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Category: Ghost Stories

Roman Ghosts

Roman Ghosts

Pliny the Younger was a governor, scholar, and author in ancient Rome. His career ran from 81AD – 110AD and we have hundreds of his letters which give us lots of valuable historical insights into the world of his time. He was even embroiled in the first Christian persecutions and confirm many writings of various happening written by early Christians.

Besides matters of governance and law, Pliny wrote about more common, everyday things. One of which was a question about ghosts.

THE PRESENT recess from business we are now enjoying affords you leisure to give, and me to receive, instruction. I am extremely desirous therefore to know whether you believe in the existence of ghosts, and that they have a real form, and are a sort of divinities, or only the visionary impressions of a terrified imagination. What particularly inclines me to believe in their existence is a story which I heard of Curtius Rufus. When he was in low circumstances and unknown in the world, he attended the governor of Africa into that province. One evening, as he was walking in the public portico, there appeared to him the figure of a woman, of unusual size and of beauty more than human. And as he stood there, terrified and astonished, she told him she was the tutelary power that presided over Africa, and was come to inform him of the future events of his life: that he should go back to Rome, to enjoy high honours there, and return to that province invested with the proconsular dignity, and there should die. Every circumstance of this prediction actually came to pass. It is said farther that upon his arrival at Carthage, as he was coming out of the ship, the same figure met him upon the shore. It is certain, at least, that being seized with a fit of illness, though there were no symptoms in his case that led those about him to despair, he instantly gave up all hope of recovery; judging, apparently, of the truth of the future part of the prediction by what had already been fulfilled, and of the approaching misfortune from his former prosperity. Now the following story, which I am going to tell you just as I heard it, is it not more terrible than the former, while quite as wonderful? There was at Athens a large and roomy house, which had a bad name, so that no one could live there. In the dead of the night a noise, resembling the clashing of iron, was frequently heard, which, if you listened more attentively, sounded like the rattling of chains, distant at first, but approaching nearer by degrees: immediately afterwards a spectre appeared in the form of an old man, of extremely emaciated and squalid appearance, with a long beard and dishevelled, hair, rattling the chains on his feet and hands. The distressed occupants meanwhile passed their wakeful nights under the most dreadful terrors imaginable. This, as it broke their rest, ruined their health, and brought on distempers, their terror grew upon them, and death ensued. Even in the daytime, though the spirit did not appear, yet the impression remained so strong upon their imaginations that it still seemed before their eyes, and kept them in perpetual alarm. Consequently the house was at length deserted, as being deemed absolutely uninhabitable; so that it was now entirely abandoned to the ghost. However, in hopes that some tenant might be found who was ignorant of this very alarming circumstance, a bill was put up, giving notice that it was either to be let or sold. It happened that Athenodorus the philosopher came to Athens at this time, and, reading the bill, enquired the price. The extraordinary cheapness raised his suspicion; nevertheless, when he heard the whole story, he was so far from being discouraged that he was more strongly inclined to hire it, and, in short, actually did so. When it grew towards evening, he ordered a couch to be prepared for him in the front part of the house, and, after calling for a light, together with his pencil and tablets, directed all his people to retire. But that his mind might not, for want of employment, be open to the vain terrors of imaginary noises and spirits, he applied himself to writing with the utmost attention. The first part of the night passed in entire silence, as usual; at length a clanking of iron and rattling of chains was heard: however, he neither lifted up his eyes nor laid down his pen, but, in order to keep calm and collected, tried to pass the sounds off to himself as something else. The noise increased and advanced nearer, till it seemed at the door, and at last in the chamber. He looked up, saw, and recognized the ghost exactly as it had been described to him: it stood before him, beckoning with the finger, like a person who calls another. Athenodorus in reply made a sign with his hand that it should wait a little, and threw his eyes again upon his papers; the ghost then rattled its chains over the head of the philosopher, who looked up upon this, and seeing it beckoning as before, immediately arose, and, light in hand, followed it. The ghost slowly stalked along, as if encumbered with its chains, and, turning into the area of the house, suddenly vanished. Athenodorus, being thus deserted, made a mark with some grass and leaves on the spot where the spirit left him. The next day he gave information to the magistrates, and advised them to order that spot to be dug up. This was accordingly done, and the skeleton of a man in chains was found there; for the body, having lain a considerable time in the ground, was putrefied and mouldered away from the fetters. The bones, being collected together, were publicly buried, and thus after the ghost was appeased by the proper ceremonies, the house was haunted no more. This story I believe upon the credit of others; what I am going to mention, I give you upon my own. I have a freedman named Marcus, who is by no means illiterate. One night, as he and his younger brother were lying together, he fancied he saw somebody upon his bed, who took out a pair of scissors, and cut off the hair from the top part of his own head, and in the morning, it appeared his hair was actually cut, and the clippings lay scattered about the floor. A short time after this, an event of a similar nature contributed to give credit to the former story. A young lad of my family was sleeping in his apartment with the rest of his companions, when two persons clad in white came in, as he says, through the windows, cut off his hair as he lay, and then returned the same way they entered. The next morning it was found that this boy had been served just as the other, and there was the hair again, spread about the room. Nothing remarkable indeed followed these events, unless perhaps that I escaped a prosecution, in which, if Domitian (during whose reign this happened) had lived some time longer, I should certainly have been involved. For after the death of that emperor, articles of impeachment against me were found in his scrutore, which had been exhibited by Carus. It may therefore be conjectured, since it is customary for persons under any public accusation to let their hair grow, this cutting off the hair of my servants was a sign I should escape the imminent danger that threatened me. Let me desire you then to give this question your mature consideration. The subject deserves your examination; as, I trust, I am not myself altogether unworthy a participation in the abundance of your superior knowledge. And though you should, as usual, balance between two opinions, yet I hope you will lean more on one side than on the other, lest, whilst I consult you in order to have my doubt settled, you should dismiss me in the same suspense and indecision that occasioned you the present application. Farewell.

Pliny the Younger LXXXII To Sura
Invasion of the Black Slime and Other Tales of Horror

Invasion of the Black Slime and Other Tales of Horror

When I was a kid, I loved Choose Your Own Adventure books. At school book fairs, I was always on the lookout for a good deal. There were various copycats series – such as the really excellent Fighting Fantasy series that I discovered in middle school. Which Way Books, however, never really received the accolades of Choose your own Adventure. Most of them were very mediocre to downright terrible. One book from the series, however, really stood head and shoulders above the others.

Invasion of the Black Slime and Other Tales of Horror was honestly one of the best scary books I read as a kid. I always loved adventure mixed with a tinge of the scary or fantastic. The book consisted of 3 main story lines you could choose between. The first storyline was to continue on to the supposedly invaded mountain town of Silverlode. The second involves visiting a lonely doctor. The third was one of the best which involved spending 24 hours in Uncle Harry Crispen’s haunted house to earn a million dollars.

There were some really great illustrations as well:

It is hard to find copies of this book today. The series was never terribly popular, and used copies of this book can run you about $35 – if you can even find one. I have never seen this book online anywhere; so I decided to change that. I bought a copy and scanned the whole thing cover to cover. It’s now here available as a PDF to download and enjoy.

Personally, I found the haunted house path contained some of the most terrifying stuff I read as a kid. Even today as an adult it holds up really well. There’s even a warning that you need to give full attention to the pages you read as you go into Uncle Henry’s house. I remember taking it seriously and going to my room and laying on my bed to read it. It was downright terrifying to 10 year old me.

If you’d like to hear some the book, here’s an audiobook version:

If you read this book as a kid, share your experiences with it. It was definitely one of my favorites.

Which Way Books #10
The Invasion of the Black Slime and Other Tales of Horror
Written by: R.G. Austin (pseudonym used by multiple people) – Gelman, Rita Golden (uncredited); Lamb, Nancy (uncredited)
Illustrator: Smith, Joseph A.
Format: Paperback
Published: January 1, 1983 by Simon Pulse
ISBN : 9780671460204 
ISBN-10 : 067146020X
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0671460204
ASIN ‏ : ‎ 067146020X
Pages: 118

Download Invasion of the Black Slime and Other Tales of Horror PDF here


The 1889 Paris Exposition Urban Legend

The 1889 Paris Exposition Urban Legend

Urban legends are definitely not new – and some of the older ones are much better than the ones we have today. Here’s a good one that I encountered via an old time radio play. The story goes like this:

The year was May and the fabulous 1889 Paris Exposition was about to get started. A girl arrived with her mother via ocean liner from India. They checked into the Hotel Crillon but the mother fell sick upon arrival. A doctor was called to help. Shortly after, the daughter was sent on an errand to get some critical medicine, but the coachman and everyone took forever to get her the medicine and get her back to the hotel. When she arrived, she asked for the room key to get the medicine to her mother. At this point the desk clerk, all the hotel staff, and even the doctor claimed the girl arrived alone and there was no mother. Nobody had been sick and other lodgers had been checked into the supposed mother’s room for days. The girl became hysterical and demanded they take her to her mother’s room. They showed her the room her mother was in but it was completely different – with different furniture, window coverings, and a stack of luggage from another set of travelers. The girl ran to the British Embassy who, upon investigation and being given the same story/shown around by the hotel staff, concluded that the girl was probably crazy. She was sent onwards to Britain to an asylum.

What happened to the mother? The legend goes to explain the hotel doctor discovered the mother had bubonic plague. The doctor, hotel staff, and officials quickly realized the gravity of such a diagnosis. With so much riding on the success of the Paris Exposition – fortunes would be lost overnight if panic spread about a plague in the city.

They decided to sent the girl away and told everyone to delay her as much as possible. They then moved the mother to a hidden facility where she died shortly after. They re-decorated the room, destroyed the records, put new people in the room who were in on the plot, and basically did everything possible to cover up the infection and discredit the girl’s story.

Was it true? People have tried to prove it but there’s been no concrete evidence. Still, the story appears to have circulated around the world for years after the 1889 Paris Exposition.

As evidence of this early urban legend’s widespread telling, John Dickson Carr wrote a wildly popular story called Cabin B-13 as a radio play that aired in 1943. Very tame by today’s standards, it takes a twist on the old Paris tale – with the characters even mentioning the tale in their dialog. It’s a great little thriller that was broadcast in the US and then used as the opening set piece for a new thriller series on the BBC. Give it a listen – if you dare!


Backrooms and the Horror of Liminal Spaces

Backrooms and the Horror of Liminal Spaces

“If you’re not careful and you noclip out of reality in the wrong areas, you’ll end up in the Backrooms, where it’s nothing but the stink of old moist carpet, the madness of mono-yellow, the endless background noise of fluorescent lights at maximum hum-buzz, and approximately six hundred million square miles of randomly segmented empty rooms to be trapped in.

God save you if you hear something wandering around nearby because it sure as hell has heard you”

The Backrooms is an urban legend and June 10, 2019 creepypasta which originated in a 4chan thread about unsettling images. It’s one of the first examples of liminal spaces — an aesthetic that creates unique feelings of eeriness, nostalgia, and apprehension when presented with such places outside of their designed context. They often involve pictures of familiar places that usually are busy – but are empty in the photo.

Super Eyepatch Wolf does a great little documentary on the phenomenon

The tread became hot, and in 2019 someone created a free indie game on Steam that let you wander the Backrooms. You wandered the generated space with nothing but the sound of humming lights and fighting for your sanity. Cue countless spinoffs and alternate takes – none of which were as good as the original.

Fast forward again to Jan 2022, and Kane Pixels created some amazing found-footage style re-creations that are some of the best entries since the original. Give it a watch to get that creepy feel of wandering alone in an empty mall or parking lot at night while getting the creeping feeling someone, or something, is following you…

Update 07/29/2023

Someone has created a free Steam game that lets you play this VHS style walking experience. The Complex: Found Footage

Lafcadio Hearn’s Translated Japanese Ghost stories

Lafcadio Hearn’s Translated Japanese Ghost stories

I love a good classical ghost story. Some of my favorites are English ghost stories from the 1800 and 1900’s. But a good ghost story is not limited to just old British tales. Ghost stories are a phenomenon across all cultures and eras. Some cultures even had elaborate systems for telling ghost stories.

Lafcadio Hearn (aka Yakumo Koizumi) was born of Irish parents and had a difficult upbringing by most standards. He became a writer and journalist, but was captivated by Japanese culture that he experienced at the World Exposition in New Orleans. Shortly after, he traveled to Japan in 1890 at the age of 40. He soon made Japan his home, married, raised a family, and found continued success as a writer.

One of his favorite subjects was Japanese ghost stories. Japanese ghost stories are interesting because they are heavily influenced by Buddhist thought, and often carry a hint of moral elements. He collected and translated several works on the subject. Kwaidan is probably his most famous collection of ghost stories – stories which were even turned into a movie.

It turns out there are at least 3 different Lafcadio Haern museums/homes in Japan. Hopefully I’ll see them someday, but until then I’ll be happy just reading the stories.

Christmas Ghost Stories

Christmas Ghost Stories

The British have an intriguing history of telling ghost stories at Christmas. The most famous one is probably Dicken’s Christmas Carol with the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future who haunt Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas eve. The immensely long running play Woman in Black starts with the protagonist Arthur Kipps being asked by his children to tell a ghost story on Christmas eve.

Here’s a collection of wonderfully 70’s era BBC productions of traditional ghost stories from the likes of MR James, Dickens, etc. They hardly classify as what we would considered horror today, but are a wonderful look back into what scared and intrigued people 100 years ago. I recommend listening to audiobook versions to give them a fair shake. They were originally designed to be told out loud compared to produced into plays (which often mess up pacing/lack description of the experienced horror of the characters).

You can find other productions like Mr. Humphrey’s and His Inheritance. Full of epic 70’s experimental theatrics and music:

Update: Here’s an even bigger collection of videos that includes everything above and more.

Best Favorite Scary Stories for Fall

Best Favorite Scary Stories for Fall

One of my favorite pastimes is reading and listening to classic spooky stories. There’s no better time for curling up with a spooky story than a cold, fall evening in front of the fire.

Here’s a collection of my all-time favorite scary stories by the best readers I could find:


This is a unique group – and old stories of this genre are very heavy on dry British/deadpan humor and often require a little bit of understanding of the times in 1800’s England. I highly recommend.


Good general scary classics channels on YouTube:


Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories – Michael Cox, R.A. Gilbert



Scary frights and Lockdowns

Scary frights and Lockdowns

I love a good spooky story. With covid locking us all down, folks making scary experiences have gotten creative.

Psycho Clan – a group that creates immersive theatrical events – is making some interesting horror audio experiences in which you blindfold some friends, set up some simple props, and then guide them through the auditory experience. Looks like it could be some good fun!

Inspired by the classic ghost story “The Toll House” by W. W. Jacobs, you play Sam, a member of an intrepid group of friends who stubbornly insists on testing whether a house, notoriously known to be haunted, truly is… by spending the night in it!

More Spooky Tales for Fall and Cold Winter Nights

More Spooky Tales for Fall and Cold Winter Nights

While looking around for more great old-time ghost stories, I came across another great website collection of stories here. To avoid the risk of them disappearing, I copy them here (again) for your enjoyment.

Collections these stories come from for further reading:

  • Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural (1947)
  • M.R James: Collected Ghost Stories (1992)
  • The Collected Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe (1992)
  • Gothic Short Stories (ed. David Blair) (2002)
  • The Virago Book of Ghost Stories (2006)
  • Ambrose Bierce: The Spook House (2008)
  • The Oxford Book of Ghost Stories (2008)
  • The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales (2009)
  • Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories (2012)
  • Tales from the Dead of Night: Thirteen Classic Ghost Stories (2013)