Friday, May 14, 2010

What is a ghost story, anyway?

I thought I would be getting to the bottom of this question by now.

Does a ghost story have to involve the spirit of a dead person (or other animal) returning to haunt the living? That would seem to rule out The Haunting of Hill House as a ghost story.

Is a ghost story always a horror story? That would seem to rule out Ghostbusters as a ghost story.

I have just acquired a book called Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood. In his introduction, Blackwood says:

To be known as the "ghost man" is almost a derogatory classification, and here at last I may perhaps refute it. My interest in psychic matters has always beenthe interest in questions of extended or expanded consciousness. If a ghost is seen, what is it interests me less than what sees it?

If you're enjoying this series of posts on ghost stories, why not join me in reading a ghost story over the weekend? I'm choosing one which stretches the definition.

"The Willows" by Algernon Blackwood was the favourite horror story of H.P. Lovecraft. It is also the first story in the aforementioned collection.

Here is a link to download the story - it's in the public domain so this is completely legal. This link allows you to download it in several different formats to read, or on mp3 to listen to it read aloud - in my opinion a terrific way to experience ghost stories.

I'll discuss the story on Monday. It would be really fabulous if someone read or listened and joined in the discussion.


  1. I have not reread "The Willows" yet after reading it nearly 40 years ago (yish), but I do intend to. It was a weekend of work, opera, and not much sleep.

  2. My post on this is going to be tragically late anyway.