Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve, or Samhain marks the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. Traditionally its the time when the veil between worlds weakens, allowing spirits and creatures of the otherworld to creep through into our own. It is a time when demons, imps and faeries prowl the earth, when the dead whisper in our ears. Such visitors have always needed to be appeased with gifts. Bonfires are traditionally lit to drive back the dark. To light our way, and frighten off troublesome spirits Jack o’ lanterns were carved, originally from turnips or swedes, but nowadays, carving a pumpkin is much easier. Turnip ones are so much scarier though. They look like mumified heads!
Whether you believe in the Supernatural or not, it doesn’t seem to matter. There is something about Halloween that has the ability to spook us all. Maybe it’s possible that even if we don’t believe in it, Halloween believes in us.
Spooky stories are a time-honored tradition. We love to be scared in safety, to send a chill down the spine, to glance over our shoulders just in case. On Saturday I was in Marsh’s Library for the Bram Stoker festival, hearing their stories of ghosts searching through the books for a lost letter, or the mummy which was found and then mysteriously disappeared. We even saw the death mask of Jonathan Swift! (I was there for the prize giving of the short story competition – congratulations to the wonderful winners). Next week, by the way, I’ll be chairing a discussion of YA fantasy for Irish Pen, with Celine Kiernan, Oisín McGann and Conor Kostick. Who knows what tales of horror we’ll come up with?! Come and find out.
I have my fair share of scary tales. I put a lot of them into my novels — the Redcaps swarming in The Treachery of Beautiful Things, the Sluagh attacking in Soul Fire, and in my WIP a girl walking down a corridor in a deserted library, certain that she is hearing voices from somewhere just around the corner. Some I just keep to myself.
What’s your scary tale? Come and share a ghost story in the comments in celebration of the scariest night of the year.