My Favorite Ghost Story.....

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My Favorite Ghost Story.....

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apr 17, 2007, 12:45 am

An ongoing thread, so please nominate your favorite(s)! You can have a different favorite depending on your mood, day of the week, or your newest discovery.
If you're anything like me (kind of a scary prospect), you have many "favorite" stories.

apr 17, 2007, 4:39 pm

Too many short stories to choose--I started to look through my books and got sidetracked reading them again! Three books I loved, though, are The Ghost of S.W. 1 by Patricia Welles, Shades of Gray by Timothy O'Neill, and Tryst by Elswyth Thane (an oldie but goodie!)

apr 27, 2007, 7:26 pm

I like subtle, creeping horror. One of my favorites is "Green Tea" by LeFanu. I also really, really like E.F. Benson's "The Room in the Tower." Has anyone read this? It's really wonderful. E.F. Benson wrote great ghost stories plus the wonderful Lucia novels--comfort reading! You can buy the Collected Ghost Stories of E.F. Benson from Amazon. I really recommend Benson, if you haven't read him. And, if you like the cozy but sinister English ghost story, Marjorie Bowen also.

Any Bowen and Benson fans?

apr 27, 2007, 11:27 pm

> 3

Yes, Benson is marvelous! People these days tend to know his Lucia books (which I enjoy very much), but aren't as familiar with his ghost stories. They should be!

I'm a big fan of Montague Rhodes James as well, though I'd be hard pressed to name a favorite. Probably "Casting the Runes" or "The Mezzotint".

There's a Chicago writer, Tina L. Jens who has written a collection of ghost stories set in a blues bar, The Blues Ain't Nothin': Tales from the Lonesome Blues Pub, that I would highly recommend.

maj 6, 2007, 11:23 am

E. F. Benson is my favorite classic ghost story writer. While there may be others who wrote better individual stories, I don't think anyone tops Benson's complete canon in consistent quality. I have a special fondness for the "spiritism" element in the 19th century ghost story, and Benson is a master of it.

maj 12, 2007, 12:02 am

It's a wonderful thing when I discover one author, merely because I thought they were someone else!
Way back when, I thought that Benson wrote The Monkey's Paw, so imagine my surprise when my Collected Ghost Stories of EF Benson didn't have that story! But I accidentally discovered a new favorite.

-It's maybe not the most faithful adapatation, by the PBS version of Uncle Silas just creeped the heck out of me!
Which is better, a faithful adapation that's not very good, or an abridgement that doesn't include everything but is more faithful to the spirit of the original?

maj 12, 2007, 12:06 am

(The Mezzotint) is just my favorite MR James! Just the awfulness it - watching events unfold, unable to stop them. That would be a great one to see animated, in that engraving style.
Or (Oh, Whistle...) in a CGI version. That would be one place where digital animation would truly do justice to the terror of that story.

Redigerat: maj 13, 2007, 11:49 am

>6 Ann_Louise:
I think calling something a good adaptation and calling something a good film are two different things.

Stephen King once said that he's learned to consider the book and the adaptation two separate works of art that have to be judged entirely on their own merits, and I suppose the author of The Shining would have to think that way.

Kubrick's film is a very good horror film, but it bears virtually no resemblance to the book except in discrete scenes. The book is also a very good book, but it has a completely different theme from the film--as much American tragedy as horror novel.
I think you could say that of all the King film adaptations, Kubrick made the best film, but by far the least faithful adaptation.

I'm not sure, when judging a film (or television program, etc.) that loyalty to the written work that inspired it should even be a factor.

maj 13, 2007, 1:56 pm

I agree on The Shining - it's scary as all getout, but keeps more of the essence of the books than the nuts and bolts plot points. It's interesting that King didn't like that version(iirc), but I think the more recent adaptations, which are more faithful (like the Shining) just don't have the same scary quality.

The whole loyalty thing only bothers me when the adapation does't even keep the essence of the original work. Francis Ford Coppolas Dracula keeps Bram Stoker in the movie's title, but by changing the basic nature of the title character, becomes a totally different work. I mean, it looked great, but making Dracula the tortured romantic looking for his lost love -ick.

Redigerat: maj 13, 2007, 6:00 pm

The Uninvited by Dorothy MacArdle. Made into a great movie with Ray Milland. :-)

Is this Marjorie Bowen ---why is the touchstone for Marjorie Morningstar? :-) --- the same one who wrote historical novels?

maj 15, 2007, 7:55 am


Actually, I think Kubrick is more loyal to the nuts and bolts plot points of The Shining than he is to the essence of the novel. To me, the essence of the novel hinges on the tragedy of it. Jack and Wendy are almost happy. They have the kinds of problems most marriages face at one time or another, but they're valiantly trying to muddle through. You can read the whole thing as almost allegorical. The hotel is the one thing that just tips them over the edge. For that one reason, I think the essence of the book is, as much as scary, heartbreakingly sad.

But nobody has ever had problems like Nicholson's Jack or Duvall's Wendy. They're crazy as outhouse rats and sliding fast when they start up that hill.

I think there are two inferior films (both, interestingly, pretty faithful adaptations of--admittedly inferior--novels) that capture that tragic feeling much better: The Amityville Horror and Burnt Offerings. Burnt Offerings, by the way, is no classic, but it certainly has a place in this discussion. I found the book very effective.

As for Coppola's Dracula, I defer to your observation--ick. Couldn't have said it better myself.

Redigerat: maj 31, 2007, 12:02 pm

I don't know if I would call it my favorite ghost story, but the one that stands out in both longevity and vividness of memory is A. N. L. Munby's "The White Sack," in his The Alabaster Hand. Munby was a midcentury ghostwriter in the mode of M. R. James, although to my mind his stories are thinner than James'. Still, "The White Sack" stands out in memory in a way that none of maestro James' have. I'm not certain why that is. The atmosphere in "TWS" seems more concentrated, the setting is (to an American southern girl) stark and barren (someone's holiday photos of the locale are, or were, on-line), the description of the appearance of TWS is utterly innocuous but given the title of the story you know it's not. I suppose it seems very believable: I think if I went there I'd expect to see the thing, and be disappointed when I didn't.

(Edited to include the pun.)

jun 22, 2007, 1:08 am

My favourite ghost story has to be Thurnley Abbey by Perceval Landon. Utterly creepy!! Brrr.

There are many other favourites, of course. The Voice In The Night by William Hope Hodgson, and The Diary Of Mr. Poynter by M. R. James are two that immediately come to mind.

More recently, Stephen King's The Reach is a modern classic.

jul 1, 2007, 11:36 pm

'The Uninvited' is my favorite ghostly novel as well. And yes, Majorie Bowen wrote historical fiction, too. She also wrote under the name of "Joseph Shearing," I believe.

My favorite short ghost stories are Benson's "How Fear Departed from the Long Gallery" and A.M. Burrage's "Smee."

jul 3, 2007, 11:35 am

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson is my all time favorite ghost story. She sets up such a chilling atmosphere.

jul 3, 2007, 12:18 pm

>15 Antares1:. Your recommendation is one of my favorites also!

Hell House by Richard Matheson, although somewhat dated now (it takes place circa 1970), was once described by Stephen King as one of the most frightening haunted house stories ever written. I agree.

jul 13, 2007, 7:47 pm

Re #2 from hipeaks:

You have me interested: I am unfamiliar with all three titles but will have to investigate them.

jul 13, 2007, 7:59 pm

Re #3 from bufoigaly:

"The Crown Derby Plate" by Bowen would be in my top 20 or so ghostly short stories. I recently picked up BLACK MAGIC after some hunting. Have you read that, and what did you think?

I like Benson too, though not universally. I've never been as enthusiastic about "Mrs. Amworth" as many others are, and there might be a few too many stories with essentially the same characters, setting and feel, but his best, like "The Room in the Tower", clearly deserve to be in the top echelon.

What's your opinion of "Caterpillars"? People seem to love it or hate it.

If you are a serious Benson fan you might want to check out the five volume series of Benson collections from Ash-Tree Press. Everything you could want is in there, in editions of top quality.

20Mikal9000 Första inlägget
aug 1, 2007, 11:24 pm

For the pure ghost story in its classic form, I don't think anyone will ever top M. R. James, although E. F. Benson gives him some stiff competition.

It's hard to pick a favorite James story, although I suppose I'd settle on "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad" as his best. (I understand a film version was made for the BBC back in the Sixties - anyone ever seen it?) That tale, and the more black-magic-themed "Casting the Runes," were my introductions to him via the classic anthology Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural. I devoured that tome as a wee lad, and still have my childhood copy in my collection.

As for ol' Eddie Benson: "The Room in the Tower," and its atmosphere of persistent nightmares and mounting dread, must be one of the English language's best ghost tales (although it also fits into the vampire genre). Some of Benson's stuff gets into almost Lovecraftian territory with speculations about the nature of time and physical reality; two lesser-known stories by him on these themes are "Bagnell Terrace" and "In the Tube."

aug 2, 2007, 1:53 am

Mikal9000, I think "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad" is probably my favorite ghost story (certainly among those that I consider quintessential ghost stories) and my favorite story by James.

The first time I read it, I found it absolutely terrifying and deeply disturbing in its strangeness and even after a couple of decades and many rereads, it still retains its power to spook me like few other ghost stories. A classic and a true little masterpiece.

Redigerat: dec 10, 2007, 9:54 pm


My favorite might be "Smee", too. : )

What a creeeeepy story. . .

jan 29, 2008, 1:19 pm

i the person who has many ghost in the brain always will have too many ghost ideas that i will not rember my favorites and least favorites so i am telling all that i have too many ideas about this

feb 18, 2008, 3:14 am

I enjoy Arthur Machen's work. Two of my favorites are The Great God Pan and The Three Imposters. I also like Robert Aickman.


jul 11, 2008, 7:31 am

I came across Andrew Caldecott the other day, whom I´ve never even heard of before, and although the quality of his stuff was somewhat uneven it was still the closest thing to M R James I´ve ever read. Try "a room in a rectory" for a start. (Bought it on Amazon for about 3£.)

aug 21, 2008, 1:19 pm

I've just been invited to this group and so pleased to be here. I love classic ghost stories and am always on the prowl for more. My all time favourite is The Upper Berth by F. Marion Crawford, still gives me shivers every time I read it - or hear it, as I have it on audio too!

Another favourite is The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood. Blackwood's descriptions of the isolation of the forest and the growing fear of the guide and hunters is truly terrifying.

I like Susan Hill's The Woman in Black and just found another of her ghost stories the other day The Mist in the Mirror, which was good, but I found it a little disjointed. Has anyone else read it? I hope she writes more.

dec 3, 2008, 12:17 pm

Susan Hill has written another ghost story called The Man in the Picture. My opinion is that it is not as good as The Woman in Black, but it is definitely worth reading.

dec 10, 2008, 10:39 am

I haven't found a used copy of The Woman in Black yet, but there was a movie version I quite liked. The Ghost Quartet a new novel - a series of four connected stories, but I can't get into it so far; so I'm looking at The Mammoth Book of Short Horror Novels to read over the holidays.

Redigerat: dec 12, 2008, 1:59 pm

Ah yes Ann_Louise, that's how I discovered The Woman in Black actually, by watching the movie first. I loved it! I wore out the VHS copy I had actually *blush* and now have a DVD.

I'll have to go on a search for The Man in the Picture now, thanks cmcarpenter.

I usually dip into my Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories over the Christmas season, seems to fit perfectly ;-)

dec 12, 2008, 1:59 pm

The Orphanage is another great ghost story to watch. It's in Spanish, but don't let that disuade you. There have been a steady stream of good movies that are more in the ghost story tradition that just plain horror. It seems that The Sixth Sense started the most recent wave.

dec 12, 2008, 2:00 pm

YES!! I just watched it last week at my daughter's recommendation. Very good movie. I love these movies that aren't gory, but lovely and creepy and ghostly. I'm very greedy for more.

dec 13, 2008, 10:42 pm

katylit, you should track down The Devil's Backbone. It's directed by Benicio Del Toro; it's set at a bording school during the Spanish Civil War. Not quite as good, IMO, as The Orphanage, but still a cut above the average.

dec 14, 2008, 10:22 am

If you want a good Christmas ghost story on film, try The Lady in White with Lucas Haas. It seems to fit your criteria katylit.

dec 16, 2008, 2:20 am

I haven't heard of The Devil's Backbone Ann_Louise, thanks! I'll look out for it :-)

And thanks TheBentley, my husband and I went to see The Lady in White at the theatre when it came out. I snapped up a copy of it as soon as it came out in VHS - isn't it a great story? Lucas Haas captured my heart in Witness and he is wonderful in Lady in White too.

See? I told you I'm greedy for these types of ghost stories LOL! I love The Others and The Changeling too, two more that fit the bill for me. Wish they'd make more like that.

dec 31, 2008, 4:19 am

Know what you mean. I love Crawfords short stories, but at the moment I´m trying to read his one ghostly novel "The witch of Prague", and it´s so hideously boring. It´s not a very thick book but the way he keeps on makes you feel like it is eighthundred pages. I will get through it eventually, but I was quite dissapointed. Sad, because his short stories are great, like "the screaming skull" or "the upper birth".

dec 31, 2008, 8:03 am

Has anyone read My Favorite Horror Story? It's an anthology of horror authors' favorite horror stories. It was great seeing who picked what and why.

jan 8, 2009, 4:31 pm

I recently read a good ghost story (a novella actually) which has been compared to Henry James' Turn of the Screw. It is called A Phantom Lover and was written by Vernon Lee. I have posted a review at:

jan 28, 2009, 10:10 pm

I really enjoyed Man in the picture by Susan Hill. I have never read any of her writings before so when I went to read an earlier work Woman in Black I found why people said Man in the picture followed a similar formula of writing.

apr 22, 2009, 6:56 pm

#37, cmcarpenter, I downloaded A Phantom Lover from the Gutenberg Project and read it yesterday. I'm so glad you told us about it, I really enjoyed it! Mrs. Oke is definitely a memorable character. What a great story. Thanks :-)

apr 29, 2009, 6:59 pm

A new book which I have just begun reading, but one I know I'm going to love: Hannah's House by Joyce Allen.

apr 29, 2009, 7:05 pm

#39, katylit: I'm glad to know you enjoyed A Phantom Lover by Vernon Lee. Another book I would recommend to you and to anyone who likes ghost stories is Hannah's House by Joyce Allen. I haven't finished it yet, but I love what I've read so far!

apr 30, 2009, 8:31 am

Here's a link to Hannah's House home page. The touchstone is not working.

apr 30, 2009, 3:54 pm

#42, cal8769, thanks for putting up the link to Hannah's House.
I have read about half of it now, and I'm enjoying it very much.

apr 30, 2009, 4:03 pm

It sounds good. I will be looking for it.

maj 1, 2009, 12:43 pm

Wonderful!! I love finding new good ghost stories. I'll be looking for this one too. Thanks for the recommendation.

maj 4, 2009, 12:16 pm

I'm a bit more than halfway through The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. Up to this point in the book I would not call it a ghost story. Rather I would label it a haunted house story.

maj 5, 2009, 3:36 pm

I have just posted a Members Giveaway listing - 10 ebook (pdf format) copies of Ellen Glasgow's Dare's Gift. It is a two-part short story about a haunted house on Virginia's James River.

jun 10, 2009, 5:38 am

Hi Everyone, I have just joined the site - Brilliant - I love ghost stories, my favourite authors being
M.R James.
H.R Wakefield.
E.F Benson.
Arthur Machen.
#4. The Mezzotint is Really creepy! What did you think of Lost Hearts????
#20. Yes, I have seen the film version of 'Oh Whistle...' Two years ago, B.B.C 4 ran a Christmas season of T.V adaptatons on M.R James stories. In addition to 'Oh Whistle..'
they also reran a series made in the mid-seventies (I think it was called 'A Ghost Story for Christmas') that featured 'The Stalls of Barchester', 'The Treasure of Abbott Thomas', 'A Warning to the Curious', and 'Lost Hearts'. They scared the living daylights of me, back in the seventies, this time I taped them all, and they scare me just as much now!!

jun 13, 2009, 6:29 pm

Dare's Gift by Ellen Glasgow is now available in ePub format for those of you with ebook readers or Adobe's Digital Editions software. Send me a message with your email address and I will email you a copy. This is a great haunted house story set in the James River area of Virginia.

jun 23, 2009, 10:06 pm

For years, I tried to find a short story that I read as a kid and could never forget. I finally remembered the name of the anthology it was in, and borrowed it through Inter-library Loan. The book was called More Tales to Tremble By and the story was "God Grante That She Lye Stille" by Cynthia Asquith. (The title is the epitaph on an old grave, the resident of which is not resting in peace.)

Reading it again was like getting reaquainted with an old friend -- a spooky old friend. (I wonder how many times I read it back then? There were passages I could almost recall verbatim!) To my mature eyes, it seems a little melodramatic, but it still carries an impact. I guess just for its ability to stay with me all these years, I have to think of it as a favorite.

nov 15, 2009, 9:12 pm

Tymfos, I'm guessing "God Grante That She Lye Stille" is the same story adapted for an episode of Boris Karloff's Thriller sounds very similar. I don't think anybody has mentioned one of my very favorite stories: Three Miles Up by Elizabeth Jane Howard. Nice references to classic mythology in this one.

mar 9, 2012, 7:49 pm

Oh, "Smee" is one of my favorite short ghostly stories -- quite creepy and chilling I think!

aug 27, 2012, 4:03 pm

I read Tryst a year ago. I had to special order it from a library out-of-state! Totally worth it :)