In my teens I went through a phase of reading horror stories – remember those collections of short stories published by Pan with gruesome illustrations of bloody eyeballs and worse on the covers? Me and my friends passed copies around ourselves, comparing notes and shuddering over the most grisly. Finally it all got too much: one story eventually gave me such bad dreams that I stopped reading them, and moved on from horror to the much more sophisticated ghost story genre.
Being able to create a delicious thrill which makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck is very much harder than horror as it doesn’t rely on the cheap trick of buckets of blood and gore to achieve its aim. It's a more subtle and challenging skill, and one which many writers fail to achieve - but those stories that do succeed you will always remember, even though you may forget the writer’s name. Recently I read a story on my Kindle, ‘Overheard in a Graveyard’ which I’d read many years before in a paper book. I hadn't realised it was our very own Sue Price who had written it, but definitely remembered the story. Best of all - and I always think this is the acid test - it still gave me goosebumps on reacquaintance.
Although telling ghost stories are a traditional part of Hallowe'en and – for some reason,
I have no idea why – Christmas festivities, they can of course, be read at any
time of the year.
Although some it’s best to read during daylight.
And maybe to also leave the light on at night …
What’s the best scary story you’ve read?