My favorite ghost stories

Text and photo by Nora Vasconcelos

Fear is in the air...
Fear is in the air…

Now that Halloween is around the corner, I’ve been remembering some of the ghost stories I’ve heard while traveling around.

Some of them are quite funny, like the one that talks about an Irish goblin whose spirit likes to go around the London Pubs to drink the customers beers while they’re distracted, or the adventurous stories that are told around the blacksmith shop located on Bourbon street, New Orleans, which it is said housed many of the plots developed by the pirate Jean Lafitte, whose ghost is either present around that city, or navigates the waters if the Gulf of Mexico.

Some others are quite ghostly, like the one that says that a mariner, who died about two centuries ago, shows up once in a while on the deck of the USS Constellation Ship, currently docked at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. According to the legend, this ship is haunted by three ghosts, but this particular mariner, shows himself to the visitors, who think he’s another memeber of the crew until they realize that the mariner is a vanishing apparition.

Other ghost stories I’ve heard come from Mexico. The first one, called in Spanish “La Llorona” (The Weeping Woman), takes place in Mexico city some time after the Spaniards came to this country. According to the story, one day, a woman drown her children out of pain after her man told her he didn’t love her.

Gone crazy out of pain, the woman drowns herself afterwards, but due to her crimes, she’s condemned to dwell between two words, and the legend says that every now and then, the white figure of a woman can be seen floating around the place the kids were drowned while she cries aloud “Ay mis hijos” (“Oh! My Children!”).

The next story also happens in the same time (around the XVII century) and it’s called “La Calle de Don Juan Manuel” (Mr. Juan Manuel Street). This legend tells the story of a man that blinded by jealousy, walks every night around 11 pm and whenever he sees a man getting closer to his wife’s balcony, he asks the man about the time, and when the unfortunate man answers “it’s 11 pm”, Don Juan Manuel tells him “You’re blessed, because you know the exact time when you’re going to die.”

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Halloween reads

Let the Mystery capture your mind.
With the Halloween day getting closer I started to think about what reads would be good to get in the scary and mysterious mood required for the occasion. It was so that I came up with an interesting list of books that I like.

One of my favorite stories ever is the Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson. This story in which Dr Jekyll is the victim of his own experiment and goes wild acting as a complete different person while assuming the personality of Mr. Hyde is one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read. It also has being the base of several TV representations from movies to cartoons, all of them capturing the very essence of the transformation of this dark character that literary suffers of “split personality”.

Another book that’s among my favorites is The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. With its always gracious writing, the Irish Author presents an extraordinary story of a man who never gets older, what nobody suspects is that somewhere hidden in his house there’s a portrait that gets older and uglier by the day. The end of the story is full of intense feelings that remain for a long while after the book is finished.

Also by Oscar Wilde, The Canterville Ghost presents a very humane picture of a suffering spirit that haunts an old chase in England, wishing only one thing, to finally die.

And talking about ghost stories, one that is perfect for the occasion is The Phantom of the Opera by the French author Gaston Leroux. In this story, a man in pain haunts the Opera House in Paris, wishing for one of singers to fall in love with him, taking extreme measures to make her realize how much he loves her. It’s this love, though, what at the end, makes him set her free of the horrors of his obsession.

An author that of course has to be in this list, is the American writer Edgar Allan Poe due to his amazing capacity to describe through his words the deepest fears of the human beings. Although he has several short stories, the one that has remain stuck in my mind is The Pit and Pendulum.

A different kind of style is offered by Agatha Christie, the British writer who developed the fine art of Mystery writing. In her novels like The man in the brown suit, Christie develops the story in a unique way similar to those presents that are kept in a box that is within another box, and this box is set inside of another box, an so on. So, without even noticing it, the story suddenly offers the reader a variety of characters and situations, each one with a life of its own, but that in the end they manage to relate to each other surprisingly well.

And now that the mood is set, the only thing that’s to say is: Happy Halloween!