cover image The Big Book of Ghost Stories

The Big Book of Ghost Stories

Otto Penzler. Vintage Crime, $25 (848p) ISBN 978-0-307-47449-0

The literary ghost comes in all shapes, sizes, and predispositions, and an impressive variety flits through Penzler’s latest mountain-sized omnibus (after Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!). There are urban ghosts in Fritz Leiber’s “Smoke Ghost” and rural ghosts in Arthur J. Burks’s “The Ghosts of Steamboat Coulee”; physical ghosts in Perceval Landon’s “Thurnley Abbey” and faux ghosts in Saki’s “The Open Window”; funny ghosts in Oscar Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost” and deadly serious ghosts in Ramsey Campbell’s “Just Behind You.” The most disturbing ghosts—among them the spurned lover in Rudyard Kipling’s “The Phantom Rickshaw” and the neglected child in Ellen Glasgow’s “The Shadowy Third”—are those whose persisting affections after death have curdled into an unholy hold on the living. The contents emphasize the classic over the contemporary, and though there are a few notable omissions (J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Henry James), there’s enough in this volume to please both dilettantes and devotees among ghost story readers. (Sept.)