Ghost stories are my favourite genre of book, and ever since my first sleepover at a friends house - where we scared ourselves silly with tales of murderous possessed dolls, killers in the attic and phantom escasped convicts - I have delighted in the spine-chilling paranoia a well-told ghost story can bring. (Especially when there are torch-in-face type situations to be telling them in!)
There have been many great ghost stories through literature: The Turn of the Screw, A Christmas Carol, The Woman in Black.. even Macbeth had a few ghosts pop up. Though not all of the ghosts in them are terrifying, blood-thirsty, revenge fuelled apparitions, they do leave a trace of their supernatural upon you. A well told ghost story is not necessarily a horror... it is a creeping, lingering, seemingly innocent tale with undertones that don't quite make themselves known to you until you are alone.. in the dark... and left with nothing but your own imagination. Suddenly the tragedy of a girl with an infectious smile becomes a force of its own. The smile is manic, you notice teeth are missing, her hair is just far too perfect to be right!
So, when you take the torch and focus the beam of light onto your own face this October 31st; as you launch into your own tale of spookiness... do so with these tips gleaned from some of my favourite ghost stories:
- Children are scary. They just are. Double up the spookiness and make them identical twins ;)
- Avoid the cliches but dont ignore the established standards! A haunted house = standard. Doors closing of their own accord = cliche. It's a fine line!
- There doesn't have to be blood. Create the right atmosphere and build the suspense, and a sneeze will have your audience screaming!
- "And it turns out they were dead all along" has been killed by The Sixth Sense. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
- Bring an element of truth to the story. Anchor it into a world people relate to and the scares will seem far more real in those "alone in the dark" moments. Think "my grandad once told me..." etc.