The 10 Best ghost stories

From haunted houses to historical spook-fests, these books are just the things to get you in the mood for Halloween

Rebecca Armstrong
Monday 29 October 2012 19:10
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1. The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton, By Edith Wharton

£2.99, Wordsworth Editions

You might not know that Wharton also wrote ghost stories, but they’re definitely worth a read. As elegant and class-obsessed as her novels, these are unlikely keep you up at night, but will give you plenty to ponder.

2. Dark Matter, By Michelle Paver

£7.99, Orion

Given that the arctic is pitch black for most of the year and is about as terrifying a place as one can conceive of, it’s odd that more sinister tales aren’t set there. Dark Matter follows a group of men in the 1930s as they try to shine a scientific light on the darkness, with horrific results.

3. The Little Stranger, By Sarah Waters

£8.99, Virago

This mega-seller from 2009 doesn’t go overboard on supernatural shocks, but its themes of longing and envy play out against a backdrop of a crumbling house with more than its fair share of secrets.

4. Dolly: A Ghost Story, By Susan Hill

£9.99, Profile

The mistress of the modern ghost story has released her latest short work, just in time for Halloween. Told through the eyes of a lonely child, then his adult self, it traces the fall out of a fraught summer spent with a peculiar cousin.

5. The Ghost of Thomas Kempe, By Penelope Lively

£6.99, Egmont

Penelope Lively’s ghost, a 17th-century apothecarie whose spirit is disturbed by a modern family, is less terrifying and more curmudgeonly, but this children’s book still has the odd alarming, and poignant, moment. The main (living) character, a boy called James, is particularly charming. A great year-round read.

6. Ghost Abbey, By Robert Westall

£5.99, Random House

The late Robert Westall did a fantastic line in scary books for young adults and this one is a fascinating period piece from the 1970s when girls were still expected to keep house (spooky, huh?). It’s a chilling account of a building with a mind of its own.

7. Collected Ghost Stories, By M R James

£2.99, Oxford University Press

The Bible of ghost stories, if you like a fright this should have pride of place on your bookshelf. Cambridge provost James wrote some of the finest tales ever to have creeped out readers.

8. Ghostwalk, By Rebecca Stott

£7.99, Random House

Intelligent and unnerving, this tale of the friend of an academic investigating her death focuses on the dead woman’s obsession with Sir Isaac Newton and his alchemic past. A feat of historical fiction.

9. The Turn of the Screw, By Henry James

£6.99, Penguin Classics

No collection of spooky stories would be complete without this novella. It has it all: a big house, scary children, almost unbearable suspense and the horrible realisation that something is wrong.

10. The Winter Ghosts, By Kate Mosse

£7.99, Orion

A great introduction to Mosse’s work if you haven’t read her longer novels. A young man, mourning his brother who died in the Great War, gets caught in a snow storm in the Pyreneese. He finds a village in which to take refuge and learns more about love and loss. Mosse’s book takes in 13th-century Cathar life.

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