What if you wrote a ghost story and sent it to a publisher and that publisher decided to buy it and include it in a collection of tales about the supernatural? You’d be excited, right? That’s just what happened to me, and I’m thrilled to announce that “23 Tales: Appalachian Ghost Stories, Legends & Other Mysteries,” released last month by Howling Hills Press in Kingsport, is available here in Cookeville just in time for Halloween.
Of the 23 stories included in the collection, several were written by friends of mine. In “West Virginia Turnpike Hitchhiker” by Chrissie Anderson Peters, we learn of a man who carries a Bible and thumbs rides in the fog. He predicts the future and then suddenly and inexplicably disappears. Patricia Hope tells of her Grandpa’s amazing spiritual connection with honeybees in her story “Wings of Bees.” In “Her Voice from the Ridge,” Sue Weaver Dunlap recounts why a relative gifted with “the sight” agrees to marry her late sister’s husband. “Not Our Exit” by Natalie Kimbell tells of lucky timing along the route of the World’s Longest Yard Sale. And Knoxville realtor Suzy Trotta combines horror with hilarity in “Think You Can Sell a Haunted House?”
The coolest thing about these stories, besides the fact they’re set in Appalachia? They’re all true. You sure can’t say that about most other ghost story collections.
My own story is entitled “A Faint Scent of Shalimar” and is set in Webster Springs, West Virginia. My friend Paula owns a vacation home there. The hundred-year-old house once belonged to her Aunt Welthea Hoover, affectionately known around town as “Aunt Wealthy,” though she wasn’t rich. A group of friends and I have accompanied Paula to that house many times, in spite of—or perhaps because of–the fact that, for several years, Aunt Wealthy’s ghost hung out with us there, too. She knocked bathrobes off bedposts. Caused a huge pillar candle to roll off the dining table. Sat with her father, “The Sheriff,” (also a ghost) on the front porch while he smoked Lucky Strikes. Hid a bottle of wine under a sofa cushion. Made her presence known in an historic schoolhouse.
Most intriguing of all, Aunt Wealthy’s signature scent, “Shalimar,” could be smelled ever so faintly in the upstairs bedroom where she always slept.
When you read my story, you might correctly guess who some of the main characters are, though I didn’t include their last names. All the characters once lived in Cookeville. Many still do. And, yes, one of the story’s primary characters also wears Shalimar perfume. She always gets dibs on Aunt Wealthy’s bedroom when we visit Webster Springs. I’m not making this up. Cross my heart.
So how can you get your hands on a copy of “23 Tales”? One way is to visit our wonderful local bookstore, Plenty on Broad, in Cookeville’s west side shopping area right across the street from Crawdaddy’s. The Putnam County Library will soon have a copy available for check-out. And I tote around a few author copies in the back seat of my car. If you live too far away to make any of those options work, you can order the book directly from howlinghillspublishing.com.
I predict you’ll be intrigued by the cover, shown alongside this column if you’re reading it on Facebook or my website. It pictures two giant eyes staring at a spooky-looking young woman who stands near a forest of evergreen trees. As you might guess, something about that young woman seems not of this world. And one more note: Though most of the stories are suitable for all ages of brave readers, a few (but not mine) contain profanity and/or mild sexual references.
Halloween is only ten days away. Why not get in the mood by curling up with a big bowl of candy corn and losing yourself in these 23 weird but wonderful tales?
(October 21, 2023)