The Haunting Season: Ghostly Tales for Long Winter Nights

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Title: The Haunting Season

Writer: Various

Publishing House: Sphere

Date of Publication: October 21st 2021

Rating: 5 stars

‘’He stared down at the trees, feeling a kind of vertigo that was not quite fear. The unearthly light – the dark shapes against the moon-drenched sky – the clarity of outline, the density of the shadows…He felt the space contract, so that for a sickly second the chess pieces were both huge and small enough to fit in his hand. He shut his eyes, but it made him dizzy and he hastily opened them again. The shadows flickered against the pale glare of the moon, seeming to shift.’’ 

A Study in Black and White by Bridget Collins: A house with strange chess pieces of topiary is like a beacon of happiness to the chess aficionado of our story. But the house cannot welcome him. Pawns are moving, untouched, and an old leather armchair may not be as empty as it looks. A brilliant story in which sheer terror is revealed layer after layer, piece by piece…

‘’We arrived in the driving rain, a real rage of a storm that scared the horses. The night was black, and as water sluiced across the windows of the carriage I thought, ‘the flood has come to sweep us all away’, and pressed little Stanley closer to my bosom, but he was fast asleep and never noticed. It’s a judgment on me, I thought, but did not cry because if my father noticed at all, he would only remark, ‘Feeling sorry for yourself?’’’

Thwaite’s Tenant by Imogen Hermes Gowar: A young woman desperately tries to escape her cruel husband. When her own father accuses her of being unreasonable and traps her into staying in a dilapidated estate, Lucinda realises that the ghost of a wronged woman is her only escape. An atmospheric story with an extremely satisfactory closure.

The Eel Singers by Natasha Pulley: This is a story from Pulley’s Filigree Street universe into which I haven’t delved and judging by the awfully disjointed writing, I don’t think I ever will. Not even the marshes and the haunting songs could salvage this one, in my opinion. And spare us with the footnotes!

‘’Walter, dear,’ says a waspish voice, ‘I’ve had quite enough of being spectated at. How about you get on with bringing me back to life?’’

Lily Wilt by Jess Kidd: A young man, infatuated with an enchanting but quite dead girl, experiments with dark forces in his attempt to bring her back to life. Brilliant, chilling, sinister Gothic atmosphere created by Jess Kidd.

‘’The first sensation was a prickle upon her cheek. Then Evelyn became aware of her ears; ringing, stinging. Her limbs felt numb.

 She seemed to be somewhere damp and bitterly cold. When she tried to move, pain shot through her leg and made her gasp. Her eyelids fluttered open, revealing…nothing. A great, colourless expanse.

 Perhaps she had died. She was in purgatory, and the needles running down her spine were the payment for her sins.’’

The Chillingham Chair by Laura Purcell: A young woman is given a wheeling chair by her future brother-in-law. As she tries to recover from a strange accident, ignored and ridiculed by her cruel family, Evelyn unearths a dark, deadly secret that threatens her safety. Sublime storytelling and a lesson on How Laura Purcell Creates Wonders in Under 40 Pages…

The Hanging of the Greens by Andrew Micahel Hurley: In my humble opinion, this is one was horrible. It tried too hard, it achieved nothing. I can’t fathom the reason why this was included in the collection. All I know is that Hurley’s writing isn’t my cup of tea at all.

‘’This is the valley of thick forest, wild and brown and shadowed, like something from a fairytale.’’

Confinement by Kiran Millwood Hargrave: Outstanding! Simply outstanding! A young mother finds herself threatened by the vindictive spirit of a witch and her long days of confinement become even darker. Kiran Millwood Hargrave delivers a supremely haunting and poignant story about motherhood and the cold, cold winter.

‘’All of Britain, Victor thinks, is being exhumed.’’

Monster by Elizabeth Macneal: What better way to end a marvellous, eerie collection? In this striking story by Elizabeth Macneal, a selfish scientist (or so he’d like to call himself…) is on the hunt for a relic, the great discovery that will change his life. But the seaside community with its myths of selkies and the sing of the winds and the loathing towards cruel strangers will hive him what he truly deserves. A story that is both sensual and frightening.

A collection for long winter nights and dark deeds…