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  • Writer's pictureEmily

Scary stories

A mix of two stories that you can read for free online, a print book, a story that you can listen to for free online, and two e-audiobooks that I borrowed through my library.


"The Judge's House" by Bram Stoker (part of the book Dracula's Guest). I have this story in a Dover thrift edition of ghost stories, which I recommend, but you can read this story for free. One of the other stories in Dracula's Guest is "The Squaw," and I shudder to think of what that might be like. But "The Judge's House" is very good. Avoid if you have a rat phobia.

"The Willows" by Algernon Blackwood. This is actually a novella, so it takes awhile to get through it. I found it while poking around on Project Gutenberg a long time ago. Two young men are canoeing along the Danube River, and come into a willow-covered marshland cut off from civilization. They set up camp, and then at night there are strange sounds and shadows, and the trees seem to have moved. It gets weirder from there.

A novella in print

The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill. I spotted this at the library one day, and I liked The Woman in Black, so I picked it up. It's a small book, more like a novella or a long story, not a novel. It starts out slow, but I like that sometimes. It was setting up an atmosphere. It isn't really a spoiler to say that it's a cursed object story. A young man learns the story of a cursed painting, told to him by his friend and mentor, and then the painting is left to him in the man's will This would be a great read for a dark, chilly Saturday afternoon in October.

Shirley Jackson has a similar story- that would be a spoiler if I described it, but it is a Levar Burton Reads story, if you want to listen to it. It isn't so similar that you would only want one.

e-audiobooks (from the library!)

The Bell Witch, by Brent Monahan. Read by Cameron Beierle. I read this book years ago in print, and was terrified by it. I think that it was extra scary because this place isn't so very far from where I live. I used to pass the exit off the interstate to the Bell Witch Farm, and I'd drive just a little faster to get past it. So I was kind of disappointed this time. The narration is fine, but it just wasn't scary this time. Or at least, not much. I've wanted to read it again, and looked for it, but without the author's name, I couldn't find it. And then I chose an audiobook at random, and there it was.

For anyone who doesn't know, the Bell family lived on a farm in west TN in the 1800s. It wasn't many years removed from being wilderness. The Bell family patriarch was in a dispute with a woman named Kate Batts, who was suspected of being a witch. She threatened John Bell and his family, and everyone took that as a curse. Later, strange noises began to plague the Bell farm at night, spectral dogs, etc, until the younger daughter of the family, Betsy, began to be singled out for physical abuse.

There's alot of talk about the book in the beginning about Kate, and how strange she is, but when the haunting really gets going, there's no further talk of her except to call the ghost (or whatever it is) Old Kate's Witch. This book is written as a letter from the man who would marry Betsy Bell to their daughter, to warn her of what had happened in case it started up again. The Bell family were real people, and I have to wonder, when I finished this book, if it's really right to speculate on what happened to them when they aren't here to defend themselves. I guess I'm being over-scrupulous, since people write historical fiction about real people all the time.

I'd like to read another book on the subject, but there are never any on the shelf at any library. They're always gone!

Non-haunting creep-out factors include everyone being OK with a 12-year-old girl getting married, and the presence of enslaved people.

The movie An American Haunting was based on this book. They have to cut ALOT out to fit it into a movie.

The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson. Read by Bernadette Dunne. I've written about this book before, and I'll probably write about it again. There's so much going on in this book, that I think I could read it a dozen more times and still be fascinated. I almost didn't check it out this time, but I wanted a scary book in audio, to listen to while I do housework, and I got hook all over again. I didn't really think that it would be scary this time, but it was!

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