The best of creepy British ghost stories

Who am I?

I grew up in South Wales, where ghost stories are cherished. As a child, I spent many a winter evening telling spooky tales with my mum and my sisters, sitting before the fire. We would record them on tape (I am that old) complete with homemade sound effects, then play them back to listen to. I loved the combined fear and excitement these stories instilled in me. My father also loved to read horror and scary fiction, which had some influence on what I chose to read as I grew older. For someone who always loved to write, I think publishing in this genre is simply a natural extension of all that.

I wrote...

Wakeful Children: A Collection of Horror and Supernatural Tales

By S.P. Oldham,

Book cover of Wakeful Children: A Collection of Horror and Supernatural Tales

What is my book about?

Wakeful Children: A Collection of Horror and Supernatural Tales is an extremely unusual, compelling, and refreshingly different read in the ghost/horror genre. Within its pages you will encounter the horror of a depraved mind, an ancient evil lurking underground, an elemental entity that will chill you to the bone, and more. This book will leave you thinking of it long after you have turned the last page.

The books I picked & why

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Company of Liars: A Novel

By Karen Maitland,

Book cover of Company of Liars: A Novel

Why this book?

As well as horror and the supernatural, I love historical fiction; partly why this book appealed to me. Karen Maitland obviously knows her history, making the background darkly believable.

The story has a bleak setting: Mid-1300s, England. Sustained severe weather leads to widespread starvation and poverty. A mean-spirited man who owns a horse and cart finds himself travelling with a group of misfits, including a distinctly odd, very creepy, little girl. 

All the characters have intriguing secrets in their pasts. I really enjoyed finding out about them, who they really are, what they are running away from. They are all trying to outrun the Plague, which is never far behind for the whole story, almost like a living entity itself.

I still think about this book from time to time, especially the ending, but no spoilers here.

The Coffin Path

By Katherine Clements,

Book cover of The Coffin Path

Why this book?

First of all, the title. Intriguing, original, enigmatic. That is what first drew me to this book. I had to find out more about it.

This book is much more in the style of traditional ghost stories, which I love. A spooky, desolate setting in an old house with a long history. I love the build-up of suspense, the remote location adding to the sense of isolation and helplessness, everything cold, chilly. 

The ghostly happenings, whilst perhaps not original, are very well done, which is just fine with me. Traditional ghost stories are meant to have certain elements that are standard, just as fantasy stories must have certain magical aspects. As far as ghost stories are concerned, as long as they make the hair on the back of my neck stand on end, I’m happy. This book does that extremely well, I thought. Absolutely dripping with spooky atmosphere.

The Woman in Black

By Susan Hill,

Book cover of The Woman in Black

Why this book?

Although the style of writing could be described as somewhat quaint, I like the descriptive passages. I like to be absorbed into the physical environment, the weather, the atmosphere. It adds great depth to what is, ultimately, another traditional ghost story. 

Arthur Kipps, the main character, looks back on his life, drawing us in with him as he relives the terrifying experience he had as a young man. The fear remains with him so deeply that he is unable to enjoy a Christmas Eve sharing ghost stories with his family. 

All the characters he meets in Crythin Gifford know what lies in store for him. Their reactions to him give us tantalising glimpses into what is to come. I love that ‘hidden’ aspect.

The fact that Eel Marsh House is often cut off by the tide, potentially leaving him, and us, alone with the ghost is a deliciously spooky part of the story. This is a book best enjoyed on a dark winter evening, I think. Great, scary fun!

The Secret of Crickley Hall

By James Herbert,

Book cover of The Secret of Crickley Hall

Why this book?

What I love about this story is that it is set very firmly along the traditional lines of a ghostly tale rather than outright horror. It is set against the tragic backdrop of the history of Crickley Hall. 

The suspense is built up beautifully, initially by means of the children and the family dog, who are all nervous and uneasy in their temporary new home. Parents Eve and Gabe also experience strange happenings in the house, but are less willing to admit it, even to themselves. That rings true, for me.

These events are exacerbated by the fact that the entire family is living in the aftermath of a devastating loss. At first, they attribute much of what is happening to their grief, guilt, and sadness. A very normal thing to do, even in such strange circumstances. I love how this is acknowledged, even used as a line of reasoning, until events become such that they can no longer be written off as the long-term effects of trauma.

James Herbert even uses a river as an intrinsic part of the story. I love stories that use elements of the natural world as part of the plot; a device I often use myself. Nature is all around us. Nature is us. It cannot be ignored.

The Winter Ghosts

By Kate Mosse,

Book cover of The Winter Ghosts

Why this book?

This is another ghost story told in the traditional vein. However, it is not set within the bounds of some old building but in an entire mountain village, populated by more than one ghost.

I think this is a gentle, rather beautiful read. The cold surroundings are depicted so well, it is easy to envisage them in your own mind. We begin to get to the heart of the story when Freddie crashes his car one snowy night. Circumstances mean he has no choice but to accept the hospitality of an elderly couple and spend the night under their roof. While staying with them, the tragic, ancient history of the place begins to show itself to Freddie, drawing him irrevocably into its story.

Yes, it is somewhat predictable, but I find that almost comforting. There may not be any huge surprises or great reveals, yet the way in which the truth is gradually, gently shown to us, the great sense of sadness and injustice which is uncovered, is compassionately done. This is a ghost story for people who truly relish the supernatural genre without the need for horror. I found it quite absorbing.

5 book lists we think you will like!

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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