One of my greatest pleasures is sitting outside on a clear summer evening and reading ghost stories as the sun goes down.
English Heritage’s “Eight Ghosts” is a satisfyingly spooky short anthology. Humans have always considered what lurks in the darkness. It is only natural for us to wonder what awaits beyond the veil. What happens after we die?
History is by nature about those that have passed on. Our historical places are full of tangible echoes of the past. This anthology’s starting point was to take a historical place – an English Heritage site – and give an author freedom to explore until a ghost story emerged.
Rather than a stream of visually similar ladies in white gowns walking battlements lamenting their lost lovers, the collection features a diversity of place and person.
As the stories are so short and their appeal entirely based on the telling, it would spoil them to explain too much about the style or content. Ghost stories are so often about the reveal.
This edition chooses a selection of established and upcoming writers who give modern and lively updates on hauntings. What you look for in a ghost story is very much down to personal taste. For me, anthologies are some of my favourite ways of consuming fiction because the variety of writing approaches is refreshing.
Having a satisfyingly traditional cautionary tale like Hurley’s “Mr Lanyard’s Last Case” alongside the almost out-of-place science-fiction style of Mark Haddon’s “The Bunker” keeps a reader on their toes.
Kate Clanchy’s “The Wall” and Kamila Shamsie’s “Foreboding” both give modern and intimate ghost stories that tug at the heart strings. It is difficult to pick out a favourite. There is something different to be gained from each short story.
The fantastical is a vehicle with which to explore the full range of human experience and emotion – a way to process loss and grief and a way to celebrate love and life. This anthology embraces this diversity.
The end of the book gives an overview of the hauntings and ghosts really attributed to the heritage sites looked at in the anthology. If you have a fascination for the macabre or an interest in the history of place and object, the sites and stories are handled with care and detail.
Each one is immersive and satisfyingly unsettling.