One of the best ways to avoid raking leaves or dealing with the rotted pumpkins on your porch is to curl up on the couch with a good book. This Halloween, some writers have made it easier for you to claim that the reading is timely and simply can’t be put off any longer. So let your neighbors scowl and pull out your scariest tome. Here are some new stories with local connections to get you started:
“Paranormal Petersburg: Virginia and the Tri-Cities Area” (Schiffer) is the most recent release from Richmond’s prolific ghost hunter, Pamela K. Kinney. Part guidebook, part travelogue, “Paranormal” takes readers through Petersburg, Dinwiddie County, Hopewell and Chester in search of haunted spaces.
Kinney makes her footsteps easy to follow, detailing her equipment and methods. She reminds the aspiring ghost hunter to bring extra batteries for recording devices, “as the spirits suck the power out of them to manifest.”
As with her previous two books on Richmond ghosts, Kinney diligently seeks and frequently finds phantoms. Some stories she recounts second-hand, and others she tells as first-person narrative.
A few of the latter conversations will test your credulity. One French ghost proves his Frenchness by saying “oui,” and Kinney helpfully explains to the ghost of a black Confederate soldier that African-Americans are free now.
But whether Kinney’s paranormal investigations leave you with goose bumps or the giggles, the book will certainly inspire some day trips down Interstate 95.
Readers will learn the stories behind the oddly shaped 1817 Trapezium House in Petersburg and a 1685 structure in Colonial Heights, considered the oldest brick house in Virginia. Note that the Swift Creek Mill Theatre stages plays to entertain living guests, too. And Hopewell is full of historical significance and beautiful river views.
“Paranormal Petersburg” is a great addition to your day-trip tote and available at Chop Suey Books and Fountain Bookstore. Kinney will be at Fountain on Oct. 28 to sign copies.
“Mysteries of the Macabre: a Halloween Anthology” (Edward Allen Publishing) is a compilation of spooky stories featuring two Richmond writers, Elvy Howard and Alexa Day.
The collection is more than a year in the making, the idea originating in an online community of women writers called Tea & Strumpets.
Howard’s Halloween story isn’t of ghosts or gore but one of teen angst that builds slowly to an unnerving conclusion. The Midlothian writer of women’s fiction calls writing a spooky story “a real challenge” but one she enjoyed.
She’s putting the finishing touches on a book whose title is too good not to mention: “Lady Guadalupe of the Sno-Kone Hut.”
Day’s story in the anthology bills itself as “erotic paranormal romance” and comes with a warning of explicit sexual content. Day answers important Halloween questions such as: What is sex with a ghost like?
The South Side author says she enjoys Halloween themes because they allow her to explore the darker aspects of her characters.
“I like writing characters that might have one public identity and a very different version of themselves that they keep under wraps,” she writes.
“Mysteries of the Macabre” is available online.
Finally, there’s “nEvermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery and the Macabre” (Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing), an anthology of short stories inspired by Edgar Allan Poe released earlier this month.
Poe is the unofficial author of Halloween. He died in October 1849 under mysterious circumstances, and mastered the art of suspenseful, disquieting prose. As Poe’s childhood home, Richmond should take credit for inspiring some of that morbid outlook.
His oeuvre, in turn, has inspired generations of writers, including Canadians Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles, who edited the anthology of horror, suspense, mystery and goth.
One gem is a short story written by renowned novelist and poet Margaret Atwood at 16. In the introduction she describes her adolescent affinity for Poe, and, of her story, she writes: “’The Eye of Heaven’ might not be very good, though it’s good enough for a 16-year-old.”
All of the assembled stories are worth a read and replete with ravens, haunted houses and pagan cults. If you’re tired of reading and rereading “The Tell-Tale Heart” at Halloween, this is the book for you.
The Poe Museum gift shop carries “nEvermore.”
Speaking of Halloween’s most inspirational author, the museum will stage one of Poe’s short stories, “The Cask of Amontillado,” on Oct. 30 and Nov. 1.
First published in 1846, “Cask” is considered a classic of the genre. The garden behind the museum will serve as a stage, and visitors will experience the story through actors, dancers and interpreters.
It will be “an immersive theater experience, like a museum exhibit come alive,” says Matt Treacy of the production company Free Jambalaya. Tickets cost $10-$15.