Weird Women & Haunted Houses

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A tortoiseshell kitten sits with a skull and Weird Women and Haunted Houses.

Happy Halloween!

Best wishes of the spooky season to all of you out there! I thought I would do a special post of two modern anthologies of classic stories that were published this year. As much as I rarely buy newly published books, I make exceptions for curations of ghost stories and new printings of old, often forgotten work.

Tonight is going to be full of scary movies, chocolate, glowing jack-o-lanterns, and the Halloween cartoons of childhood. This year my lovely spouse and I have enjoyed re-watching some of the Beetlejuice cartoons series (direct from my lovely spouse’s childhood), and, my childhood favourites, Bugs Bunny’s Howl-oween (a TV special from the 1970s) as well as Garfield’s Halloween Adventure. There’s also Ichabod Crane, featuring the voice of Bing Crosby.

A skull sits on Weird Women and Haunted Houses.

However you’re celebrating tonight, be safe and have a spooky good time!

Weird Women Often Unsung

One of things I find disappointing about so many collections of spooky stories from the last century is that very few of them feature many — if any — writings by female authors, even though in the Victorian era and beyond there were many women who were testing the limits of the genre. They crafted narratives that were complex, compelling, and every bit as noteworthy as male writers of the time, but it seems that many, sadly, have been lost to the public consciousness.

When I saw a book that brought a lot of those lost authors to the forefront, I couldn’t resist purchasing it. I wasn’t disappointed. Weird Women features many authors that you’ve probably never heard of but that you’ll subsequently be looking for more work from.

A tortoiseshell kitten sits with a skull and Weird Women and Haunted Houses.

My particular favourite stories were ‘Nut Bush Farm’ by Mrs. Charlotte Riddell, ‘The Giant Wistaria’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and ‘The Wind in the Rose-Bush’ by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman.

Spending Time in Haunted Houses

I’m always drawn to stories about haunted houses and cursed landscapes so, of course, a collection called Haunted Houses would appeal to me. In general, this book is a good collection of classic stories about places that you dare not step foot in. I will say that a couple of the stories selected were not quite stories that focus on haunted houses or places — notably ‘The Yellow Wall-Paper’ and ‘La Horla’ — though they are horror stories, so it isn’t like they don’t fit the overall spooky theme.

A skull sits on Weird Women and Haunted Houses.

My favourites from this collection include ‘Thurnley Abbey’ by Perceval Landon, and ‘The Empty House’ by Algernon Blackwood. The latter, in particular, is a masterful work displaying the amount of spooky impact that careful timing can create.

A Note on Book Design

It’s funny, but when I hefted each of these hardcovers in my hand, I expected a bit more weight. It startled me for a second, but then I realized that lately I’ve been reading mostly hardcovers that are over a hundred years old and have some very heavy paper as well as covers of vellum. I like the heaviness of an old book, I have to admit, though there is something to be said for modern book design.

A tortoiseshell kitten stands above Haunted Houses.

Each of these collections had features in their design that I really liked. Weird Women featured a small blurb about the author before every story. Haunted Houses had title pages for every piece as well as the year and original publisher of every story. It was nice to have all that information at my fingertips before I even started reading.

I must credit my lovely spouse as being the person who originally taught me to both look for and appreciate good book design. She has an education that consists of quite a few courses in fiction publishing and at least one that was primarily focussed on the process of the design and production of a book from start to finish. Now, after her careful tutelage, I pay attention to typefaces, margins, header, titles, and the always importing formatting that makes a book readable and beautiful too.

So Ends Another Spooky Season

So ends another October and, with it, there is an end to spooky season. I’ll miss it like I miss the bursts of colour on the trees. But with winter comes a unique beauty in stark branches and dropping temperatures. Now’s the time when I start to eagerly await the first flurries of snow. I try to forget about how much shovelling and car-scraping is ahead of me.

A tortoiseshell kitten sits with a skull and Haunted Houses.

Already the birds have started to depart and arrive. The dark-eyed juncos are plentiful as they build nests in the brush. Chipmunks are starting to disappear into their winter hibernation. The geese are already gone in straggling V formations that you can hear before you can see.

Tonight, however, there is a night of candy and costumes and all of the spooky stories you can read or watch or tell to your friends and family. And, for the last time, I’ll wish you a Happy Halloween!

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