Today's Halloween guest-post is brought to you by Eileen Wiedbrauk, Editor-in-Chief of World Weaver Press as well as a writer, collegiate English instructor, blogger, coffee addict, cat herder, MFA graduate, fantasist-turned-fabalist-turned-urban-fantasy-junkie, Odyssey Workshop alumna, photographer, designer, tech geek, entrepreneur, avid reader, and a somewhat decent cook. She wears many hats, as the saying goes. Which is an odd saying in this case, as she rarely looks good in hats. Find her at eileenwiedbrauk.com.
I have to admit, I’m the kind of person who hates scary stories until I love them. I swore I’d never see The Exorcist or Silence of the Lambs or The Omen, but as soon as I did, I was enthralled. I can’t stomach the thought of reading a truly scary tale until I’m there on the page, sucked in and captive, and by then my stomach has nothing to do with my decision making: I need to finish the story. I need to know what happens next. The pleasure of knowing overwhelms the pleasure of feeling unruffled and composed. These thrilling, fear-filled stories provide one of the greatest pleasures fiction can: transporting you to a place that scares you senseless while you remain in your perfectly safe, unscary reading chair.
And yet my favorite ghost story of all time isn’t terribly scary. But what can I say? I’m fascinated by the ghosts of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Although the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is pretty damn creepy, if I do say so myself.
I’ve rarely seen an adaptation of A Christmas Carol that I didn’t like, from Patrick Stewart to the Muppets, from Scrooged to that musical version where they sing something like, “Thank ya very much, that’s the nicest thing anyone’s every done for me” when Scrooge dies. I’ll watch as many of them as I can every Christmas season. But the ghosts—now that’s what’s fascinating.
We generally think of ghosts as the spirits of the dead. That is, they were once human. But the ghosts of A Christmas Carol never were human. Their precise origins aren’t terribly important but we understand that the Ghost of Christmas Present is born the morning of Christmas Day and dies that night, that each year there is a new one. This is the idea that intrigues me. The notion that there are spirits out there frolicking about (or at least frolicking in fiction) such as boggarts and wil-o’-the-wisps, who’ve never been human but are always, always ghosts.
Perhaps this fascination started as a child when I read Susan Cooper’s The Boggart, whose titular character is a grumpy if loveable spirit who spends some decades accidentally trapped inside a roll top desk.
While editing Specter Spectacular: 13 Ghostly Tales (available now), I searched for a range of ghost stories. Many are tales of humans who’ve crossed the grave, but not all of them are. Some are funny, some even have musical elements, and some scared the pants right off me.