4 Stories that Will Help You Escape the Ghosts in Your Life

The World of Small-Town Policing

by Gwendolyn Kiste

Ghosts—they’re among the oldest horror stories we have. And let’s face it: many of us have ghosts of our own. Even if you don’t believe in the supernatural, the chances are there’s something from your past that’s still lingering in your mind.

In my latest novel, The Haunting of Velkwood, my main characters must deal with phantoms, both literal and metaphorical, when their childhood neighborhood turns into a ghost overnight, taking their families and virtually everyone they know with it. While my characters don’t have too much assistance in sorting out their own specters, you are fortunately in luck, because I’m more than happy to give you some guidance. So here are four tips for how to escape the ghosts that are haunting you as well as a recommended story to help you out along the way.

Tip #1: Return to the scene of the haunting.

Sometimes, it’s just easier to run away from your ghosts. That’s what my protagonist Talitha Velkwood does in The Haunting of Velkwood. She takes off from her haunted neighborhood and does her best not to return. But Talitha ultimately finds out that facing your ghosts might be the only way of dealing with them.  

Story Recommendation: “The Lake” by Ray Bradbury from The October Country

This story by the late, great Bradbury is one that has stuck with me for years. The main character loses his friend Tally when she drowns in the lake where they used to play as kids. Years later, he returns and faces up to his past. What follows is a beautiful meditation on grief, childhood, and lost love. If you want to check out this glorious little horror tale, then be sure to read it in Bradbury’s lauded The October Country. If there was ever a perfect genre collection, then it’s this one. A gorgeous ode to the sentimental and the spooky with a decidedly autumnal vibe that lasts all year-round.

Tip #2: Figure out what the ghosts want.

When Talitha returns to the haunted Velkwood Street in my novel, she’s desperate to learn why the neighborhood became a ghost and what she can do to help the ghosts who are trapped there, in particular her little sister Sophie. However, that proves more difficult than she initially expects, since sometimes, even ghosts aren’t entirely sure what they need in the afterlife.  

Story Recommendation: “How Fear Departed the Long Gallery” by E.F. Benson

This tale from the underrated E.F. Benson, who produced almost all of his work in the early twentieth century, is equal parts macabre and whimsical, with some wonderfully creepy moments as well as laugh-out-loud ones. Ultimately, it’s a story that’s all about figuring out exactly why a specter might be lingering in your life—and then being brave enough to face up to what you have to do to not only be free of ghosts yourself, but to perhaps free the lonely phantoms in the process.

Tip #3: Gather all your ghosts together.

All of Talitha’s ghosts in The Haunting of Velkwood are already in one place, lingering in the haunted neighborhood where she used to live. She only needs to gather the courage to cross the barrier between her reality and theirs. However, your ghosts might not be so conveniently located, which means you need to go somewhere you can find more than one ghost in a single place.

Story Recommendation: The Ghost Sequences by A.C. Wise

If you want a whole book filled with different kinds of hauntings, then look no further than A.C. Wise’s brilliant 2021 collection, The Ghost Sequences. Released from Undertow Books, Wise has brought together sixteen of her inventive tales that examine what it means to be haunted and how a person can (or can’t) escape it. A.C. Wise is among our very best modern ghost storytellers, and this book is proof why.  

Tip #4: Deal with the consequences.

Like it or not, nobody wants to face the fallout of the past, but if you’re going to cope with your ghosts, then that’s the only way to do it. But as Talitha in The Haunting of Velkwood rightly fears, the end result of dealing with your own phantoms is not always quite what you hoped for. After all, the dead are probably restless for a reason.   

Story Recommendation: “A Cure for Ghosts” by Eden Royce in Who Lost, I Found: Stories

This very short story is one for the ages. A young girl explores an off-limits room in a plantation that’s been turned into a modern-day museum, and soon finds herself possessed by one of the estate’s ghosts. What happens next is filled with unexpected consequences and a meditation on generational trauma, all told by the vibrant voice of one of the museum workers who knows about ghosts all too well. Originally published in Fireside Fiction, this tale is now in the table of contents of Royce’s incredible collection, Who Lost, I Found: Stories, so be sure to pick up a copy as soon as you can. Like Bradbury’s The October Country, this book is as close to a perfect collection as any horror fan could hope for. 

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