Literary Spirits

Halloween is just around the corner, and as usual, it’s only increased my appetite for ghost stories. I’ve loved them since I was a kid and had my own paranormal experience while at my grandmother’s house. That incident seemed more likely due to my overactive imagination than supernatural forces, but it only increased my fascination with the specters, ghouls and the like. Two books in particular, though, solidified my love of all things macabre: A House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and its many sequels, by Alvin Schwartz with art by Stephen Gammell. The former made me sleep with a light on for the days I spent reading it–I swore I could hear ticking! And the latter was the most passed-around book in second grade and one that terrified me even in broad daylight. I’ll admit, I’m pretty easily frightened, but I have a feeling those books will be terrifying children for years to come.

What got me thinking about all of this, though, was a list of haunted restaurants here in LA, which then got me searching for a list of haunted libraries. And I found it! It’s helpfully broken down by region, so there’s sure to be one near you. It turns out I have a handful to go see right here in Southern California, and I’m going to go exploring my next free weekend. Sadly, the one I most one to go to, the Brand Library in Glendale, is closed for renovation. Here’s hoping the spirits stick around through all the construction noise!

Do any of you have haunted library tales or favorite scary books?

6 Responses to Literary Spirits

  1. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    I’m old enough to remember Creepy Magazine from the 60’s, as well as monster bubblegum cards and Mars Attacks cards which were banned within 6 months of their release in ’62. One of the more depressing things I had to contend with as a bookseller was moms telling me that their 8 and 10 year old boys “couldn’t read scary books because it frightened them” What!?? Beaver Cleaver would’ve totally made these kids eat a bug-man up, guys!

  2. D.C. DaCosta says:

    I like to claim that my house is haunted. It was built in the 1840s, and in spite of a major renovation in 2005, there are windows and doors that close by themselves and creaky floors galore, and the “crying” you hear from the chimney on stormy days is well up there on the Creepiness Register.

    A friend named the ghost “Billy”, and, yes, there is going to be a book about him!

  3. Sweet! I’m in southern CA as well, so I might have to check some of these out to spook myself out!

  4. EDWARD says:

    I can think of several authors from the 19th century, including Bram Stoker, whose ghoul had hair growing out from his palms. Those were the days. Movies of the 20th century took a good fright and bled ticket sales from cults and sequels. The one mind that stands out in the middle of the 20th century, generally shunned by ‘real’ writers, is Rod Serling. Having a near fatal scrape with the Red Scare, he moved to Hollywood to write 24 minute stories about socially sensitive Martians with communist leanings. Since nobody cared about the politics of space aliens, the censors generally left him alone. His scripts were vastly superior to the fare his contemporaries were grinding out. His brilliant scripts couldn’t help but become noticed. I, like many others, watch his work, in awe, to this very day.
    Of a more conventional writer, I cannot sign off without mentioning H. P. Lovecraft. Although he frequently borrowed his plots from the ancient Greeks, his love of language and deft use of original prose made his short stories worthwhile. And terrifying.

  5. Kellie Lovegrove says:

    I’m probably about to admit what a wuss I am, but I hate scary stories. I stand by my excuse that I was traumatized as a young child (my dad was big into horror movies). I have never understood why anyone would want to have the life scared out of them and then not be able to sleep at night. I’m a big supporter of sleep myself, so I will continue to do everything I can to make sure it knows how much I love it.

    That being said, I will confess to reading a few “scary” stories in high school; mostly R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike (don’t judge me, I gave into peer pressure and enjoyed most of it). I also watched a few episodes here and there of Eerie, Indiana and Are You Afraid of the Dark on SNICK (stop laughing, I warned you I wasn’t hardcore). And yes, I have also read most of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books. But honestly, the scariest stories I ever heard growing up were told around the campfire. Most of these were passed down generation to generation in my family, so no book. There was more than once that I stayed up all night because I kept hearing things outside my tent or, worse, under my bedroom window, on the lawn of my grandparents 100 year old farm house (limbs brushing eerily against the window, creaky stairs, slamming screen door; Granny had them all). I get chills just thinking about it. Thanks, Michael. I really hope I can sleep tonight. :)

  6. Erin Harris says:

    Having had a few paranormal experiences of my own, I love ghostly fiction. Edith Wharton’s ghost stories are top-notch, as are those of Dickens and M.R. James, but for me nothing tops Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw.

    And if you need a new chilling tale, please check out http://thehouseonthelakenovella.com!

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