For whatever reason, our society, and popular culture in general, seems preoccupied with death. Whether it’s watching a group of survivors fend off zombie hordes or it’s a rag-tag group of scientists busting ghosts, death is all around us.
Even though this concept is something that humans have had to deal with for literally hundreds of thousands of years, the looming specter of the afterlife permeates everything we do. While we make plans for the future, we all know, in the back of our mind, that we could die at any moment. In fact, I could die ri…
While death comes to us in many forms, one of the most popular methods for showcasing the afterlife is through tales that invoke ghosts or wraiths. Whether it’s talking about ghosts around a campfire or watching eerily convincing paranormal activity videos on YouTube, spiritual beings are a major part of our collective psyche. For that reason, today we’re going to dive into some fantastic ghost stories of which you may or may not have heard.
Strap yourself in, and get ready to cross over. Here are five amazing indie novels that delve into the world of wraiths and ghosts.
Collected Ghost Stories by MR James
Long before the likes of H.P. Lovecraft or Stephen King came around, there was a man named M.R. James. No, that’s not Mr. James, but rather his initials. Since the early 1900s, James’ work has been printed and published, and it has even gone so far as to influence titans of the horror industry. Perhaps we never would have had a dog named Cujo, or a god named Cthulhu if James hadn’t written so many ghoulish works. This encyclopedic novel showcases some of James’ best works, including A View from a Hill, The Ash Tree, and A School Story. While you may not be familiar with any of those tales, trust me when I say that after reading them you’ll realize where many horror authors got their inspiration.
Dark Matter by Michelle Paver
If you liked the movie The Thing, then you may like Dark Matter by Michelle Paver. This book is a historical novel that details the exploits of an explorer named Jack, who travels to the Arctic Circle in the name of science. Set in 1937, this book creates incredible tension as Jack soon realizes that the mission has been damned by evil spirits, which forces him to reconcile not only the eternal darkness of the North Pole but also the chilling reality of death. Overall, the setting, tone, and pacing of Dark Matter make it one of the best ghost stories around, even if it doesn’t feature a human head with spider legs bursting out of it.
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
When you read the synopsis of this novel, it almost seems like the story, which takes place inside a large estate, was the inspiration for a modern horror movie. The tale centers around a governess (nanny) who takes care of a couple of spoiled brats that seem to act out in a very peculiar manner. The nanny soon realizes that she and the children are not alone and that the house is a haven for evil. Unfortunately for her, the kids seem entranced by the dark spirits and don’t want to leave. All in a day’s work, though, we guess. If you like ghosts of the haunted house variety, then The Turn of the Screw is an excellent novel for you. Experience overwhelming dread as the governess slowly realizes that no amount of hazard pay will make up for two kids who want to play with dead people.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
If the name of this novel sounds familiar, that’s because this book was the inspiration for a couple of horror films, both creatively titled The Haunting. The last iteration of this story was a Liam Neeson/Catherine Zeta-Jones movie that opened to mixed reviews when it was released in 1999 (almost twenty years ago!!!). Fortunately, however, the reviews of the original book, which debuted all the way back in 1959, are nothing but stellar. For those who haven’t seen the Neeson movie (or the 1963 original), this tale follows a strange doctor who investigates a possible haunting at Hill House. Accompanying him are a diverse group of people, including his assistant, a young woman who has been haunted before, and the heir to Hill House, who presumably doesn’t want to deal with squatting ghosts. The tone and pacing of this novel are superb, and it holds up surprisingly well for a modern audience. If only the film did too…
Hell House by Richard Matheson
From Hill House to Hell House, we finish off our list with yet another haunted dwelling. This time, the place is Belasco House, and much like Shirley Jackson’s tale of unwanted apparitions, Hell House follows a group of investigators hoping to probe the secrets of such a disturbing home. Previous inquiries ended up with murder and mayhem as the grand prize, but will this time be any different? Something tells me you already know the answer, but you’ll have to read it to find out if you’re correct. If you like your ghost stories with a side of blood, guts, and good ole’ fashioned murder, then Hell House is a treat for you and your depraved soul.
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