Just in time for the best holiday of the year – Halloween – comes an excellent ghost story with a bit of a twist.
If the dead spoke to you, would you listen?
Or would you close your senses, tune out the whispers, pretend you couldn’t hear.
Find me . . .
I love a good ghost story. Especially around Halloween there’s nothing better than reading a good ghost story and going to sleep wondering if that shadow is a specter lurking around doing ghostly things or just another run-of-the-mill extraterrestrial looking to play a game of hide the implant.
Neither is exactly good, but at least with the ghosts you’re not being probed. Scared witless and left huddled in the corner weeping in terror, but not being probed.
Traditional ghost stories use the ghosts as the antagonists: the square-jawed hero and the delightful and sassy lady are left to fend for themselves against the terrors of the night. We fear what we cannot see and what we cannot control. In your usual ghost story the action starts with not being able to see the ghost. It’s easier that way. Easier to convince yourself that it’s not happening, the house isn’t haunted, it’s all in your mind. It was all just an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato.
Then the action starts and there’s screaming and running in terror when the ghost makes its first appearance.
Ghost stories, in their traditional forms, are about scaring the bejeezus out of you. Some may ham-fistedly try to interject some social commentary, but the only commentary a ghost story really needs is ghosts are scary things. They represent our lack of understanding of the world, our perceived lack of control in our lives, and, ultimately, serve as a reminder that we’re gonna die. In the end, the protagonists either find a way to escape the ghost or the ghost gets them. Very rarely in ghost stories can we say the protagonists won the story – unless you count surviving as winning.
Fascinating as fun as that can be, there’s really only so much you can do with the traditional ghost story. Eventually it becomes trite and commonplace and that’s part of the reason why you don’t see a whole lot of traditional ghost stories anymore. But even in cases where the protagonists catch the ghost or find a way to end the story on a positive note through figuring the ghost actually wanted its sled back we still see essentially the same tired memes playing out.
Which is why it’s nice to ghosts used as a motivator for the story and not as the main focus of the story. There are ghosts in Anne Francis Scott’s Lost Girl, but they’re not the focus of the story even if their narrative is important to the story. Lost Girl is a mystery as much as it is a ghost story. And the mystery surrounds the main character just as the ghosts orbit her. Like all good ghost stories Scott starts her tale with the quiet haunting: you can’t be sure if there really are ghosts or if it’s all in her mind. It’s at the mid(ish)-point that Scott changes the rules for the better.
Even as you realize the ghosts are real, the main mystery of the story still remains. That mystery, and the mystery of the ghosts themselves, is what will draw you through the rest of the story. And that’s the part I can’t talk about here without blowing the mystery.
Suffice it to say, Lost Girl is a great read with just the right balance of ghostly activity and mystery. In a way, it’s like getting two books for the price of one. And both of them are good.