Ghosts of the Past, Ghosts of the Present: December Tales, edited by J.D. Horn

Ghosts of the Past, Ghosts of the Present: December Tales, edited by J.D. Horn


December Tales: A Collection of New and Classic Ghost Stories
Edited by J.D. Horn; Foreword by Colin Dickey
Curious Blue Press (468 pages, $19.95 paperback/$5.95 digital formats, September 28, 2021)

The title of the present anthology refers to the tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas time, a tradition enforced by Charles Dickens, who not only wrote the famous “A Christmas Carol” but also edited Victorian era magazines regularly featuring ghost stories in their Christmas issues.

Truth be told, ghost stories are now available throughout the year and, fortunately, modern writers are still devoted to the genre.

Editor J.D. Horn has developed the brilliant idea of assembling in one volume both classical ghostly tales from various parts of the world and brand new stories by contemporary authors.

The classical stories contained within include fiction by big names such as M.R. James, Alexander Pushkin, Elisabeth Gaskell, H.G. Wells, Sabine Barin-Gould and so on, plus a story published in the ‘70s  by the iconic Ramsey Campbell.

I won’t comment on the classic, top notch material featured in the volume, but I’ll focus simply on some of the new stories, which represent a pleasant surprise for readers fond of ghostly and supernatural fiction.

Reggie Oliver provides “Grey Glass,” a splendid supernatural tale revolving around a famous actor’s hand mirror, while J. Lincoln Fenn contributes the excellent “The Shadow of a Dream,” an intriguing, sinister story about an old, unusual and dangerous doll.

The anthology features a couple of new brilliant tales addressing the subject of the haunted house: “ Ours” by PJ Manney, in which ghosts inhabiting a very old house take an interest in a little girl who moves in with her mother, and “A Plague on the House” by Lisa Morton where, by contrast, a recently built house becomes the center of weird phenomena, the origin of which is hard to imagine.

In Tod Goldberg’s insightful “ Last Night at the Dairy Bar” the manager of a small town bar is secretly haunted by his dead brother’s ghost.

To me the real gem among the new stories is “Incident at the Red Hawk Road Stop” by Eric J Guignard, an outstanding, very dark tale depicting the tragic encounter between a psychic working in a circus and the disreputable, murderous owner of a gas station in the middle of nowhere.

In short, December Tales is a captivating mix of classical, enticing material and modern, superb spookies.

Mario Guslandi was born in Milan, Italy, where he currently lives. He became addicted to horror and supernatural fiction (too) many years ago, after accidentally reading a reprint anthology of stories by MR James, JS Le Fanu, Arthur Machen etc. Most likely the only Italian who regularly reads (and reviews) dark fiction in English, he has contributed over the years to various genre websites such as Horrorworld, Hellnotes, The British Fantasy Society, The Agony Column and many more. His last review for us was The Tallow-Wife and Other Stories and All the Murmuring Bones by Angela Slatter.

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