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The top 10 ghost stories

The short story is the perfect format for the ghost stories. Today is the perfect day to be reading them. And these are some of the most perfect examples

  • Peter Washington
  • Friday October 31 2008 09.01 GMT
  • Article history

    Rebecca Evans in Benjamin Britten's opera version of The Turn of the Screw

    Supernatural advisory ... Rebecca Evans in Benjamin Britten's opera version of The Turn of the Screw. Photograph: Tristram Kenton


    The ghost story flourished especially between 1880 and 1930 when the fashion for spiritualism was at its height with its promise of communion with the dead. This was also the period when the short story reached its peak as a literary genre, so although there are fine novels about ghosts, it was in the short story that they came into their own.
    Many people think ghost stories are meant to be terrifying and nothing more, but the best are much subtler and more varied, and the best of all are concerned with the predicaments of the living rather than the return of the dead, which is the starting-point of such stories, not their subject.
    Haunting is a complex phenomenon which can involve many different causes: not only spirits but also memories, things, ideas and places. The stories in my list all send chills down the spine: at the same time they combine entertainment value with high literary quality.
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    Vladimir Nabokov The Visit to the Museum

    This is a piece of autobiography - an extraordinary tale in which the narrator is haunted by the ghost of an entire country. Even admirers of Nabokov may not know this one, which has only rarely been reprinted - surprisingly, given its extraordinary vision of pre-Revolutionary Russia
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