When I first saw the cover for Hauntings: An Anthology from Hic Dragones, I was confident I had a winner. Subtle and elegant, it’s an excellent introduction to the collection of stories within. Editor Hannah Kate focused on a theme that had the potential to be narrow and confining, but the quality of the writing instead redefines our notion of what “haunted” really means.
The opening story, “The Conch” by Rachel Halsall, sets the stage quite well for the rest of the anthology. Devoid of horror ‘hauntings’ tropes, Halsall instead presents a disturbing tale of souls lost at sea, and the nightmarish prospect of their return. Brandy Schillace’s “Ghost Pine Lake,” with its hints of noir, gives us 1920s gangsters and something even more sinister than a Tommy Gun lurking in the dark depths of a seemingly tranquil fishing spot. “The Man in the Blue Boots” by James Everington is a disturbing tale of a forest, a child’s perspective, and the horror in learning that children are not always living in a fantasy world. David Webb’s “A Handful of Dust” features a traditional ghostly haunting, but he gives his tale plenty of unique twists. In Patrick Lacey’s “First Bell,” we experience the aftermath of a school shooting from a very different, and quite creepy, point of view. Tracy Fahey’s “Ghost Estate: Phase II” seems like a classic haunted house story, but Fahey’s creative spin gives us a new take on a traditional horror narrative.
There are twenty-one stories in all, and only a few missed the mark for me. Those are excellent odds when divergent authors are gathered together under a common theme. An arrogant teacher who leaves a disturbing legacy, YouTube videos that refuse to let someone die, a séance in which all is not what it seems, ancient legends, and more fill the pages of Hauntings: An Anthology. This collection is the perfect way to ring in the Halloween season. Highly recommended.