Ghost Stories: A Great Introduction to the Art—by Michael Newton, (Penguin Classics, 2010)


It’s always a delight to discover scholarship on the ghost story, such as the following essay by Michael Newton. It is my favorite subject—ghosts in literature that is—hands down. I read them—new ones, old ones. I dread them (and dream them). I love both short stories and novella-length ones; novels, too, but real good ones are rare. I also like true stories of specters and spirits, haints and hauntings—they scare the bejeezus outta me, but they also fill me with a ferocious glee! I suppose it’s the idea that we may never know for sure—right?—whether they’re real or a figment of the global imagination. Either way, I love my ghost stories. I trust you do, too. So, here’s Newton’s Introduction from the Penguin Book of Ghost Stories, published in 2010. (I highly recommend every story in this collection. I recently finished Elizabeth Gaskell’s creeper “The Old Nurse’s Story.” It was superb.)

Leave a light on!


Note: Any photographs or images that follow—along with accompanying captions—are additions of mine, and are not part of the Introduction as it originally appeared in The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories.  —Sanguine Woods

Introduction to The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories

Michael Newton, 2010

“The ghost is the most enduring figure in supernatural fiction. He is absolutely indestructible … He changes with the styles in fiction but he never goes out of fashion. He is the really permanent citizen of the earth, for mortals, at best, are but transients.”

Dr. Dorothy Scarborough*, The Supernatural in Modern English Fiction

GHOST, n. The outward and visible sign of an inward fear.

Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

“It is the haunted who haunt.”

Elizabeth Bowen, ‘The Happy Autumn Fields’



Above (click to enlarge): The famous “writing on the wall”** at England’s Borley Rectory is one of the most interesting manifestations of ghost writing ever encountered. The events and investigations at the rectory were among the very first cases of “ghost hunting” in the history of the modern world. Investigators, including Ed and Lorraine Warren, demonologists for the Church, believed the writings had come from the spirit of a young Catholic woman who wanted her body to be discovered and to be given a proper Christian burial. “Marianne” and her husband, Reverend Lionel Foyster, lived in the rectory during October 1930–her writing is in printed script and attempts to get clarification from the spirit as to the meaning of her scribbles, which include: “Marianne… please help get” and “Marianne light mass prayers”. Click here (and see other “Links” following this post) to learn more about The Borley Rectory Hauntings.

Someone is afraid. In a dark house or on an empty railway platform, at the foot of the staircase or there on a lonely beach. When critics discuss the ghost story, they often pay no more than lip-service to the intended impact of the tale itself. The critics’ words remove us from the place where the story’s words first took us. In the ghost story, through the representation of another’s fear, we become afraid. We take on the sensation of terror, the alert uneasiness that translates random sounds into intentions, a room’s chill into watchfulness, and leaves us with the anxious apprehension of an other’s presence. The stories fix images of profound uneasiness in our minds. These images remain and act afterwards, when the story is over, as paths to renewed anxiety. From the stories in this collection, memories rise up of Thrawn Janet’s crooked walk, like a rag doll that has been hanged; the bereaved mother desperately reaching for the bolt to the door in ‘The Monkey’s Paw’, with the visitor outside; or in M. R. James’s tale, on a sunless day, in a dream, a man running along the sands, breathless, worn out, pursued inexorably by a blind, muffled figure.

The ghost story aims at the retention of such pictures; it intends the production of such fears. It wants sympathetic shudders.

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Warning! This Ain’t Your Gramma’s Nun.

Terrifying Real-Life Encounter Inspires New Horror Film “The Nun”…

“I feel the presence of a nun in this church…”

—Lorraine Warren, psychic investigator/demonologist, speaking to a group of psychic researchers and photographers (including husband Ed Warren) at Borley Rectory in England, during a trip there in the 1970s; it is noted that Lorraine uttered the remark immediately upon entering the building at 12:00 A.M.


The Nun, played by the amazing Bonnie Aarons, first appeared in the 2016 James Wan film The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist, a sequel of sorts (but then again not really) to Wan’s 2013 film The Conjuring (sequels, perhaps, in that both films are based on true stories straight out of the case files of Catholic demonologists and founders of the New England Society for Psychical Research, Ed and Lorraine Warren—played in both films by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, respectively). In The Conjuring 2, Aaron’s character, called “Valek” in the annals of Hell, is a demon that’s attached itself psychically to Farmiga’s character—medium and demonologist Lorraine Warren—and has manifested itself to her since she was a child in the form of a Catholic Nun…as an insult to and a perversion of  Warren’s Christian faith.


In the 1970s, demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren saw a spectral nun in a British abbey. Real-life psychic investigators for the Catholic Church, the Warrens investigated many of the workd’s most visible—and horrifying—spirit and demonic encounters including The Amityville Horror, The Conjuring incident, the Perronne family hauntings, and the Enfield poltergeist infestation in England.

In The Nun, the latest movie in the ever-expanding Conjuring universe, a cowl-clad demon with piercing yellow eyes and dagger-like teeth haunts the cloisters of a Romanian abbey and terrorizes local clergy. The film is a prequel to The Conjuring, which detailed the real case files of noted demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren. Those case files have also inspired film classics such as The Conjuring 2, Anabelle, Annabelle: Creation, and the 1979 horror classic The Amityville Horror.

So how much of the story about The Nun is based on actual events?

The Warren’s son-in-law, Tony Spera, said that The Nun’s ecclesiastical phantom bears resemblance to a “real” spectral nun the Warrens encountered during a 1970s trip to the much-haunted Borley Rectory in southern England.

Below: Rare color photographs of Borley Rectory taken in 1929 (left) and 1943 after the fire (right) by England’s own famous (and infamous) ghost hunter Harry Price (Source:

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“The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor”–This Early-70s Epic Mod-Gothic Publication Was My First Comic Book Collection! Here Is Issue #1 in Its Entirety…

The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor, Issue 1: Cult of the Vampire! (Gold Key Comics 1973)

Remember The Occult Files of Dr. Spektor? It had a very short run, sadly. But I was an eager 12 year old and this was my cup of brew. In fact, the 1970s publication, which ran for about 20 issues, was my very first comic book collection! And…it was my initiation into the world of the Occult. I’m bringing it to you, now, Dear Reader, every month–an issue at a time…Guess you could say I’m “resurrecting a personal monster”…

Long May He Live!!!


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“The Woman with the ‘Oily Eyes’”— A Vintage Vampire Story by Dick Donovan, 1899

Art by Glen Chadbourne.

The Woman with the ‘Oily Eyes’

Dick Donovan

Originally published in in the collection Tales of Terror by Dick Donovan (Chatto and Windus, 1899). The collection also included “The Sequel to the Woman with the Oily Eyes”.

The Story as Told by Dr. Peter Haslar, F.R.C.S. Lond…

ALTHOUGH often urged to put into print the remarkable story which follows I have always strenuously refused to do so, partly on account of personal reasons and partly out of respect for the feelings of the relatives of those concerned. But after much consideration I have come to the conclusion that my original objections can no longer be urged. The principal actors are dead. I myself am well stricken in years, and before very long must pay the debt of nature which is exacted from everything that lives.

Although so long a time has elapsed since the grim tragedy I am about to record, I cannot think of it even now without a shudder. The story of the life of every man and woman is probably more or less a tragedy, but nothing I have ever heard of can compare in ghastly, weird horror with all the peculiar circumstances of the case in point. Most certainly I would never have put pen to paper to record it had it not been from a sense of duty. Long years ago certain garbled versions crept into the public journals, and though at the time I did not consider it desirable to contradict them, I do think now that the moment has come when I, the only living being fully acquainted with the facts, should make them known, otherwise lies will become history, and posterity will accept it as truth. But there is still another reason I may venture to advance for breaking the silence of years. I think in the interest of science the case should be recorded. I have not always held this view, but when a man bends under the weight of years, and he sniffs the mould of his grave, his ideas undergo a complete change, and the opinions of his youth are not the opinions of his old age. There may be exceptions to this, but I fancy they must be very few. With these preliminary remarks I will plunge at once into my story.

It was the end of August 1857 that I acted as best man at the wedding of my friend jack Redcar, C.E. It was a memorable year, for our hold on our magnificent Indian Empire had nearly been shaken loose by a mutiny which had threatened to spread throughout the whole of India. At the beginning of 1856 I had returned home from India after a three years’ spell. I had gone out as a young medico in the service of the H.E.I.C., but my health broke down and I was compelled to resign my appointment. A year later my friend Redcar, who had also been in the Company’s service as a civil engineer, came back to England, as his father had recently died and left him a modest fortune. Jack was not only my senior in years, but I had always considered him my superior in every respect. We were at a public school together, and both went up to Oxford, though not together, for he was finishing his final year when I was a freshman.

Although erratic and a bit wild he was a brilliant fellow; and while I was considered dull and plodding, and found some difficulty in mastering my subjects, there was nothing he tackled that he failed to succeed in, and come out with flying colours. In the early stage of our acquaintance he made me his fag, and patronised me, but that did not last long. A friendship sprang up. He took a great liking to me, why I know not; but it was reciprocated, and when he got his Indian appointment I resolved to follow, and by dint of hard work, and having a friend at court, I succeeded in obtaining my commission in John Company’s service. Jack married Maude Vane Tremlett, as sweet a woman as ever drew God’s breath of life. If I attempted to describe her in detail I am afraid it might be considered that I was exaggerating, but briefly I may say she was the perfection of physical beauty. Jack himself was an exceptionally fine fellow. A brawny giant with a singularly handsome face. At the time of his wedding he was thirty or thereabouts, while Maude was in her twenty-fifth year. There was a universal opinion that a better matched couple had never been brought together. He had a masterful nature; nevertheless was kind, gentle, and manly to a degree.

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“The Girl with the Hungry Eyes”—A Vintage Horror Story by Fritz Leiber, 19xx


1960s-70s actress and model Sharon Tate (Public Domain).

The Girl with the Hungry Eyes

Fritz Leiber

Originally appeared in The Girl with Hungry Eyes, and Other Stories, Avon (New York, NY), 1949.

All right, I’ll tell you why the Girl gives me the creeps. Why I can’t stand to go downtown and see the mob slavering up at her on the tower, with that pop bottle or pack of cigarettes or whatever it is beside her. Why I hate to look at magazines any more because I know she’ll turn up somewhere in a brassiere or a bubble bath. Why I don’t like to think of millions of Americans drinking in that poisonous half smile. It’s quite a story—more story than you’re expecting.

No, I haven’t suddenly developed any long-haired indignation at the evils of advertising and the national glamour-girl complex. That’d be a laugh for a man in my racket, wouldn’t it?

Though I think you’ll agree there’s something a little perverted about trying to capitalize on sex that way. But it’s okay with me. And I know we’ve had the Face and the Body and the Look and what not else, so why shouldn’t someone come along who sums it all up so completely, that we have to call her the Girl and blazon her on all the billboards  from Times Square to Telegraph Hill?omGv

But the Girl isn’t like any of the others. She’s unnatural. She’s morbid. She’s unholy.

Oh it’s 1948, is it, and the sort of thing I’m hinting at went out with witchcraft? But you see I’m not altogether sure myself what I’m hinting at, beyond a certain point. There are vampires and vampires, and not all of them suck blood.

And there were the murders, if they were murders.

Besides, let 3nme ask you this. Why, when America is obsessed with the Girl, don’t we find out more about her? Why doesn’t she rate a Time cover with a droll biography inside? Why hasn’t there been a feature in Life or the Post? A Profile in the New Yorker? Why hasn’t Charm or Mademoiselle done her career saga? Not ready for it? Nuts!

Why haven’t the movies snapped her up? Why hasn’t she been on Information, Please? Why don’t we see her kissing candidates at political rallies? Why isn’t she chosen queen of some sort of junk or other at a convention?

Why don’t we read about her tastes and hobbies, her views of the Russian situation? Why haven’t the columnists interviewed her in a kimono on the top floor of the tallest hotel in Manhattan and told us who her boy-friends are?

Finally-and this is the real killer-why hasn’t she ever been drawn or painted?

Oh, no she hasn’t. If you knew anything about commercial art you’d know that. Every blessed one of those pictures was worked up from a photograph. Expertly? Of course. They’ve got the top artists on it. But that’s how it’s done.

And now I’ll tell you the why of all that. It’s because from the top to the bottom of the whole world of advertising, news, and business, there isn’t a solitary soul who knows where the Girl came from, where she lives, what she does, who she is, even what her name is.

You heard me. What’s more, not a single solitary soul ever sees her-except one poor damned photographer, who’s making more money off her than he ever hoped to in his life and who’s scared and miserable as hell every minute of the day.

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Here Are Almost 80 of the Best Vampire Short Stories Ever Penned Between 1740 & 1937. Just 99 cents! (Leave the Light 💡On…)


Get your copy of Vampire Tales: The Big Collection, now, for $.99! Hurry before it’s gone: