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English or American?

Ghost Stories, Past and Present

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Apr 3, 2007, 10:47pm Top

Who is better at the classic ghost story form? Should it even matter? If so, why?

I'd have to vote (if forced), for Merry Olde England. I love any well-written ghost story, but my all-time favorite ghost story writer is M R James. Maybe being steeped in that enviroment, all those centuries of history, make his work more creepy, more full of the atmostphere so important to the success of a story.
I think of Poe as more in the Gothic/Horror category, and Hawthorne's work is more interested in the inner psyche than any ghost per se.

Any nominees for the greatest/best American classic ghost story?

2hipeaks First Message
Apr 5, 2007, 7:46pm Top

Have you read "Morgan Library Ghost Stories"? These are from a contest, winning entries written in Jamesian style. I have a large collection of ghost stories, "true" ghost accounts, supernatural (ghost, mostly, not monsters, etc.) fiction--although I haven't gotten around to posting them here yet. And oh yeah--lived for a while in Racine as a kid (early 60's).

Apr 17, 2007, 12:35am Top

No, I hadn't heard of it - is it available anywhere? One of the little frustrations for me is finding new stories, or collections I've never heard of.
My husband is from Racine - I grew up in Kenosha.

Apr 17, 2007, 4:43pm Top

You can get it on Amazon, but the cheapest used one is $54!! Yikes! I probably didn't even pay list price of $24.95 when I got it a few years ago.
Well, if you ever come by Wilmington, NC, I'll let you read it!

5bufoigaly First Message
Apr 27, 2007, 7:21pm Top

The best American ghost story writer, IMO, is Ambrose Bierce. Many might argue that his best and perhaps "the" best ghost story by Bierce is "An Occurrence at the Owl Creek Bridge". Other personal favorites are "The Middle Toe on the Right Foot" and my personal favorite is The Stranger--for subtle horror, humor and authentic Western atmosphere. This is the ghost story Twain might have written.

Apr 28, 2007, 11:12am Top

I'd have to go with England--M. R. James and E. F. Benson are hard to beat. Of the Americans in classic ghost stories, I think I might go with Edith Wharton. Like Ann_Louise, I think Poe and Hawthorne were more gothic suspense writers than ghost story writers. It occurs to me that maybe the genre is just so defined by the English Victorian ghost story that I tend to judge American authors by their similarity to that. Admittedly, I would pick Wharton because her style is just so, well, British.

Apr 29, 2007, 2:55pm Top

I agree that the English are the best at ghost stories, but there are good American ghost stories with an authentic American voice, just not very many. I haven't read any of Wharton's ghost stories. What story or stories would you recommend?

If you haven't read Bierce's ghost stories, you are in for a real treat. You can find many of them freely available on the web.

May 1, 2007, 12:40pm Top

You might try "All Souls" or "Mr. Jones" by Edith Wharton.

May 12, 2007, 12:10am Top

I have a collected ghost stories of Wharton, found it at a Half-Price bks in Madison. Her stories fall on the gently unsettling, atmospheric. Not jump in your seat scary, but I remember how reading them made me feel.

Sep 2, 2007, 11:26pm Top

For the atmosphere of antique cemeteries, cozy drawing rooms, lit by the dull, orange light of a fire as the bare branches scratch against the panes in the howling weather outside, the 19th century English ghost story will always be my favorite (Machen, James, Visiak, Onions, Vernon Lee, etc.).

As for Americans, there are a few stories here and there - Robert Chambers' "The Yellow Sign," some of Bierce, most of Poe (for sheer decadent creepiness: The "Case of M. Valdemar", "The Fall of the House of Usher", "The Man of the Crowd" )- but my favorites are those novels written in the early 20th century: Ben Hecht's Fantazius Mallare, Leonard Cline's The Dark Chamber.

Jan 28, 2008, 2:04pm Top

What about Peter Straub's book Ghost Story?
I felt that book was kind of creepy too. They
also made that into a movie too.


Feb 7, 2008, 12:27pm Top

is peter straubs a good scary writer?

Feb 10, 2008, 6:48pm Top

At least with Ghost Story he is. That book may be set in the US, but feels like a classic, English story. It's one the few books that actually made me jump in my chair as I was reading.


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