Tag Archives: Ghost Stories

Haunted in Quarantine: A Review of Safer at Home

Safer at Home a Ghost Story by Zoe Cannon book cover. Image on cover is an eerie photo of an abandoned home taken at night while the sickly green-yellow moon shines down upon it. Title: Safer at Home – a Ghost Story

Author: Zoe Cannon

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: July 4, 2020

Genres: Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary

Length: 41 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

 

Quarantined in a haunted house…​

March 2020. With the world in the grip of a deadly pandemic, Ben is locked down in his brand-new house, with nothing to keep him company but his chessboard and the boxes he still hasn’t unpacked. Or so he thinks.

But he’s not alone. Before this was Ben’s house, it was hers. And the dark spirit will do whatever it takes to keep him inside. If he doesn’t find a way out, Ben will stay locked down… forever.

But which is more dangerous? The ghost in the house… or the virus outside?

This short story is 14,000 words long, or approximately 40 pages. It is a companion story to Second Wave. These stories stand alone and can be read in any order.

Review:

Content Warning: Covid-19, domestic violence, murder, and blood. I will be discussing these things briefly in my review.

Sometimes the only thing scarier than Covid-19 is staying home to avoid it.

One of the benefits of setting this story during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020 had to do with how it affected Ben’s reaction when he realized that others had been telling the truth when they warned him about his new home being haunted. This is a typical weak spot in the average paranormal tale in my experience. Most characters should have a reasonable chance of finding other accommodations upon learning something like this, but Ben genuinely had no where else to go due to the lockdown order as well as some other excellent reasons that I’ll allow other readers to discover for themselves. I appreciated seeing how his options were logically whittled down as he worked through all of the possible means of escape.

Some of my favourite scenes involved Ben’s reactions to common tropes in the paranormal and horror genres. His self awareness was a breath of fresh air, especially when he took the time to puzzle out why certain actions were so dangerous and what alternatives, if any, he might have while battling a violent ghost alone in a mostly-empty house. He was an intelligent and resourceful character whose decisions generally made a great deal of sense. That’s something I always like to see in this genre.

The domestic violence subplot was well done. It pushed this tale much further into the horror genre than it probably would have otherwise gone, but I totally understood the author’s reasons for going there and going into as much detail about the physical and emotional damage that abusers do to their victims. I liked the fact that the author made his point subtly on this topic. He definitely had a strong message to send about this topic, but he did so in a way that fit the tone of his tale smoothly and gave the audience plenty of opportunities to put the pieces of what he had to say together for ourselves. There was no sermonizing here or anything like that which was refreshing.

Safer at Home – a Ghost Story is the perfect paranormal read for anyone who loves spooky fiction.

Unsettling Art: A Review of 300 Down

300 Down by Keith Minnion book cover. Image on cover is a black and white photo of a narrow strip of grass.Title: 300 Down

Author: Keith Minnion

Publisher: White Noise Press

Publication Date: January 21, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 11 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

Arthur Hubbard just purchased another painting for his NYC art gallery: an Expressionist portrait of a red-headed woman in a lurid green dress. He already owns two others, all different paintings, all by different artists, but the subject, the redhead in a green dress, is the same. Why is Arthur so compelled to seek out more paintings, more portraits, of her? The most important question, however, is: why is she haunting him?

Review:

Content warning: Infidelity and suicide. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

If you love unsettling art, keep reading.

There’s nothing like staring at a painting of what appears to be ordinary scene only to feel a chill run down your spine as you gaze upon it. Arthur’s obsession with the paintings of the red-haired woman wearing a green dress he kept finding only intensified over time. The more it bothered him, the stronger my curiosity grew to find out what it was about this woman that made it impossible for him to ignore her.

This is a minor criticism of something I otherwise enjoyed reading quite a bit, but I did wonder why Arthur kept collecting paintings that were clearly causing him emotional distress. Given his employment in the art industry, it seemed like it would have been pretty easy for him to sell them and therefore not have to see them every day. There were a few tantalizing hints about why he decided not to go this route. I do wish he’d been more straightforward about his reasoning there.

The ending was perfect. Without giving away spoilers, I loved the way the audience was expected to come up with some of our own theories about what happened next while still providing enough resolution for the conflict that I felt satisfied by how it was all wrapped up. Arthur struck me as the sort of man who expected those around him to do their own fair share of mental work like analyzing clues, so I was glad to see this pattern continue until the final scene. I will keep hoping for a sequel, though!

300 Down made me shudder in a good way.

Top Ten Tuesday: Short Ghost Stories Everyone Should Read

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Sheets in a tree that were arranged to look like a ghost floating up in the branches.These freebie posts are so much fun!

Today I’m going to be sharing ten short ghost stories from around the world that everyone should read. Click on their titles to read them for free.

1. Hover” by Samantha Mabry 

Sometimes ghosts are more annoying than they are frightening.

2. Ngozi Ugegbe Nwa” by Dare Segun Falowo 

This is the perfect thing to read for anyone who likes antiquing or a good bargain.

3. Who Will Clean Our Spirits When We’re Gone?” by Tlotlo Tsamaase 

I was picturing spirits taking bubble baths when I read this title. Spoiler alert: that’s not exactly what the narrator had in mind.

4. Live Through This” by Nadia Bulkin

This was one of the most creative approaches to helping a spirit find peace in the afterlife that I’ve ever read about.

5. Joss Papers for Porcelain Ghosts” by Eliza Chan 

Are hauntings less scary if you know the person who is now a ghost?

6. “Therein Lies a Soul” by Osahon Ize-Iyamu 

Sometimes spirits become celebrities. This shows how a spirit might react to such an odd response from the living.

7. The Muse of Palm House” by Tobi Ogundiran 

Would you fall in love in with a ghost? I should warn my readers that this is rooted firmly in the horror genre, not in the romance one.

8. Emergent” by Rob Costello 

A haunting from the perspective of a dead person who acknowledges they’re dead but absolutely refuses to be referred to as a ghost.

9. The House Wins in the End” by L. Chan 

Imagine the typical plot from a haunted house story:

  • A new family moves into an old, abandoned home
  • Someone notices the first paranormal act
  • More paranormal acts follow
  • The family attempts to help the spirit(s) find peace
  • If it works, they stay at the home. If it doesn’t, they generally either die at the hands of the ghosts or move away.

This is about what happens to a haunted house after that basic plot has already played out.

10. The Stories We Tell About Ghosts” by A.C. Wise 

Two words: ghost hunters.

 

Plot Twists I Didn’t See Coming

Scifi Month banner. Shows #ScifiMonth hashtag and two planets in background.This month I’m participating in the Scifi Month challenge that was created by the bloggers at One More. Click on the link in that last sentence for more information or to sign up yourself. There is still time to pick a few of their prompts and join in if you’re interested.

Today’s prompt was “What can possibly go wrong.” The notes for it mentioned plot twists, so that’s the approach I’m taking with this post. 

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t very good at predicting how plots would turn out when I was younger. While this is something I’ve gotten better at over time, there were still some notable moments when I didn’t figure what was going to happen ahead of time despite all of the hints the storytellers threw my way.

Let’s see if I can talk about these films without giving away spoilers. I know most of this stuff came out years ago, but I’d rather let other people discover the plot twists for themselves.

The Sixth Sense film poster. It has five numbers on it. Numbers 1 through 5 are illuminnated and named the five sense. Number 6 on the post shows the outline of a child. No sense is named there. The Sixth Sense (1999) 

The protagonist of this film was a child psychologist named Malcolm whose newest client, Haley, was struggling to open up to him.

There was something strange going on in Haley’s life, but all the boy will say about it is that he sees dead people.

It was up to Malcolm to find out what Haley means by that and why he was so reluctant to go into detail about what’s bothering him.

The foreshadowing was incredibly well done, and there were a lot of hints about what was happening with these characters. I have no idea how I missed the twist in this film the first time I watched it!

Film poster for The Others. Image shows Nicole Kidman holding a glass lamp and staring off into the corner with a fearful expression on her face. The Others (2001)

This is one of my all-time favourite ghost movies. It’s set in 1945 and follows a young mother, Grace, who was raising two special needs children on her own in a large, isolated mansion while her husband was off fighting in World War II.

The children’s health problems made it dangerous for them to be exposed to any form of natural light, so Grace had her hands full looking after them and protecting them from harm. Grace hired a few local people to help her keep the house and grounds running smoothly.

The interesting thing about her new hires was that they dressed like they lived in the late 1800s and seemed to know a lot about her home. There were strange things happening in the house that made Grace’s children wonder if it was haunted. She scoffed at that notion, but her employees had other notions about it.

Once again, this film gave plenty of hints about what was really going on in Grace’s life. I loved the ending, but I also should have seen it coming in advance.

Moon (2009)

Moon film poster. Image on it is of an astronaut wearing a spacesuit and holding his helmet. Unlike the other films in this list, this one didn’t have any paranormal themes.

Sam, the protagonist, was an astronaut who had signed up to spend three years alone mining helium-3, a new source of fuel, on the far side of the moon. He chose this isolated job in order to make money to support his pregnant wife.

A couple of weeks before his term ended, there was an accident. When Sam went out to investigate it, he found something that should have never been possible: another living human being.

That plot twist was the least surprising of them all in this film. I only wish I could discuss the rest without giving away spoilers!

While I did figure out one of the plot twists ahead of time, there were so many more that I didn’t see coming. This is the sort of film I recommend to everyone from hardcore science fiction fans to people who brand new to this genre and hesitant to give it a try. It truly had something for everyone.

What plot twists in films, books, or TV shows did you never see coming?

Top Ten Tuesday: Ghost Stories

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

My favourite genre is science fiction and fantasy. Since that’s an impossibly broad answer to this week’s prompt, Books From My Favorite Genre, I decided to narrow it down to something specific: ghost stories.

I adore ghost stories, especially the ones that rely on psychological horror instead of jump scares or anything gory! They’re one of the micro-genres under the speculative fiction umbrella that will always grab my attention.

The interesting thing about this list is how many classics it contains. I hadn’t realized that so many top-notch authors have written about ghosts, but they have.

1. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

This is one of my all-time favourite ghost stories because the spirit had a completely valid reason for haunting and hating the living. I won’t give it away to those of you who haven’t read it. Just know that you might end up sympathizing with the ghost more than you do with her victims. I sure did.

2. A Sincere Warning About the Entity In Your Home by Jason Arnopp

Since this is a short story, I can’t tell you much about the plot other than it was written in the form of a letter from a former tenant to the current tenant of a very dangerous home. It’s delightfully scary and quite well done, though.

3. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

We need to talk about the fact that season two of the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House is going to be based on this story. I’m sure they’ll make as many changes to the plot as they did with Shirley Jackon’s novel, but I’m super excited to see how the screenwriters interpret something that wasn’t as blatantly paranormal as The Haunting of Hill House.

My best guess is that they’re going to amp up the hauntings by a thousand to make it work for the small screen.

4. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Someday I need to write full reviews of the other Sarah Waters’ novels that have enough speculative fiction content to fit into my Science Fiction & Fantasy tag on this site. Here is my review of the amazing film version of The Little Stranger, so all I’ll say about it in this post is that it’s about a crumbling mansion that may be haunted by the angry spirit of a child who once lived there. Both the book and the film were deliciously spooky, and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

5. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

No, this has no connection to the first book on this list, although it would be quite interesting to see what the Woman in White would think of the Woman in Black. One of them is a ghost, and the identity and corporealness of the other one can’t be shared here without giving away spoilers. (If corporealness wasn’t an official word before, it is now!)

6. Beloved by Toni Morrison

My mom was so freaked out by the film version of this book that she almost walked out of the theatre. I wasn’t with her for that viewing, but I loved seeing this tale about an ex-slave named Sethe who was haunted by what might have been the spirit of her dead child twenty years after she purposefully killed that child to prevent her from being taken back into slavery.

The best ghost stories in my opinion are the ones that explore parts of a culture that many people try to forget or downplay. The multi-generational horrors of slavery were laid bare in this tale, and that made it one of the most genuinely frightening things I’ve ever read.

7. The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

This is a library book I’m currently reading, so I won’t say much about it other than the fact that it’s about a ghost hunter who ended up being targeted by one of the spirits she was supposed to be vanquishing.

How spooky is that? It’s definitely not the kind of attention I’d ever want.

8. The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe

I wish Edgar Allen Poe’s work was talked about more than it currently is. (Maybe I should start reviewing it?) He wrote some incredibly frightening poems and stories that are as relevant now as they were in the 1800s when he first came up with them. I especially love “The Raven” because of how many different ways it can be interpreted. Was the speaker really being haunted, or was he imagining the interference of the raven and other strange occurrences as a way to deal with his guilt over murdering someone?

9. The Mist in the Mirror by Susan Hill

While I don’t normally mention the same author twice in the same Top Ten Tuesday post, Susan Hill deserves a second mention. She really has the haunted house formula perfected. All of her books that I’ve read are perfectly frightening without being gory. The Mist in the Mirror is an especially good one to pick up after The Woman in Black because of how gothic it was.

There’s something about the gothic style of ghost story, crumbling mansion and all, that I find quite appealing.

10. The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde

All of the other options on this list are serious and frightening, so I thought I’d top it off with a classic parody of this genre.

Oscar Wilde is one of those famous authors that I’ve always been sorry I couldn’t meet. He had a wonderful sense of humour that somehow feels just as fresh in 2019 as it did in the 1880s and 1890s.

His take on ghosts and haunted houses really should be read by anyone who enjoys these topics. I believe in finding the humorous side of whatever genre(s) you enjoy. There is definitely something to be said for being able to poke fun at what you like, and this is a fabulous example of how to do exactly that.

Also, it’s satirical! I’ll leave it up to you to figure out who or what Mr. Wilde was talking about here, but I found his insights to be pretty darn accurate.

How many of these books have all of you read? Who else in the Top Ten Tuesday community loves ghost stories? I’ll happily accept your recommendations of similar tales if anyone has any!