Collected together by British Fantasy Award nominated author Marie O’Regan, Phantoms: Haunting Tales From Masters of the Genre presents readers with an anthology collection of eighteen ghost stories from a host of writers.
Ghost stories can often be focused on the sinister hauntings that befall families when they move into a new home, or receive some cursed object. Many modern horror films follow these very basic set-ups with varying degrees of success, but whilst this works well for the visual medium something different is often needed for the written word, and Phantoms presents an older form of ghost stories, one where the story is about the person rather than the ghosts.
In many of the stories presented in this collection the haunting takes a back seat for a focus on the human reactions to these extraordinary and often horrifying scenarios. ’20th Century Ghost’ by Joe Hill focuses on the haunting of an old fashioned movie theatre and the obsession that forms for the ageing owner as he desperately wants to encounter the young woman that died there decades before. Instead of ghastly encounters with moviegoers the story tells a tale of unrequited love, and ultimately obsession, that becomes the sole focus of this man’s life.
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In contrast to this, ‘One New Follower’ by Mark A. Nathan manages to be a hugely creepy tale involving murder, cults, mysteries from beyond the grave, and dark isolation that chills the reader from early on. Along with ‘The Adjoining Room’ by A.K. Benedict, which has an otherworldly, almost Hellraiser quality to it, these stories puts their characters through hell in some truly nightmarish scenarios.
One of the boldest stories within the collection has to be ‘A Haunted House Is A Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken’ where the story is presented as a choose your own adventure style book, where the reader gets to choose what happens next and how the tale will unfold. Despite Paul Tremblay appearing to present the reader with a number of choices it actually becomes impossible for the protagonist and the reader to leave the house early, forcing both to go through the the whole house.
Often anthology collections can be a mixed bag of elements, with varying quality, but Phantoms manages to present a broad range of stories, tales of revenge, betrayal, love, and loss, without any of the stories standing out as particularly poor. Marie O’Regan has made some wonderful choices in the stories and writers that she has collected together, giving readers a great range of tales that showcases how versatile and varied ghost stories and horror can be.