Writing Tip — Favorite Stories

Halloween storiesLike I said on Tuesday, I don’t like the horror associated with Halloween. But I do enjoy a supernatural story that is spooky or creepy, where the unearthly happenings are suggested rather than thrown in your face. If the main character tackles the supernatural like a detective, even better. And the ending must have some hope.

Here are several short stories I enjoy revisiting every October. I discovered these in the children’s section of the first library I worked in. I’m not sure why these stories were in the children’s section. Most of the authors were writers well-known for writing fantasy and science fiction for adults.

“The House Surgeon” by Rudyard Kipling in Haunts, Haunts, Haunts selected by Helen Hoke.

  • A new friend of the M’Leod family attempts to discover why their home plagues everyone with depression. And why everyone feels “someone” is desperate to tell them something.
  • Think “Downton Abbey” with an amateur detective. I like this story because the haunting is so unusual.

“The Monster of Poot Holler” by Ida Chittum in Spirits, Spooks, and Other Sinister Creatures selected by Helen Hoke

  • In the Ozarks, two cousins dare to enter Poot Holler to find out what lives there.
  • I love the voice of this story, told in dialect. The build-up to the revelation of the monster is terrific.

“The Whistling Room” by William Hope Hodgson in Haunts, Haunts, Haunts 

  • Carnacki, the Ghost Finder, investigates a room in an Irish castle, haunted by a monstrous whistling.
  • Think Sherlock Holmes taking on X-Files cases. The supernatural detective is intriguing as well as the peculiar haunting.

“The Cloak” by Robert Bloch in Haunts, Haunts, Haunts

  • Henderson gets a lot more than he bargains for when he buys a cloak for a Halloween costume party from a mysterious shop clerk who claims it’s “authentic”.
  • This has the best description of the modern perception of Halloween I’ve ever read, starting with the opening lines:

“The sun was dying, and its blood splattered the sky as it crept into a sepulcher behind the hills. The keening wind sent dry , fallen leaves scurrying towards the west, as though hastening them to the funeral of the sun … Either that, or tonight was just another rotten cold fall day.”

  • The is the one story with a downer ending. But it doesn’t bother me because it doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story. If you don’t like downer endings, just reading the first half. The beginning and Henderson’s visit to the costume shop set the perfect Halloween mood.



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