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Halloween Musings

M.R. James, “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad.” Illustration by James McBryde. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Halloween is upon us.

Although the pandemic prevents many of us from celebrating the holiday in a traditional fashion, we still might enjoy the crisp autumn air, the growing nighttime shadows, and the nagging belief that spirits stir from the grave.

Normally, I would spend this evening with friends and their young children, handing out candy, and talking about favorite horror films and stories. Not this year. There won’t be any trick-or-treaters. At best, one or two friends might visit with my wife and me in our backyard.

Nevertheless, I’m still celebrating Halloween from the safe confines of my home with books and entertainment. Here is what I’ve been scaring myself with:

  1. M.R. James is regularly considered to be the best practitioner of the English ghost story. I’ve been reading a story or two of his each night over the past week. Fun fact: H. P. Lovecraft first read James’s work while doing research at the New York Public Library on 42nd Street.
  2. The Haunting of Bly Manor: I’m half-way through this atmospheric and genuinely creepy Netflix adaptation of Henry James’s Turn of the Screw.
  3. Artwork depicting the ghostly and mysterious in the New York Public Library’s Digital Collections. You could lose days searching through this treasure trove.

Stay safe this Halloween, and I hope that you’ll share your own holiday favorites.

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