Collected and introduced by the bestselling author of The Time Traveler's Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry--including Audrey Niffenegger's own fabulous new illustrations for each piece, and a new story by her--this is a unique and haunting anthology of some of the best ghost stories of all time.
From Edgar Allan Poe to Kelly Link, M.R. James to Neil Gaiman, H.H. Munro to Audrey Niffenegger herself, Ghostly reveals the evolution of the ghost story genre with tales going back to the eighteenth century and into the modern era, ranging across styles from Gothic Horror to Victorian, stories about haunting--haunted children, animals, houses. Every story is introduced by Audrey Niffenegger, an acclaimed master of the craft, with some words on its background and why she chose to include it. Audrey's own story is "A Secret Life With Cats."
Perfect for the classic and contemporary ghost story aficionado, this is a delightful volume, beautifully illustrated by Audrey, who is a graphic artist with great vision. Ghostly showcases the best of the best in the field, including Edith Wharton, P.G. Wodehouse, A.S. Byatt, Ray Bradbury, and so many more.
Three and a half stars: An interesting mix of ghostly stories for those who want an eclectic variety.
What is about a good ghost story that keeps us coming back for more? Is it that we are curious about our own mortality? Do we want a good scare? Are we looking for proof of life after death? Perhaps it is something simpler, perhaps it is because we want to be entertained, and we like to be frightened. Especially in the Fall as the shadows lengthen and lurk a little longer in the corners. For those of you who enjoy ghostly tales, Ms. Niffengegger has compiled a collection of stories that will show you how long the ghost story has been around, and how it has evolved. This book draws upon classic authors like Poe, Wharton, Kipling, Gaiman and Bradbury. So settle in and prepare for some ghosts.
What I Liked:
- I appreciated that this book drew upon a vast range of stories and authors. Many of the stories are older, dating back to the 19th and 20th century. Even though it takes a moment to get used to the older language and writing, it was easy to be immersed in the stories.
- I liked the range of the stories. Most were the type where the reader was left pondering on what happened. Was it a ghost or something else? For those of you who shy away from ghost stories because you don't want to be scared, fear not, this is a set of stories you can read an enjoy as most aren't particularly scary.
Here is a quick run down of the stories:
The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe
This was a typical Poe type story with murder, hiding of the body and betrayal by an unlikely source. This story blended elements from some other Poe stories, i.e. building of wall to encompass a body, falling into madness, etc. I liked the story, but I was put off by the violence to the cat. I was pleased that the narrator got what was coming to him in the end for his abhorrent behavior.
Secret Life, With Cats by Audrey Neffenegger
This was a strange little story about a woman who seems to have a good, comfortable marriage and life, but then she starts volunteering at a cat shelter. She makes a friend, and when her friend later dies, she inherits her house. The house has a strange little secret in the basement. Shudders......
Pomegranate Seed by Edith Wharton
This was a tale that left me scratching my head as I am not sure exactly what went down. It is about a woman who recently married a widower. For months, he has been receiving strange letters all in the same hand. The wife confronts her husband, and he assures her everything is fine, but she frets that he has a mistress. The next day, she cannot reach her husband, and things take a strange turn when she opens the letter. Is the ghost of his deceased wife haunting him?
Three and a half stars
The Beckoning Fair One by Oliver Onions
This is the longest and probably the most peculiar story in the collection. It is about an author who rents a floor of an abandoned house. He restores the floor and takes up residence. When he tries to write, he cannot as he is preoccupied with the house, and convinced he is being haunted by a beautiful ghost. This is a story of a man spiraling into madness. The question is whether it is the house that is causing him to go mad or is it himself?
Three and a half stars
The Mezzotint by M. R. James
This is a disturbing little tale about a painting that appears to be haunted. Is the painting acting out some scene from long ago when a robed figure crept in and stole a baby, or is it imagination? That is up to the reader to decide.
The Honeysuckle Cottage by P.G. Wodehouse
This was an interesting story about a writer who inherits a house from his aunt, who was also a writer. While inhabiting the house, the confirmed bachelor seems to be thrust right into one of his aunt's sickeningly sweet, romantic novels. He tries to fight off what is happening to him, but he is failing. Will he become entangled into the romantic story?
Click Clack the Rattlebag by Neil Gaiman
The best story in the book. This is a short little tale, just a few pages in length, but it packs a punch. It is about a man visiting some friends, who encounters a little boy who tells him a strange tale about creatures who suck out the essence of a human through their eyes, leaving a bag of bones and skin that rattles in the wind. Where did the boy hear such a frightening story?
They by Rudyard Kipling
This was a story about a man who, by chance, finds a lovely estate in the woods where an old, blind woman lives with a bunch of children. No matter how hard he tries, he can't seem to catch a glimpse of the elusive children. This was a story where it was very easy for me to pick up on what was going on from the beginning. I felt like this story dragged because it was full of lengthy descriptions, and I was unsure as to what happened at the end.
Playmates by A.M. Barrage
A story about a man who takes in a young girl as his ward. At first, he pays little attention to the girl, but once he moves into a house in the country, the girl begins to change. She is smiling and happy, and always playing in the school room with her imaginary friends. I liked the way the man and the girl changed, due to the playmates.
The July Ghost by A.S. Byatt
Another strange little story about a mother who is suffering with losing her child. She wants nothing more in the world than to see her son one more time. When the man she is renting a room to her in house starts seeing her ghost, she becomes distressed. I liked the ghost, but this story fell short for me. I really didn't get it.
Laura and The Open Window by Saki
Two little tales by this author. Both of these stories were short but packed a punch. The first one was about someone dying and possibly reincarnating as an otter... is it possible?
The second, is more famous and one I have read before, about a young woman who tricks a stranger into believing he is seeing ghosts. A great little read.
The Specialists Hat by Kelly Link
This was another one of those head scratching tales. Two young, twins move into a strange old house with their father after their mother dies. They are a bit obsessed with death. One night, a babysitter comes, and this babysitter is a bit strange. Not sure what really happened at the end of this one. Something sinister.
Tiny Ghosts Amy Giaclone
This was a funny, lighter story about a couple who suddenly start seeing little ghosts in their home. These ghosts are rude, and they have attitudes. Funny, and light, and I liked the way they ended up getting rid of the ghosts.
The Pink House by Rebecca Curtis
A story that opens the door to the possibility of possession by a ghost. Not particularly creepy, but it ends with a bang, and it gives the reader something to ponder. I ended up liking this strange little story.
August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury
This really isn't a ghost story per say, but was a great way to end the book. A short spin by Bradbury that takes you to a futuristic house that takes care of everything: the cooking, cleaning, maintenance and care of its family. The problem, the family is gone and the house is the only one standing after some cataclysmic disaster. A bit sad to see this ghost house functioning, taking care of no one.
Four and a half stars.
This was an interesting collection, that provides stories from authors dating back to Poe to modern day. It is an eclectic batch of stories, and I liked sampling the different styles. Some were stronger than others, and many left me scratching my head. Still it was a fun read, and if you like ghost stories, this is a fun way to sample ghost stories from the past to present, and to see how they have evolved.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own, and I was not compensated for this review.