Curl up with a spine-tingling ghost story this Halloween.

Whatever the state of the world at large, ghost stories never fall out of fashion.

Author Kate Mosse celebrates them thus: ‘Spirits and apparitions, headless monks and white ladies, the traditional ghost story still exerts a hold on our imaginations. Their habitat is ancient woods, ruined abbeys, isolated old houses and crumbling monasteries. Though purists might quibble, I’d say there are three distinct types of ghost story.

‘The traditional ghost story is often inspired by folklore and a sense of decaying history, and is similar in tone to the Gothic novels that came before it.

‘In the psychological ghost story, the emphasis is on the mental state of the victim rather than the actions – the existence, even – of the ghost or poltergeist. These stories implicitly, sometimes explicitly, question the reliability and sanity of the heroine or hero, and often reference social or political issues of the day.

‘Finally, there’s the antiquarian ghost story, which is associated with a certain sort of Edwardian Englishness.

‘But in the end what matters is that each has what the great Edith Wharton called ‘the fun of the shudder’.’

Trust us: nothing will make you shudder like these ghoulish tales for young and old.

The Tale Of The Tailor And The Three Dead Kings


Dan Jones


In his latest book, the bestselling historian Dan Jones retells the creepy medieval story – first recorded in the fifteenth century by an unknown monk – of a tailor who is knocked off his horse by a raven who promptly transforms into a dog and issues the tailor with a terrifying warning. Crisp and scintillating, this one is not to be missed. Buy it here.


There’s A Ghost In This House


Oliver Jeffers


The wonderful author/illustrator Oliver Jeffers is back this Halloween with another beautiful book for children. In this stunningly produced hardback, a little girl’s ghostly fears are explored and comfortingly laid to rest. Buy it here.


The Little Stranger


Sarah Waters


Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2009, The Little Stranger bears all the hallmarks of the finest ghost stories. Crumbling mansion? Tick. Decaying aristocrats? Tick. Creepy child in situ? Tick. It is utterly gripping, totally chilling and as hard to put down as any of her novels. And, if the book isn’t enough for you, it has been made into an excellent movie, starring Ruth Wilson and Domhnall Gleeson. Buy it here.


The Woman In Black


Susan Hill


No list of excellent ghost stories is complete without this gothic horror tale, written in 1983. It is so good that it is a. the book is on the GCSE syllabus and b. it has been adapted into an acclaimed show in the West End that has run for over three decades. Eerie marshes, moaning winds and a curse cast over a small English town. Prepare for abject fear. Buy it here.


The Graveyard Book


Neil Gaiman


Got a young adult who is into fantasy? This one is for them at this time of year. An orphaned boy is adopted by the ghosts and ghouls of a graveyard. The weird – but benign – things he encounters there are nothing compared to the challenges he faces in the land of the living. Buy it here.


Beloved


Toni Morrison


Set just after the American Civil War, this novel tells the tale of a family of former slaves whose home is haunted by a bad spirit. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. Morrison said at the time: ‘There is no suitable memorial or plaque or wreath or wall or park or skyscraper lobby [honoring the memory of those born into slavery]. There’s no small bench by the road. And because such a place doesn’t exist, the book had to.’ Buy it here.


The Turn Of The Screw


Henry James


This horror novella first appeared in serial format in 1898. A 12-part serialization might well have made it easier to bear. It is terrifying – but brilliant. Class, gender and the concept of evil are all explored as the governess in charge of the children at a remote estate becomes convinced that the grounds are haunted. Buy it here.


Book Of Ghost Stories


Roald Dahl


Before he settled on this collection of 14 stories – by Edith Wharton, Y and Z – Dahl read 749 supernatural tales at the British Museum. The acclaimed children’s author – with a fondness for the macabre – loved a ghost story, believing that the best of them ‘should give you the creeps and disturb your thoughts’. Buy it here.


Don’t Look Now And Other Stories


Daphne Du Maurier


Du Maurier conjures the cold creep of ghostliness like few others. In the headline act of this collection of short stories, a couple travels to Venice to numb the pain of their daughter’s death and meet with violent and strange occurrences when they get there. Meanwhile, the 1973 film of Don’t Look Now, starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie is essential viewing. Buy it here.

By Becky Ladenburg
October 2021

READ MORE
7 Seasonal Recipes For Autumn
GWG Book Club: The Bass Rock By Evie Wyld
5 Magical Christmas Light Shows To Book Now

Becky Ladenburg

Features Editor

As the GWG's features editor, Becky has her discerning finger on the cultural pulse. She's also our go-to expert on the property market.

FIND OUT MORE