Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories

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Title: Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories

Writer: Various, edited by Roald Dahl

Publishing House: Penguin

Date of Publication: February 2nd 2012 (first published 1983)

Rating: 5 stars

‘’Too determined though. Always got his own way. Loved Christine too much I thought. Died among the roses. Used to sit down here with her for hours, by the roses. Then died there. Or do people die? The church ought to give us an answer, but it doesn’t. Not one you can believe. Go away, will you? This place isn’t for you. It’s for the dead who aren’t dead, and the living who aren’t alive. Am I alive or dead? You tell me. I don’t know.’’

W.S by L.P. Hartley: Imagine that you are a writer. What if the most despicable character you have ever created came back to exact his revenge on you?

Harry by Rosemary Timperley: In a collection full of eerie gems this story is definitely one of the jewels of the crown. A young mother develops suspicious thoughts when her daughter ‘’introduces’’ her imaginary friend. And the past refuses to lie still…

The Corner Shop by Cynthia Asquith: A touching story of past deeds and debts and the thin veil between our world and the next…

In the Tube by E.F.Benson: Having read so many stories about ‘’strange’’ passengers in the Tube, I’ve begun to see my daily commute in a different light (although the sheer stupidity of the irritating mob boarding the Tube in Athens is hardly Literature-worthy material…) When you combine premonitions AND the doppelganger plot, the story becomes a masterpiece.

Christmas Meeting by Rosemary Timperley: A cryptic, haunting story of a strange Christmas meeting between a lonely lady and a desperate poet.

Elias and the Draug by Jonas Lie: An atmospheric Norwegian folk tale, about human greed and the wreath of the North Sea.

‘’Imagination told him that he was being watched, and although he called it imagination he was afraid. That rapid beating against his ribs was his heart, warning him of fear. But he sat rigid, anxious to learn in what part of the room his fancy would place these imaginary ‘’watchers’’ – for he was conscious of the gaze of more than one pair of eyes being bent upon him.’’

Playmates by A.M. Burrage: An eerie but strangely tranquil story about a cold man and his brilliant ward who wanted to spend her time with spectral friends. What if the only thing a spirit wants is company and tenderness?

Ringing the Changes by Robert Aickman: In the most striking story in the collection. a newly-wed couple visits Holihaven (a fictional seaside town) to spend a much-needed honeymoon. But the sea is too far away, the hotel is almost empty and the town is silent. Silent but for the constant ringing of the bells. The unaware protagonists have stumbled upon what is left of a Pagan Britain and we, as readers, find ourselves thrown in an exquisite, terrifying story.

The Telephone by Mary Treadgold: Guilt takes the form of a phone call from beyond the grave…

The Ghost of a Hand by J.Sheridan Le Fanu: A spectral hand threatens a family in unexpected ways…

‘’The sounds were crisps, dry, long-drawn-out, and rhythmic. There was an equal pause after each one. It was rather like listening to the leisurely brushing of a woman’s long hair. What was it? An uneven surface being scratched by something crisp and pliant? Then Tessa knew. On the long path behind the house which travelled the whole length of the building, somebody was seeping up the fallen leaves with a stable broom. But what a time to sweep up leaves!’’

The Sweeper by A.M. Burrage (Ex -Private X): An autumnal story of repentance, retribution and the ruthless course of Time.

Afterward by Edith Wharton: One of the most famous ghost stories by Edith Wharton. A young couple tries to decipher the feeling that supposedly lingers when you realise you have actually seen a ghost. The lady of the house finally understands when tragedy strikes her household.

On the Brighton Road by Richard Middleton: A moving story of a tramp and a peculiar boy on the way to Brighton.

The Upper Berth by F.Marion Crawford: A ghost story set on a ship. A haunted room and a ghost that drives you to madness.

The stories selected by Roald Dahl epitomise the ‘’feeling’’ that should be experienced when we read a ghostly tale. The eeriness, the uneasiness that slowly creeps, the cautious glance at the window, darkened by the night sky, or over your shoulder, and the shocking realisation that lingers when the story ends. 

‘’Spookiness is, after all, the real purpose of the ghost story. It should give you the creeps and disturb your thoughts.’’

                                                                   Roald Dahl