Ghosts: Our love affair

This year we want to be afraid – we want to be very afraid. Kate Youde reports on the novels, films and shows that are tackling all things spooky in 2012

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The Independent Culture

The supposed visit by Princess Diana's spirit to Chinese tourists in Scotland, revealed last week, was a timely apparition: ghosts are gearing up to make their presence felt this year, thanks to a succession of high-profile new books, films and cultural shows.

On Tuesday, Daniel Radcliffe will attend the premiere of The Woman in Black, an adaptation of Susan Hill's chilling novel. It is the first feature ghost story from the legendary British Hammer film studio. The West End adaptation of the book is enjoying its strongest advance sales since it opened 23 years ago.

Well-known literary figures are now turning to the genre for the first time: Helen Dunmore's ghost story The Greatcoat is being released next month through Hammer's publishing imprint. Eloise, the debut novel by Judy Finnigan – of the Richard & Judy Book Club – is being released by Sphere in October. Catherine Burke, the editorial director of Sphere, said there was a "surge of interest from readers" in ghost stories, and agents were receiving more submissions in the genre. With high-profile releases expected to be popular this year, she predicts we will see even more ghost stories in 2013.

The current interest coincides with the 150th anniversary of the birth of one of the genre's most famous proponents, M R James, whose ghost stories were recently re-released; and the British Library's exhibition "A Hankering after Ghosts: Charles Dickens and the Supernatural", which marks the bicentenary of Charles Dickens and remains open until March. Michael Joseph is re-releasing Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories next month, while Radio 4 is airing a dramatisation of Wilkie Collins's The Haunted Hotel in May.

The Turn of the Screw

NI Opera is taking its new production of Benjamin Britten's work, based on Henry James's classic ghost story, to four locations across Northern Ireland in March and to the Buxton Festival, Derbyshire, in July. The opera is being directed by Oliver Mears and conducted by Nicholas Chalmers, who were behind the company's debut production, a site-specific Tosca, last year.

The Apparition

Not to be outdone by Daniel Radcliffe, Tom Felton, who played Harry Potter's school rival Draco Malfoy, will appear in Todd Lincoln's flick, due to be released later this year. The Brit, who plays an expert on the supernatural, stars alongside Ashley Greene, best- known for playing Alice Cullen in the film adaptations of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight novels.

You Came Back

Named by Granta as one of America's 20 best young writers in 2007, following the release of his book of short stories in 2005, Christopher Coake has chosen a ghostly theme for his debut novel. Dubbed "a modern day The Lovely Bones" by its publisher, the book – which is published in June – explores bereavement and the difficulty of letting go.

The Greatcoat

The first ghost story from the Orange Prize-winner Helen Dunmore, released next month, is the first original title under the Hammer literary imprint. The memory of sleeping under her father's RAF coat on a cold night with her sister as a child helped to inspire the novella. In the story, Dunmore says, "it is the object that becomes a subject almost".

Ghost: The Musical

Despite receiving a mixed reception from the critics, Ghost: The Musical is a hit with audiences. The show, which has been adapted from the 1990 Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore film, has been seen by almost a third of a million people in the West End since June last year. It opens on Broadway on 23 April and then in Melbourne, Australia, in August next year.


The television presenter and Richard & Judy Book Club champion Judy Finnigan has chosen a ghost story for her debut novel, which is released in October. Set in Cornwall, the book tells the tale of Cathy, who starts to have unsettling dreams which suggest that the death of her best friend Eloise from breast cancer was not all it seemed.

The Woman in Black

Susan Hill's chilling story is already a successful stage show, and now we have the film. Daniel Radcliffe plays lawyer Arthur Kipps next month in his first big-screen outing since last year's final instalment of Harry Potter. The film, which charts Kipps's visit to a remote village, is the legendary British studio Hammer's first feature ghost story.

Being Human

BBC3's award-winning comedy drama returns for a fourth series this year, following the exploits of twentysomething housemates living in a former B&B in Barry Island, South Wales. So far, so normal, except Annie (played by Lenora Crichlow) is a ghost and her housemate George and their new friend are werewolves. And they have to deal with vampires.

The Secret of Crickley Hall

The BBC's controller of drama, Ben Stephenson, announced earlier this month that BBC1 will spook viewers this Halloween with its adaptation of James Herbert's bestselling ghost story. The haunted house tale, which will be told across three hour-long episodes, is being written and directed by Joe Ahearne, best known for working on Doctor Who and This Life.

Ghost tours

English Heritage has upped the number of ghost tours at its historic sites for 2012 and is running twilight visits between January and March for the first time, rather than just at Halloween, to satisfy public demand. The spooky experiences, which take place at properties including Pendennis Castle, Cornwall, and Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire, range from the family-friendly to the scarier adult-only.