the ghostly tome

Summer Ghost Stories

Darkness is weird. It’s simultaneously comforting and terrifying. Comforting, because the blinding lights and thunderous sounds of the day are softened. Terrifying because do you want to stumble through the dark and step on that Lego you should have picked up earlier?

Exactly.

I tend to get these sorts of thoughts during the summer. While some people feel most alive in the summer sun, I feel most alive when darkness takes over. In the summer, the darkness is my friend. It’s filled with noisy crickets, pensive owls, and whimsical fireflies. But to make summer nights perfect, I need a good ghost story.

I’m always on the hunt for a good ghost collection, and I’m always willing to share them. My current favorite is The Phantom Coach, edited by Michael Sims. The title comes from the short story of the same name. Overall, this collection is brilliant. Many of the stories are in first person, and all are unsettling. They stand the test of time making them perfect to read aloud around the bonfire.

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If you’d like something a bit more modern, try out Tamsin by Peter S. Beagle. It’s a stand alone novel about a young woman reflecting on the time she moved to England and into a very haunted house. While not horror, it has unsettling moments making it a brilliant read. Again a first person story, so it’s great to read aloud. Just keep the tissues handy for the ending.

Of course you can go full on modern with the Asylum series by Madeline Roux. It’s genuine horror in third person. Ghosts come back with a vengeance in this one, and it’s beautifully done. If you decide to check out the Asylum series, note that due to accurate portrayals of what happened in mental institutions and violence, this series can be quite triggering.

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I could go on, leaving ruined shelves in my wake as I give you more recommendations, but I’ll leave it at that.  After all, there’s only so much one can do in a summer night.

Speaking of scary stories, if you’re into horror you should check out Nightmare News. I’m a contributor to the site, and it’s a joy writing articles for them. Nightmare News covers everything from books, to music, to movies. If it’s horror, it’s probably on the site. If you want to take a look at my articles specifically, you can check them out here. But I recommend taking a look around at other articles too. Nightmare News is filled with hidden gems.

While there will no doubt be an overlap in topics (I am a dark fiction author after all), what you see here is exclusive to this site. What’s on Nightmare News will be exclusive to that site. This will keep things fresh for both sites and hopefully allow y’all to get the most variety.

 

The Hellsing Effect

Nazis, vampires, religious struggles, and near endless blood. This is the story that I fell in love with as a young teenager. The Hellsing manga (by Kohta Hirano) is a dark and bizarre tale of two Christian organizations (one Catholic and the other the Protestant organization, Hellsing) discovering that Nazis are not a thing of the past. In fact, the Nazis are behind the rising death count and the creation of numerous artificial vampires. Hellsing is a delightful blend of historical fiction and futuristic themes, while tackling philosophical topics.

When I first discovered Hellsing I was too young to be reading it, so I snuck in readings at the bookstore. Knowing that the next volume might be on the shelves filled me with excitement.  These readings became formative for me. Over the top? Absolutely. But the villains are true villains, unapologetic for their crimes and in love with their own depravity while our heroes are faced with near impossible odds and show steady growth. Not to mention, the psychology that is found throughout the series is brilliant. I devoured it.

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Hellsing taught me in both pictures and words that extreme violence can be tempered with in-depth explorations of the human psyche. It was the first example I had where everyone was clearly a hero in their own story, yet not actually a hero; a concept that’s talked about frequently but hard to pull off with grace. Perhaps the most important concept that Hellsing explores is one that has wormed its way into my subconscious: embracing one’s darkness doesn’t mean that one has to give up their humanity; perhaps one can only be truly human after exploring it. And explore it I did.

I’ve been a morbid soul since I was young. Reading Hellsing allowed me to give myself permission to explore my own darkness and the stories within. While my first short story is a light, heartwarming romance (according to reviewers), there was a tinge of darkness in it. This darkness was greatly expanded upon in my short story, “Of Secrets Letters and Lions.” In the sequel, Of Secrets and Sound, I felt like I was truly delving into that darkness I so love. Whatever comes next will follow that path.

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When I first discovered Hellsing I wasn’t interested in writing. Looking back I can see how the series has impacted me as a storyteller. Hellsing showed me that the most intriguing stories can be found in dark places. Because it’s over the top, people often miss the subtle nuances of the story. I’ll probably never write something as gory as Hellsing, but I hope my stories can be flavored with hidden themes and subtly similar to what I found in the series. After all, good horror is suspenseful because there’s more at stake then just losing an arm. But perhaps the most important thing I learned from Hellsing is that no matter how dark, people will gravitate towards a well told story and life-like characters.