Simple Madness or Something Else?


Today is the day for ghost stories.

At The New Yorker, Brad Leithauser analyzes Henry James’s “The Turn of the Screw,” focusing on the distinction still being puzzled out by readers and scholars alike: were the ghosts real, or was the unnamed governess real crazy? This is the sort of question that keeps stories, ghost stories especially, alive and riveting; we are left to straddle the line between the possible faults of human psychological processes, and our fear of the interference of the supernatural.

“The reader in effect becomes a jury of one. He or she must determine the governess’s guilt or innocence. Whatever judgment we ultimately form of her, the book amply fulfills its pledge, laid down in the first few pages, that nothing can touch it in terms of sheer ‘dreadful—dreadfulness.'”

Here are a few other marvelous tales which will leave you uncertain—best saved for when the trick-or-treaters have all gone home and you’re eager to brave some late-night reading:

Roland Topor’s The Tenant

Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Dan Chaon’s “The Bees”

Rosemary Timperley’s “Harry”

You might have to get up and turn on the light.

Nikita Schoen is an intern at The Rumpus, and a Writing & Literature student at California College of the Arts. She lives in San Francisco. More from this author →