I don't believe in ghosts now, but I did when I was little. I was a sucker for "true" ghost stories I read in books. By day I'd find them spooky and thrilling. At night I'd be petrified. What if, I wondered, just thinking about ghosts will summon one to my bedroom? When the sun rose, I was back to reading ghost stories.
Here's the scariest one I remember:
It took place in a junk shop in (or near) Brighton, England. A book lover hears there's lots of old books in the basement and goes down to check them out. He finds an old kitchen and a zillion books. He starts reading and loses track of time when...
"Suddenly he saw something move. He looked up. Across the room stood the back of a woman. She seemed to be working at the sink.
"Who are you?" he shouted. "Who are you? What do you want?"
She turned and looked at him. She looked like she'd been dead for years. Her eyes were empty sockets. Her cheeks were rotting holes. It was the ugliest thing he'd ever seen...*"
He throws his book. It goes through her. She vanishes. He dashes up the steps.
Upstairs he meets the land lady, who can't believe the shopkeeper let someone down there after dark. It's the ghost of a murdered woman, she explains. Her husband killed her...
"cut her up, and buried her under the sink... ...I met it once on the basement steps. It went right through me and left a chill that didn't go away for weeks!"
It was the grand slam of a ghost stories. A scary ghost! A murdered woman! A chopped up body! A chill that woudn't go away for weeks! Scary!
Two thoughts in retrospect:
- The story is well told. The ghost doesn't just pop out and go "boo!" First we see a mysterious woman (Who's this?), then we discover she looks hideous (yikes!), then we discover stuff goes through her (!) and then she vanishes. Then we get a gruesome explanation (Her husband did what!?) plus the blow off detail of the landlady having the ghost walk through her.
- This story was in a book aimed at school aged kids. How on earth did a story that included a guy chopping up his wife end up in a kids book?
*It's been almost 30 years since I've read it but I remember most of the words.