint's Day. Hindus celebrate Diwali (The Festival of Lights). Pagans celebrate Samhain. Muslims celebrate Muharram. All three mark the beginning of a New Year, a new cycle, a new season. Everything goes to sleep, into the ground to await the rebirth of spring. In Greek and Roman mythology Persephone visits Hades. Her mother Demeter refuses to let the sun shine until her daughter returns in the spring. In the west, we celebrate Halloween and Remembrance Day. These are some of the many and varied ways we honour our dead. What better time for ghosts to roam across the field our consciousness? When more apt to recommend a few good ghost stories?
Now, I have a disclaimer to make, and that is that I don't normally DO ghosts, vampires, horror, or zombies ... or ANY of their ilk as a matter of fact. I have disclaimed this in previous Halloween blogs, so I think I deserve an A just for reading some ghost stories to recommend to you in the first place. I have been doing my best. I recently wrote a blog on Zombies, then I endeavoured to ACTUALLY read my first ghost story... not Casper but one bona fide as potentially scary - lightly scary mind you. I wasn't about to traumatize myself. It's been an interesting journey. I had rules. Never read the book at night. Always read the book with other people around. Don't read the book if you need to go into dark creepy corners or haunted woods afterwards... In the end I got so engrossed in the story that I actually ended up breaking all my own rules reading the book on Halloween night, alone, in the dark and... I was fine! I did however skip read ahead to the end when it got "scary" just to see if it was something I could handle, it was. Then, I finished reading all the details. So there you go. If you've never read ghost stories here's a recipe as to how. Similar to dipping your foot into the water to see how cold it is before you jump in. It IS after all my imagination that ends up being the enemy and not the inspirational book, DVD, CD, etc. in and of itself. I now have a theory. Books are much less likely to freak me out than movies or CD's, having I suppose, more control over my thoughts than on the sensory effects of sound and visuals... reading a book does NOT over-activate my negative imagination in the same way. My nerves are apparently more sensitive to visual and auditory stimulation's than that of the linguistical variety. So food for thought, test your own scare-o-meter!
You could start with some innocent fun morsels about friendly ghosts like Casper, Anya's Ghost and Slog's Dad or fake "ghosts" like in Ottoline Goes to School.
Move on to more "fake" ghosts, although beware what you wish for, sometimes "playing" can summon up your worst nightmares! The book I read? Classified as a light scare, All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn. I actually quite enjoyed this book. It is a light quick read set in a haunted inn and stars a pair of siblings on vacation. What impressed me most in the end was Downing Hahn's ability to integrate Shakespeare quotes and American history into a novel written for 10-14 year olds seamlessly probing deeper questions regarding history, class-ism, morality and right and wrong. Classically, "ghosts" stick around because they have something they want us humans to do; some inner conflict they need to resolve before they can be at peace. We all have "ghosts" that haunt us. What do they want to us to do? What does it take to make friends, put them at rest, and restore peace? How do we honour the unnamed dead once their histories are brought to light?
You can graduate on with a purportedly really scary read such as Wait t'ill Helen Comes by Downing Hahn or Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendra Blake; then indulge in savouring any of the following morsels which, I admit, have thoroughly intrigued me, but have received many reports about being downright frightening. I am tempted. I might be will just a wee bit obsessed with fairy-tales.... It remains a sad fact that many fairy tales are in-fact quite horrific when it comes right down to it, and VERY well suited to horror novels. In fact, I may have already read one or two without realizing it...
Try Sweetly (Hansel and Gretel) or Sisters Red (Red Riding Hood) by Jackson Pierce for starter fairy-scares.
The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff or The Replacement if you want something a little more terrifying.
Following this recipe for jumping into the waters of ghost and horror stories I, unlike you had no intentions of graduating, quite happy to remain forever a student ... or, considering the "fairy-scares ", so I thought!
In the end, aside from "enjoying " a good scare (note sarcasm), the ultimate value of these and stories like "All The Lovely Bad Ones" is that they help teach us how to be psychologically brave.
Good luck with graduating!