Ghosts & Gentle Monsters: Books That Won’t Scare You to Death

In October I peruse gentle ghost stories, or a Victorian Gothic that won’t scare me to death.  I dip into The Virago Book of Ghost Stories, an anthology of tasteful ghost stories, including two by E. Nesbit and Elizabeth Bowen.  I have standards: I  had to banish a Penguin hardcover edition of H. P. Lovecraft’s The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Stories, after a mere glance at the horrific contents.

 Below are Recommendations for Wimpy Readers, so  that you may survive Halloween insanity without fainting.

Sheridan Le Fanu’s In a Glass Darkly includes “five tales that focus on the haunted men and women rather than on the visitant.”  Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House proves that it is a bad idea for curious people to spend the night in a haunted house.  (The 1963 movie with Julie Harris is chilling; there is also a Netflix show.)  Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend describes the plight of the last man on earth to survive a plague that turned humans into vampires.  (The movie with Will Smith is excellent but I had to leave the theater because it was terrifying. I fared better with this on a smaller screen.)  

And now let us move on to classics everyone has heard of.  Bram Stoker’s Dracula is THE influential vampire classic, and I have an attractive small press edition – remember Capuchin Classics?  Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or  The Modern Prometheus, occupies a higher plane, because Shelley’s gracefully-written interpretation of the Prometheus myth inspires compassion for the lonely monster created by Dr. Frankenstein.  Beware of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: the hero has a dangerous double personality!  And  I am still fond of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, “The Raven,”(“Quoth the raven nevermore”), which you can read at The Poetry Foundation

What are you reading for Halloween? More ghosts and goblins, please! 

4 thoughts on “Ghosts & Gentle Monsters: Books That Won’t Scare You to Death”

  1. Have you read Robert Aickman?
    He edited many of the Fontana books of ghost stories and wrote what he called “strange stories” himself.

    1. Thanks. I don’t know his work, but I do like books of ghosts stories. There is an article about him at Electric Literature, in which the author thinks Aickman is finally getting his dues. I’ll have to read it more closely tomorrow.
      Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. Loved the spooky round-up, although I admittedly prefer a very robust tale of horror! (some of Lovecraft’s stories are among my favorites). I did enjoy the Le Fanu collection, when I read it years ago (after regarding Carmilla as a fairly mild vampire tale, I actually had a real, honest to go nightmare about it!)
    I, also like to mark the fall season with a scary tale or two; by coincidence I was just mulling over my choices when I happened to read your post. This year I think I’m going with two very recent works, reviewed by The Guardian: Jacob Kerr’s “The Green Man of Eshwood Hall” and “The Black Maybe,” a collection of stories by Attila Veres.
    Have you read Jenni Fagan’s “Luckenbooth”? This tale of a strange Edinburgh apartment house and its inhabitants might fit your criteria of gentle horror.

    1. I know Lovecraft’s stories are classics. Why can’t I read him? 🙂 My recommendations ARE mild ghost/vampire/etc. tales, except perhaps for I Am Legend.

      I am jotting down the authors you recommend, and, yes, Jenni Fagan’s book sounds fascinating. I love apartment house novels!

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