I want this to be a platform for EVERYONE within the horror community; authors, publishers, bloggers, reviewers, actors, directors, artists. I could go on, if you work in the genre then you are more than welcome to apply for the job.
The rules are quite simple…
You are invited to imagine yourselves as warden for an old graveyard, and choose eight books, preferably horror/dark genre, to take with you to cover your shift; here you can discuss why you chose the books.
As well as the books, wardens are allowed one song/album to listen to. Again, an explanation for this choice is required.
You must also discuss one luxury item you can bring, which must be inanimate and not allow communication.
If you’d like to take part in The Graveyard Shift then please submit an application to email@example.com
A new shift is about to begin. The warden for the week’s #GraveyardShift is…
Graveyards for me have always been places of reflection, melancholy and mystery. Ancient, abandoned graveyards hold a particularly special place. The weight of history they carry, and a strange sense of loneliness, yet resignation to fate makes you want to cradle their contents and dwell in the sacred for a while.
The rows of headstones, once beautiful now gone to ruin force you to confront your mortality, the meaning of life, the fragility of the human body and what comes after. What your legacy may be.
It is a ripe atmosphere for continuing to explore the following texts which have given me experiences, ponderings, and growth as a creative and a human being.
Curious Warnings – The Great Ghost Stories of M.R James (edited by Stephen Jones, illustrations by Les Edwards).
I stumbled upon the name, Montague Rhodes James, many moons ago while reading Howard Phillip Lovecraft’s essay ‘Supernatural Horror in Literature’. After that fateful day, I purchased many collections and audiobooks of his works, created dolls based on his characters and a roleplaying game, I even named a pet fish after him.
It’s the very English characters, and locations, the sense of unease, the moments of sudden stark terror, the horror in the mundane and the terrible events that occur in broad daylight, that I find so enticing. Along with that, there’s also the touch of humour, humanity and empathy that is provoked.
James’ ghost stories are infinitely re-readable, with a story that suits many different moods and seasons.
Despite being originally designed to be spoken aloud to an audience, their written form still holds true to his Christmas Eve live storytelling. The conversational style is intimate and makes you feel less alone, if you are indeed on your own, in a chilling way.
The tales linger long after they have finished, and leave you pondering the ultimate fate of the protagonist or someone they know regardless of whether they are living or dead, the supernatural has altered the course of their fate. How curiosity can indeed kill or permanently damage the cat.
This collection, in particular, is my favorite, as it is visually appealing, beautiful colour and texture, good weight and with amazing illustrations.
This book is a lively, engaging and fitting warning to anyone who tends to the dead and their history and for those who love pleasurable chills.
The Night Land (and The Casebook of Carnaki, the Ghost Finder) By William Hope Hodgson
It is impossible for me to include William Hope Hodgson with just one of his books – his brilliance must be acknowledged by the two books I have re-read multiple times.
The Night Land is an epic piece of dark fantasy, that despite its incredible length and breadth of vision, held me captive from start to finish.
The psychological stamina of its protagonist against the most terrifying of cosmic horror and apocalyptic landscapes is inspiring. The menagerie of fantastical beasts, creatures and monsters deserves its own Dungeons and Dragon’s style Monster Manual (which I admit, I did attempt to do myself).
The story is a daily treat, not to be consumed in one sitting. I love discovering it piece by piece, setting aside time each day to return to its universe to see what new horrors or triumph awaits the characters.
For all it’s darkness, it is at the heart uplifting and beautiful, and leaves you wanting more – despite its high level of detail, it leaves many questions and is ultimately a snapshot of a much larger story which stays with you.
The Casebook of Carnacki, The Ghost Finder
I have a great love of Supernatural Detective stories, and Carnacki with his dry wit, courage, imaginative equipment and odd expertise is one of the best.
It is a shame that there are not more stories as the cases that the detective takes on are incredibly unique, with astounding visuals described, especially in ‘The Whistling Room’.
Each story is written with an intimacy that makes you feel as if you are part of Carnacki’s special circle of listeners. There is a wonderfully articulated atmosphere of mystery, of the gothic with a dash of humour – they are creepy but charming tales, a lighter horror read, which can be consumed in a sitting or read individually – either way they are extremely enjoyable and entertaining.
The abrupt endings add to the strange air, and are amusing in and of themselves, a large part of the eccentric and addictive charisma of Carnacki and are quite often one of the most remarked about aspects of the stories.
The amusing level-headedness and practicality of Carnacki does not detract from those moments where true terrors abound, and if anything adds to the tension, a delicate balancing act that Hodgson does well. You want to know what would unseat such a tough personality – what would make Carnacki truly afraid and defeated?! He is a character that you get quickly invested in – I have from time to time read other books and inserted Carnacki into the situation!
Tales of the Unexpected By Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl is one of the rare authors where I became obsessed with both his youth and adult stories. Having said this his children’s books always had an edge to them, especially my favorite, The Witches, so it was quite easy to slip into his adult works as I grew older.
Tales of the Unexpected collects works that are both real and unreal, with a perfect dark sense of humour and who definitely explore the idea of revenge in weird playful ways.
His female protagonists are simply amazing, as a young woman reading these stories for the first time, I was astounded at how women were portrayed in a vibrant manner, if a bit maniacal, browbeaten, or strange – it was new in horror to me. Notably ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ and ‘William and Mary’ stand out in my mind, and get the most re-reads from me.
The absurdity of some of the situations, no matter how macabre, is so intriguing and many leave you hanging at the end, to guess what fallout ultimately occurs. They stay in your mind.
The hints at even darker events and truths are so striking they give you the best kind of goosebumps!
Despite how comical the characters may seem, there is a character study here of sorts to my mind, the things that people do that seem so extreme given the circumstances is not all that rare. The fact that at least one of the stories is based on an anecdote supports that and makes you really think about what really lies within each tale. Roald Dahl in all of his books created magical character studies that have always inspired me.
The Lottery and other stories By Shirley Jackson
Unease, mystery, an underlying truth within the fiction has always been my favorite kind of stories – satire, observation, commentary with a sharp sense of wit and an unforgettable unease. Shirley Jackson embodies all of this and this collection is such a great example and inspiring to short story writers.
Re-reads are not only something you want to do but in a way necessary to peel back all the layers of the many different nightmares on the page.
Jackson’s exploration of what lies beneath – the everyday horrors, casual cruelties, pervasive unkindnesses is universal and always relevant and reflective for any age.
It is not always comfortable reading, and it is still so fresh and electric due to that very fact.
I have always felt a kinship with Jackson’s view of humanity, the insanity, the attachment to outmoded ideals and rituals, how we entrap ourselves in mundanity and the extreme ways we try to escape it. For me there is hope by these darker parts of life being out in the open to be acknowledged and confronted.
The controversy that ‘The Lottery’ created, whilst a terrible thing for an author to go through, showed how powerful the written word can be, and how people fear facing themselves in the mirror as they make not like what they see. We need these stories to waken people to what we do in the shadows.
Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense By Joyce Carol Oates
I love to be challenged by what I read, to unfurl the potential meanings, themes and symbolism, even in stories that confuse and frustrate me.
Oates’ short stories consistently manage to puzzle me, and at times even make me annoyed as I attempt to see through to the heart of what is being written.
I have read much of her work, but Night-Gaunts takes the top place, mostly as it was my first. The cover photograph, a take on a painting that inspires one of the stories enticed me to give it a try. Like Shirley Jackson, the horror is steeped in reality; a dreamlike, oppressive, mundane reality of our own creation, yet Oates’ stories feel a lot more intimate and personal.
The way she tells the tales, the way you live within the minds of characters, who often are unreliable narrators to a degree, giving you a narrow world view that creates unique claustrophobia and makes the reading experience very intense. It is primal psychology she explores, often through women as willing or unwilling victims.
This style is not always intuitive and is the source of annoyance at times, but this also is what propels me to her work – even what could be considered missteps feels deliberate, and reading her work feels like switching your brain to a new way of perception, and inspiration as a writer as to how you express.
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters By Emil Ferris
This is a true powerhouse of art, that your eyes and brain can feast upon and be sated.
Whenever people dismiss comics/graphic novels as a mature form of storytelling, I introduce this book to them.
The art is complex, detailed, vibrant – the overall presentation of the book being a notebook adds to the atmosphere. Each page is used to full effect, the images telling as much of the story as the words. The use of colour, sparingly in some pages, awash on others is extremely striking. The graphics sweep you in completely to the universe unfolding in the story.
An epic tale is told from the perspective of an intriguing young protagonist, with her own struggles, and the way she takes in and tells other’s stories through her observations is heartbreakingly beautiful. It is a child’s perspective on a very dark slice of an adult world.
This book is a perfect storm of words and illustrations, set in a fascinating time period, in a fascinating city with unforgettable characters.
Uzumaki By Junji Ito
Ito has a wonderful ability to meld so many different subtypes of horror into his graphic novels or illustrated short stories collections – their scope is always awe-inspiring.
As much as I adore his short stories, Uzumaki (the Spiral), is my first Ito book, and its length as a graphic novel and depth of vision has had the biggest impact on me.
Ito’s illustrative work in this is so beautifully grotesque and detailed – it has inspired me to create sculptures in the past using the distinctive style. There are so many iconic images that stand out and have become part of horror popular culture. They burn into your brain with the special intensity that body horror and existential terror produces. From vast landscapes to intimate moments of violence, you are given unforgettable visual treats.
The mind-blowing apocalypse, that slowly, insidiously creeps into the peaceful life of a coastal town makes for a story that is also melancholy for all of its gut turning visceral events. The abnormality of the battle fought makes the struggle of the characters more innately human and sympathetic somehow – no matter how weird the situation, the characters reactions and actions are familiar, regrettably so.
This book burns through you, it is an experience, not just a read, and the dread stays with you. It is one of the rare truly intense horror literature nightmares.
A Boy Named Charlie Brown Soundtrack By Vince Guaraldi Trio
Apart from the fact that I am a lifelong Peanuts fan – my budgies are all named after characters, and my dog is named Schulz after the creator, I adore the soundtracks to the movies and holiday specials.
I love piano music/jazz, and I find this soundtrack has music for all sorts of moods – whether you are outside toiling, pulling weeds, righting headstones, or inside your warden’s cottage, relaxing after a hard day’s work – there are energetic pieces, or melancholic thoughtful pieces.
A pot of Rosemary
A pot of Rosemary I believe is one of the best luxuries to have by your side. Its many uses make it a great companion – added flavor to cooking, a pleasant odor to chase out unpleasant smells, and stroking it with your hands produces oil that is soothing and calming and refreshes the spirit. And of course its symbolism is remembrance.
There’s A Shoggoth In My Bath
An Eldritch Bathroom Tale!
There’s a Shoggoth in my Bath is a full-colour picture book tribute to the strange influences that works of literature and their creators can have on readers – in this instance the cosmic horror of Howard Phillips Lovecraft.
It features an original tale and mixed media art by Elizabeth Wilson, writer/artist of Mulberry Manor.
Elizabeth Wilson is an artist and writer from South East Melbourne, Australia. Her work is inspired by the horror in everyday life, the power and beauty of the natural world and childhood nostalgia. She makes mixed media art from dolls to wall hangings, some of which have their own little stories, and is an author of four zines, and a gothic art book called ‘Mulberry Manor’ which is due to be released in early 2020.
She wishes to thank her art doll model, Annabel Lee for being such a good sport in helping her with this article.