The Haunting Season.

The Haunting Season: Ghostly Tales for Long Winter Nights

A collection of ghost stories by Bridget Collins, Natasha Pulley, Imogen Hermes Gowar, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Andrew Michael Hurley, Jess Kidd, Elizabeth Macneal & Laura Purcell. 

The idea behind compiling this collection of stories appealed to me immediately. 

The idea behind this beautiful book was that winter is the perfect time to gather together to listen to ghost stories. 

I love winter. Autumn is my favourite season, but there is something deliciously gloomy about winter. I can’t explain why, but I’ve always had a fondness for grey skies. In my humble opinion, there is something calming about looking out the window at a dull, grey sky. Even better, if the dull, grey sky sits above bare, leafless trees. There is something quiet about it, something peaceful. I love those days where it looks as though at any second, the grey sky would split open so snow could fall. I love crisp cold air that allows you to see your own breath. 

Winter is a time that inspires descriptions & beautiful icing imagery. All of the blues and greys are juxtaposed against the warm twinkly lights of Christmas and the bright, vivid oranges of dancing flames in big fireplaces. 

The stories in this book take readers from Covent Gardens to the Yorkshire Moors, and the stories inspire goosebumps at every turn. The stories range from wonderfully eerie to at times desperately sad. At times I was deeply moved, and deeply unsettled. Some of the stories, in fact some of the lines in this book stayed with me for a long time. 

This collection of stories also lead me to think about the link between female mental health & horror in 19th century literature in particular. This collection of stories shines a light on how women suffered with their mental health, particularly during pregnancy and postpartum. It is very sad to read accounts of women who did not have the support, who suffered because they were dismissed as mad, when they really needed someone who understood, someone who was willing to help. 

I also couldn’t help but be reminded at times of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. 

This collection of stories is very evocative. The large, creepy, mysterious houses provide excellent backdrops for peculiar stories. I would suggest that there is a gothic element to the settings of these stories; big houses that don’t feel safe, suddenly making the home a place that one needs to escape from rather than find refuge in. 

I’m also quite fond of the idea that someone could get lost in their own home. The idea of being in a place with rooms upon rooms and not knowing what it is in each room intrigues me greatly, as I would feel very unsettled if there were wings in my house that were unknown to me. The fact that one can be in a house yet be so disconnected from parts of it is an idea that I’ve always been fascinated by. The idea that horrors lie around you but you are unaware of them until you go exploring the unknown rooms is an eerie but intriguing idea. 

There are eight stories in this book. It is hard to pick a favourite. I struggle when it comes to picking a favourite anything in general. If you have been a reader of my articles here on for a while now then you’ll be aware of this. I like categories. 

I can’t just pick a favourite movie, I have to have a favourite Christmas movie, a favourite nostalgic movie, a favourite Disney movie etc. 

This collection of stories is no different. I enjoyed each one of the stories and there are times when I could say that any one of the eight are my favourite, and all for different reasons. I’m going to discuss the stories in no particular order. 

I think that I would set Confinement by Kiran Millwood Hargrave aside because out of all the eight stories this one didn’t scare me, or I should say that while it did scare me, it didn’t scare me in a ghostly sense. This story was sad. It reminded me a lot of The Yellow Wallpaper. It is scary in the sense that when we look back through history, we see that so many women suffered because their health was not taken seriously, and not understood. 

It is frightening to think about how many women’s lives would have been different if they had gotten the support they needed, especially when it comes to postpartum care. 

I enjoyed this story. The ending made me sad. It stayed with me for a long time, but I could guess the plot and how it would play out fairly early on. It was the least “ghostly” of the stories. 

Thwaite’s Tenant and The Chillingham Chair by Imogen Hermes Gowar and Laura Purcell respectably are two stories that have similar themes and stories, but both are haunting in their own way. I loved Thwaite’s Tenant. I felt that this story had a really satisfying ending. I also think that this story is the one that captured the idea behind the collection really well. This story is filled with ominous descriptions of a cold, big, sinister house that one wouldn’t want to get stuck in on a freezing, wintery night.

The Chillingham Chair handles a similar story in more suspenseful way. I feel that this story was darker than what I consider its counterpart. I would say that it is the scarier of the two stories. The idea that an inanimate object can be horrifying may seem unbelievable, but Laura Purcell is excellent at portraying objects as things that can be in fact, very frightening indeed. 

Lily Wilt by Jess Kidd has the creepiest premise in my opinion, although it also feels the least realistic. The idea that a photographer would be so infatuated with a dead girl that he wants to bring her back to life somehow is unsettling, yet morbidly intriguing. This premise did remind me a little bit of Frankenstein, simply because I think that the story makes it clear from the start that bringing someone back from the dead cannot happen without consequences. This story is perhaps the most mysterious of the eight in my opinion, although at times a few more details would have been nice. Lily is a very mysterious character and wanting to know more about her is what kept me turning the pages, but we actually know nearly nothing about her at all. One might say that is the point, and if that is the case then I’m fine with that, I like a story that aims to keep readers curious and achieves that goal, but a few more details would have been nice. 

As I said, this story is very mysterious but it is also perhaps the least realistic of the eight. I’m sure that some people would have the opinion that ghost stories are simply not realistic at all, and that depends on one’s belief or disbelief in ghosts. 

I’m talking about a collection of ghost stories, and when one is talking about ghost stories, or myths, or legends, I think one tends to operate under the assumption that the stories being told are true, if a little unbelievable. That is how I operate anyways. When I think about storytelling around a fire, I tend to think of intriguing, magnetic stories that pull in a crowd. The stories delight and scare the listening audiences, and then later people wonder if the events of the tale really happened. That is the fun of a ghost story. 

So, I am looking at these ghost stories as suspense filled and unbelievable, but true and within this scope, Lily Wilt feels the least realistic, but I enjoyed the story all the same. 

A Study in Black and White by Bridget Collins keeps readers guessing constantly. This story opens the collection and I think this was a smart choice because the story is consumed by an unsettling yet intriguing atmosphere. I think this is the story that I have reread the most. 

The Eel Singers by Natasha Pulley is wonderfully creepy. This story has elements that I’ve stated many times that I am a fan of; this story features protagonists who long to go somewhere quiet at Christmas time, but the people who live in the town are not very welcoming at all. We’ve got newcomers in a mysterious town. We’ve got townspeople who don’t like newcomers, and we’ve got this ever increasing idea that something just isn’t right. I love this kind of setup. I really love that unsettling feeling that builds and builds and the longer you’re in town, the more things just feel off. 

I could be a little biassed because this kind of setup is a premise that I am a fan of already so when I realised that this was the route this story was taking, I was excited. I knew I’d like it before I read the entire thing, but I do think that this setup can make for an  extremely enticing read, especially when it’s done well. 

The Hanging of the Greens by Andrew Michael Hurley is story that gives us a mysterious story within a story. It’s rather cryptic, and the ending does involve a twist that I won’t spoil. I enjoyed this story, but personally I would call it a mystery rather than a ghost story. 

I don’t think this book has to be strictly a collection of ghost stories only, as mysteries definitely fit the theme of gathering around to hear unbelievable tales. In my opinion, this story is about how the perception of the truth can heavily impact one’s life. What you do with what you think is the truth is extremely important, and when you discover new information, your entire belief system can be shattered, and all of your actions can be put under scrutiny. Information impacts the actions you take, and finding out new information after the fact can have a shocking effect. This story was engaging, but just not very ghostly. Our main character in this story is haunted, just in his own way. 

Monster by Elizabeth Macneal is an interesting story about how things can be different from how they appear. This idea is a very important one, and I think that it is an important lesson to learn that things are not always as they seem. This story is interesting as it highlights how victories cannot always be celebrated if they are intertwined with mystery, I also think this story is a good commentary on how becoming too consumed by one thing can be a slippery slope to go down. It’s not my favourite story in the collection, but I did like it. 

Overall this is a collection of stories that I really enjoyed reading. Some stories scared me more than others, and I enjoyed some stories more than others but it is a varied collection. It would be boring if all eight stories were exactly the same, and the collection does bring intrigue, mystery, and varying degrees of horror to readers. 

The cover is also beautiful, and while one should never judge a book by its cover, this book does look absolutely gorgeous on my shelf. I would recommend it. If you like ghost stories and mysteries then I’m sure you will find something that you love within this collection. I also love a collection like this because I do enjoy short stories, I like snippets of something that could have been longer, but kept me guessing and reading a book like The Haunting Season allows readers to enjoy eight different intriguing stories, and what better time to read ghost stories than in October? 

Do you have a favourite ghost story? I’d love to hear it. 

Kate xo. 

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