Today The Roanoke Times published my short story “The Helping Hand,” a ghostly yarn meant to help folks get into the Halloweeen spirit. I’m honored that my colleagues in the Features Department gave me a chance to exercise my fiction-writing chops for the paper.
This is the second time I’ve gotten to do this. The first time was in 2004, when I wrote a Christmas story with a sci-fi twist called “A Ghost of Christmas Future.” Obviously ghosts are a thing with me.
I thought I might add a couple of notes for the few who might be curious about how “The Helping Hand” came about.
First, it’s completely my invention. The device of telling a fantastic tale as if it were a story relayed to the narrator by an acquaintance goes way, way back. In particular I had the English ghost story writer M.R. James in mind — many of his creepy stories begin this way. “Berenice,” the friend in my story, doesn’t exist. The name, by the way, is a reference to a short story by Edgar Allan Poe.
There is a local yarn about a haunted elevator, but the elevator in question is located in a hotel, not on a college campus. The story “Berenice” tells is based on an idea of my own, gleaned from a common horror movie technique — the sight of something moving that’s out of focus. For example, there’s an effective scene in the otherwise silly remake of “The Mummy” starring Brendan Fraser, when a man loses his glasses and so, when the mummy walks up on him, all he can see is a man-shaped blur until the mummy gets really, really close.
At any rate, I hope you enjoyed my wee bit of Halloween fun. Feel free to share ghost stories of your own!