It’s that time of year again when even little old ladies who wouldn’t hurt a fly are apt to pick up a book about death, destruction, mayhem and fear. Sure, you could find any number of modern ghost stories or brand-spanking-new ghoulish movies to scare the shit out of you this Halloween season, but there’s something special about ghost stories from the past.
Not only are the following collections scary as hell, they are totally free on the internet and available to anyone via Project Gutenberg. So grab yourself one of these bygone reads and settle in for some ghostly visitations (in book form at least).
1. Famous Modern Ghost Stories – Dorothy Scarborough (Editor)
Despite the name, this book was published in 1921 and is full of delightful stories written by some famous authors such as Algernon Blackwood, Edgar Allen Poe, and Ambrose Bierce. With titles like “The Shadow on the Wall” and “The Beast With Five Fingers” this collection will have you quaking in your boots.
Our intrusion had stirred the powers of the place into activity. It was we who were the cause of the disturbance, and my brain filled to bursting with stories and legends of the spirits and deities of places that have been acknowledged and worshiped by men in all ages of the world’s history. But, before I could arrive at any possible explanation, something impelled me to go farther out, and I crept forward on to the sand and stood upright.The willows, algernon blackwood, from FAMOUS MODERN GHOST STORIES
2. The Phantom ‘Rickshaw and Other Tales – Rudyard Kipling
Tales of madness and death abound in this work by the author of The Jungle Book. The stories all have a foreign feel as most of them are set in India and Pakistan where Kipling spent much of his life.
There are, in this land, ghosts who take the form of fat, cold, pobby corpses, and hide in trees near the roadside till a traveler passes. Then they drop upon his neck and remain. There are also terrible ghosts of women who have died in child-bed. These wander along the pathways at dusk, or hide in the crops near a village, and call seductively. But to answer their call is death in this world and the next.from my own true ghost story, by rudyard kipling, the phantom rickshaw and other stories
3. Visible and Invisible – E.F. Benson
Twelve terrifying tales make up this collection of stories by E.F. Benson. Stories like “Negotium Perambulates” and “Mr. Tilly’s Seance” feature strange experiments with the dead and efforts to contact souls on the other side.
“Not a sign of returning vitality,” he said, “and I’ve done all I can. There’s nothing more possible that can be devised to restore her.”and the dead spake–, E.F. Benson, visible and invisible
As he spoke the zeal of the unrivalled surgeon relaxed, and with a sigh and a shrug he rose to his feet and mopped his face. Then suddenly the fire and eagerness blazed there again. “The gramophone!” he said. “The speech centre is close to where I’ve been working, and it is quite uninjured. Good heavens, what a wonderful opportunity. She served me well living, and she shall serve me dead. And I can stimulate the motor nerve-centre, too, with the second battery. We may see a new wonder to-night.”
Some qualm of horror shook me.
“No, don’t!” I said. “It’s terrible: she’s just dead. I shall go if you do.”
4. Twenty-Five Ghost Stories – W. Bob Holland (Editor)
Another collection featuring multiple authors, this book also includes some astounding artwork within the text. Some stories like Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Black Cat” may be familiar, but there are a number of forgotten but fantastic works by lesser known authors to keep your knees shaking too.
S-t-t! Out went the lights in the twinkling of an eye—as I sat, gaping in my astonishment, from out of the pitchy darkness of the room came the most dreary, horrible, blood-curdling groan imaginable. As I sat paralyzed, not daring to breathe, doubting my senses for a moment, and then thinking indignantly that it was some trick of that wretched cashier, I felt long, thin, icy fingers passing gently over my face. Malgame Dios! what a sensation! At first I was afraid to move. Then I nervously tried to brush the icy, bony things away.The ghost of the count, w. Bob holland Twenty-Five Ghost Stories
5. Ghost Stories of an Antiquary – M.R. James
This collection scared the shit out of my brothers and I when we were kids. We used to spend the weekend up at my aunt’s creepy house in the woods and stay up too late and scare each other senseless reading these tales of terror. Each story is short enough to finish in an evening so you can scare yourself every night of October!
The Project Gutenberg version includes both volume one and two of M.R. James’ stories.
At first you saw only a mass of coarse, matted black hair; presently it was seen that this covered a body of fearful thinness, almost a skeleton, but with the muscles standing out like wires. The hands were of a dusky pallor, covered, like the body, with long, coarse hairs, and hideously taloned. The eyes, touched in with a burning yellow, had intensely black pupils, and were fixed upon the throned King with a look of beast-like hate.CANON ALBERIC’S SCRAP-BOOK, M.R. James, Ghost stories of an antiquary