With Halloween season well underway, it’s time to give some props to good old-fashioned ghosts, who’ve been sorely neglected amid all the vampires and zombies devouring the popular imagination. Yes, AMC’s zombielicious series The Walking Dead returns on Sunday, and I’ve already DVR’d it, but I don’t think you can top a classic haunting courtesy of O. Henry, Mark Twain, Joyce Carol Oates, Rudyard Kipling, Oscar Wilde, or Willa Cather.
The Big Book of Ghost Stories, a doorstopper edited by Otto Penzler, brings together all those authors—and many more—for a total of 75 supernatural tales. Haunted mansions? Check. Lovers from beyond the grave? Check. Playful poltergeists? Check, check, check, complete with delightful illustrations. My favorite opener is by the late mystery writer Donald E. Westlake: “It’s hard not to believe in ghosts when you are one.”
So let the kids get giddy on candy corn and Snickers minis: This is a treat for adults. (And if you consume it with a pound of corn-syrup-sugar -bombs, we won’t tell a soul.)