I am obsessed with short story anthologies on anything spooky; they take up 70% of my book collection (I’m guessing). One of these days I will share my favorite anthologies of ghost stories, but that is a challenge. I’m going to get more specified for now.
I have been trying to seek out anthologies with very specific themes, because so many of my anthologies were overlapping in content. I probably have 10 anthologies with M.R. James’s story “Lost Hearts,” for example. Below are three that I have enjoyed.
Please note: I shared Amazon links so you could learn more about the books, but I always recommend supporting small business!
The Haunted Dolls (Selected by Seon Manley & Gogo Lewis, 1980)
This book is rare and I probably paid too much for it, but I loved it. This 318-page anthology has an introduction for each story with interesting historical tidbits about dolls and their folklore. There are also fun illustrations sprinkled throughout the book.
In some stories, dolls are terrorized by their human owners. In other stories, the dolls cause havoc in their homes. This book will not cause sleepless nights, but that does not mean the stories are not haunting. I thought the entire book was an interesting look at the intimate relationship between humans and dolls and the anguish dolls must feel when left behind.
Favorite Story in the Book:A tie. “Feathertop” by Nathaniel Hawthorne & “The Doll” by Terry Tapp
Lighthouse Horrors (Selected by Charles G. Waugh, Martin Harry Greenberg, and Jenny-Lynn Azarian, 1993)
Stories by: Rudyard Kipling, Henry Van Dyke, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Allan Poe…
This 256-page anthology starts with a short introduction on lighthouses and the four basic variations of horror stories. Each story opens with a short biography on the author along with some contextual information on the story. Overall, I like the psychological elements of these stories. I think that much solitude could make anyone mad.
One story worth mentioning is Edgar Allan Poe’s unfinished “The Light-House,” which is finished by American fiction writer Robert Bloch.
Favorite Story in the Book: “The Fog Horn” by Ray Bradbury
Into the Mummy’s Tomb (Selected by John Richard Stephens, 2001)
Stories by: Ann Rice, Bram Stoker, H.P. Lovecraft, Tennessee Williams, Agatha Christie, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Allan Poe, Elizabeth Peters…
First off, this anthology has a substantial introduction about mummies. My favorite part is the long list of people affected by the curse of King Tut.
Second off, this 368-page anthology has a variety of genres (mystery, horror, travel lit, etc.) and, along with famous authors, perspectives from Egyptologists, archeologists, and even an ancient Egyptian priest.
Y’all. I started this book with a whatever perspective on mummies and finished it wanting to get my hands on any literature on the subject.
Favorite Story in the Book: “Lost in a Pyramid, or The Mummy’s Curse” by Louisa May Alcott
Haunted dolls have always been my greatest fear, which I blame on being introduced to the movie Chucky far too early in my youth. This fear grew when my dad told me of the scary nightmares (or not?) he had of his teddy bear flying around the ceiling at night. A devoted X-Files fan, I only missed one episode when it was on TV: “Chinga” (but I sat through “Home” fine). Co-written by Stephen King, the episode followed Scully as she tried to solve the case of people inflicting wounds on themselves in the presence of a doll. Side note: I finally faced my fears and watched it, and it wasn’t so scary and a fun Monster-of-the-Week episode.
I am not alone in my fear of dolls, Zak Bagans of Ghost Adventures also shares the fear. I feel much less wimpy knowing that a buff guy who locks himself in abandoned mental institutions (at night) is also afraid of dolls.
Speaking of Ghost Adventures, on one episode they visited Isla de las Munecas or “The Island of The Dolls” located in a floating garden of Xochimilco, Mexico. Story goes that a man, Julián Santana Barrera, was very distraught he could not save a drowning girl. Later, he found a doll floating in the same spot of the young girl’s drowning. He hung the doll in a tree to show respect, but began to hear whispers and women screaming. To appease the angry spirit, he began to collect broken dolls and parts and hang them in trees. The island is covered with creepy dolls and is now a spooky/quirky tourist attraction.
Now, I’m not going to go to The Island of the Dolls to face my fear, so I instead immersed myself in all things haunted dolls. Dolls to the wall, if you will.
The doll, once owned by artist Robert Eugene Otto (family called him Gene), is allegedly possessed by spirits. This story takes place in Key West, Florida.
Gene was given the doll by a Bahamian servant that practiced voodoo and was upset with the family. The 40-inch tall doll was a young boy wearing a sailor costume (also seen holding a teddy bear).
As a young boy, Gene would shout at night. His parents would enter his room and find furniture moved. These types of pranks would happen often and Gene would say, “I didn’t do it. Robert did it.” The family claimed that they could see, in the corner of their eye, glimpses of Robert running around. Neighbors, too, claimed to see Robert moving back and forth through a window.
Gene grew up, became an established artist, and inherited his parents’ house. Robert stayed close to his side, even through adulthood. Gene’s wife, frightened of the doll, was rumored to have died of insanity after locking Robert in the attic. Supposedly, Gene died with Robert at his side. Legend also says:
Robert supposedly attacked people, sometimes locking them in the attic. People who passed by claimed to hear evil laughter coming from the Turret Room. For some time, Robert remained in the empty house by himself until a new family purchased the mansion and restored it. The doll was once again moved to the attic. This pleased it as much as the last time. The doll was often found throughout the house. On one certain night, Robert was found at the foot of the owners’ bed giggling with a kitchen knife in hand. This was enough to send them fleeing from the home.(From Creepypasta Wiki)
You can visit Robert at the Fort East Martello Museum in Key West, Florida. Be careful taking pictures of this doll. He allegedly places curses on those who do. The walls near the glass case he now lives in are covered with letters asking Robert for his forgiveness, requesting he remove the hex he has placed.
Annabelle is a haunted rag doll that inspired the films The Conjuring and Annabelle. The case was also taken up by famous paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren. She also inspired me to freak the hell out. So, in the 1970s, a mother purchased a doll at a second-hand store for her daughter’s 28th birthday. Her daughter (Donna) was a college student who lived with a roommate (Angie) in an apartment. Both women began to notice this doll was strange.
The doll would slightly change positions during the day and would sometimes be found in different locations of the home. The girls also found notes throughout their apartment. These notes were written with pencil on parchment paper, both materials they didn’t have in their apartment. These notes would read “Help Us” in the handwriting of a small child.
One night, Donna came home to find blood on Annabelle’s hands and chest. She contacted a medium at this point. During a seance with the medium, it was revealed that a spirit named Annabelle Higgins inhabited the doll. They learned Annabelle was a 7-year-old girl that had died on the property and that her spirit entered the doll because she felt comfortable with Donna and Angie. Donna and Angie said she could stay.
Annabelle didn’t chill out, though, and began to take it out on their friend, Lou. Poor Lou:
Donna and Angie’s friend Lou was reportedly attacked by Annabelle on several occasions. After expressing his distaste for the “evil” doll, he awoke one night to find her “slowly gilding up his leg” before moving onto his chest and “strangling” him. Lou, who at first believed the ordeal was a bad dream, claims to have blacked out from the strangulation. The next day, Lou entered his friend’s apartment only to hear strange noises coming from Donna’s room. While searching the home for a possible break in, he felt a presence behind him and was soon after cut and left with “7 distinct claw marks” on his chest. The scratches, despite causing him to double over in pain, healed almost immediately. Lou’s injuries caused Donna to finally believe in the doll’s evil nature. After contacting a priest to help her with the matter, Donna was later directed to speak with the Warrens. (From IBT)
The Warrens entered the scene and informed Donna and Angie that this doll was not possessed but most likely manipulated by an inhuman spirit. This spirit, they warned, wanted to take over a human body. Oh, great. The Warrens had the apartment exorcised and took the doll with them, which must have been a fun car drive.
The Warrens said weird behavior continued with Annabelle in their care, including levitation. Annabelle may have been responsible for deaths, too:
A priest who visited the Warren’s home and insulted Annabelle, telling her “you can’t hurt anyone,” was reportedly involved in a near-fatal car crash after the visit. Two of the Occult museum visitors, a couple, reportedly crashed their motorcycle after poking fun at the doll’s abilities. The man, said to have slammed on Annabelle’s case, died instantly after crashing into a tree in route home from the museum. His girlfriend survived but was hospitalized for a year after the crash. (From IBT)
The doll now lives at the Warren Occult Museum in Monroe, Connecticut if you ever wanna kick it with a demon doll.
For more information, visit the Warren’s New England Society for Psychic Research website. As a warning, the site automatically plays a recording of a child singing, which wasn’t a fun surprise for me.