"Gathered in this book are a number of really excellent ghost stories. This is not a book full of friendly or gentle ghosts. The “bump in the night” for most stories is really a solid smash. The collection begins with Sarah Hans’s tale of revenge by an abused and murdered woman and ends with Jean Rabe’s highly original story giving a ghost dog’s eye view of a murder set in one of the most fascinating locales ever, the Coon Dog graveyard in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Not a collection for the younger reader, Familiar Spirits will appeal to you with its darkness."
Familiar Spirits edited by Donald J. Bingle
Orphyte, Inc. (September 2015)
131 pages; $14.99 paperback/$4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Anton Cancre
I grew up with ghost stories, passed down from my mother while sitting around a fire or simply hanging out and chatting after watching the X-files or Tales from the Darkside. I am sure that’s why I feel such a comfy, cozy connection to them. Admittedly, I warmed up quite a bit when I saw this anthology arrive in the mail.
Right off the bat, Sarah Hans kicks the door off the hinges with “The Cold Earth,” making it clear that this won’t be a simple collection of traditional drafty-old-mansion tales. We are placed square in the POV of our dear departed, a poor girl murdered by her ne’er do well husband, but it doesn’t devolve into the simplistic revenge story it so easily could have. Instead, we are shown a victim working to stop the cycle of violence and predation of the past, instead of simply exacting revenge for it.
From there, we get plenty of good, ghastly tales, but “What Happened at the Lake” takes the cake. The exploration of the grief and guilt that come with loss, especially the loss of a child, is not unusual in a ghost story. However, it is rarely done with such brutal, raw honesty, where the absence of the deceased builds the internal horror. We’re pulled in, inch by inch, to the morass of depression that has become this woman’s life. I made the mistake of reading this one while walking the dog and ended up weeping right there on the sidewalk.
You don’t get much of the lace-strewn Victorian gothic here, though Lynn Handy’s “Green Lady” pulls off the air of such tales while slyly subverting them, so fans of that style may be disappointed. However, for people that grew up with tiny, intimate yarns of people tied too tightly to their lost past, there’s plenty familiar to these spirits.
Sometimes when the dead are laid to rest in peace, they refuse to go into that dark night.
Instead, they lie in the cold earth, agitated and restless, angry about the past, conjuring up lists of wrongs to right and enemies to fright.
Magician and story-teller William Pack conceived of Familiar Spirits as an outgrowth and supplement to his spell-binding performances of magic and ghostly tales. Connecting with Writer on Demand Donald J. Bingle, they have invited a specially selected group of extremely talented writers to craft short tales and vivid manifestations to unsettle, spook, terrify, and haunt you in your dreams and in brightest day.
In Familiar Spirits, you will find previously untold tales of … rainy graveyards … musty attics … domestic abuse … love unending … speaking with the dead … vengeful ghosts … infatuation gone wrong … and lonely spirits.
And, you will meet a mother who refuses to abandon her child … a jealous ex … a sailor who seeks to escape his watery grave … and your deepest fears.
Includes stories from Sarah Hans, Dolores Whitt Becker, William Pack, Lynne Handy, Wren Roberts, Kate Johnson, Cathy Kern, Ric Waters, TS Rhodes, Melanie Waghorne, and Jean Rabe.
What makes ghost stories give readers shivers more than any other stories? After all, vampire and werewolf and monster tales can be plenty creepy, too. Perhaps it’s because we always know, deep in the back of our subconscious, that vampires and werewolves and monsters aren’t real. They’re fiction. But, the same isn’t true for ghost stories. Almost every culture believes in ghosts and has myths and tales about them. Almost everyone has had, or personally knows someone who has had, a ghostly or supernatural experience. We believe in ghosts, so we believe in ghost stories. And that makes it so much harder to go to sleep after we’ve read what those familiar spirits may be up to in the midst of deepest night in the woods, down the street, and in our own homes.
Join with these authors to bring Familiar Spirits to life … or, perhaps, unholy afterlife from beyond the grave. Death is only the beginning for a familiar spirit, but it may be the end for those it seeks out on the mortal plane.