I’ve been re-reading my favorite ghost story anthology. The Dark, edited by Ellen Datlow, was my first serious foray into horror literature, and it scared me senseless. I don’t think I’ve read a more frightening book since.
But more than just terrifying read, The Dark is the book that inspired me to start writing ghost stories. Shortly after finishing it, I gave life to The Scarecrow—or rather, a horrible first draft that you’ll never see.
Every short story in this anthology is exquisitely written. Here are the ones that really kept me up at night:
One Thing about Night
The terror is subtle. Atmosphere is this story’s chief weapon, and it’s built through splendid imagery that, on its own, isn’t very frightening. Until you stop and think about it. Until you find yourself brushing your teeth at night, unable to face directly forward. Until you turn off the bathroom light and wonder, as you lie in bed, if you left something behind in there.
The Amicable Divorce
Of all the stories in The Dark, this one scared me the most. It hits you from two sides. The ghost is terrifying enough on its own, even without ever making an appearance, but what really twists my stomach into a ball of ice is the spiteful cruelty the living are capable of.
I used to have a habit of letting one arm dangle off the edge of my bed while I slept. This story cured me of that. I love the ghost in this one. The way it looks, the way it speaks, the way it feels. It’s something you can pity, but not enough to overcome how terrifying it is.
If you want to lose some sleep to a book, The Dark will deliver insomnia.