While this blog generally sticks to discussion of mysteries, I want to broaden it just a bit today, less than a week away from Halloween, to talk about some frightfully good ghost stories.
At this time of year, we often see "top ten" lists of horror and ghost stories. Frankly, I rarely find myself agreeing with them, preferring (as I do) classic ghost stories to much of today's very graphic horror output. That's not the case this year with a list of "the top ten ghost stories of all time," as chosen by the readers of SFX Magazine. (And a hat tip to J. Kingston Pierce at The Rap Sheet for pointing it out to me.)
Looking at this list of ten - part of a list of the top fifty, which is available only to readers of the magazine - I am amazed at how many of them I know and really really like. There are a couple of M. R. James stories, and he is still my favorite author of classic ghost stories. There's Dickens. And Poe. The list includes movies, such as "The Shining," which is another great fright story.
But my heart is won over by their number one choice - "The Haunting." They like it both as the original book, Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House," and for the marvelous movie made in 1963 by director Robert Wise.
"The Haunting," to use the abbreviated title used in the movie, is exactly what I think a truly frightening book and/or movie needs: you never really see anything. The horror is in your own imagination. It is as true of the movie as it is of the novel; it has been decades since I saw the Robert Wise film, which starred Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson and Russ Tamblyn, but I still remember vividly some of the magnificently-acted scenes. The Shirley Jackson book is beautifully written, the characters memorable, and Hill House itself - "not sane," as the story says, "and whatever walked there, walked alone" - is truly terrifying.
Anyway. Read over the SFX list of frights and see what you think - do you agree with the rankings? What would you have included in the top ten - and what woud you have omitted?