Jilly: Good Ghost Story–The Girl in a Swing

Do you enjoy a good ghost story? They’re not usually my thing, but around this time of year they creep up on me whether I will or no. Like yesterday, when I found myself drawn into Michaeline’s excellent and satisfying re-telling of the story of Old Betty and Raw Head the razorback hog.

That set me to wondering what’s the best ghost story I ever read. Richard Adams’ The Girl in a Swing won by a mile. In case you’re wondering, yes, it is by the author of Watership Down. He wrote a number of other novels in various genres, but as far as I’m aware this is his only scary story. It may not be the most famous ghost story I’ve ever read, but it’s the one that had the most profound and lasting effect on me.

The Girl in a Swing was published in 1980 so it must be more than thirty years since I first read it, and I can still remember how it made me feel. It’s not a slam-bam horror story. There are no chainsaws or buckets of blood. It’s a story of ordinary people living normal lives in a present-day world. It’s very low-key and the pace is deliberately slow. The writing is quality, as you’d expect, and little by little, it drew me in until I was completely hooked. Richard Adams did a brilliant job of making me care about the characters, and at the end I was horrified, scared, shocked, moved and very sad.

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Jilly: Books That Go Bump in the Night

Books That Go Bump in the NightDo you enjoy ghost stories?

The rest of the year I’d say thanks, but no thanks. This weekend, whooo! The whole Halloween/All Souls/Samhain/chill in the air/approaching darkness vibe just cries out for a spooky story.

According to that fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia, ghosts and ghost stories are a cultural universal. Around the world we’ve been telling ourselves variants of the same stories since time immemorial. Victims of violent crime seeking vengeance, like Hamlet’s father or Macbeth’s liege lord. Innocent Girls Done Wrong, like Giselle. Horrible examples like Scrooge’s late business partner, Marley.

If you enjoy traditional, chilling, scare-you-so-much-you’ll-be-afraid-to-turn-out-the-light type stories, you might like to check out this list of classic stories courtesy of the Guardian.

If, like me, you’re a bit of a wuss and prefer more fun and less stress with your seasonal helping of ghostliness, I’d like to offer you the following recommendations: Continue reading