The Top Five: Spooky Halloween Edition

What’s better in October than going to a haunted house, dressing up for Halloween, and eating lots of candy? Reading spooky stories! Below, we’ve picked out the Top Five bone-chilling books to read and share:

Tales of Kentucky Ghosts by William Lynwood Montell

A good ghost story can make your hair stand on end, your palms sweat, and your heart race. Tales of Kentucky Ghosts presents more than 250 stories that do just that and more. In his new book, William Lynwood Montell has assembled an entertaining and diverse array of tales from across the commonwealth that will have you checking under the bed every night.

The first-person accounts in this collection showcase folklore that Montell has drawn from archives, family stories, and oral traditions throughout Kentucky. The stories include that of the ghost bride of Laurel County, who appears each year on the anniversary of her wedding day; the murdered worker who haunts the Simpson County home of his killer and former employer; and the lost mandolin that plays itself in a house in Graves County. These and many other chilling stories haunt the pages of Tales of Kentucky Ghosts.

In the tradition of Montell’s previous Kentucky ghost books (Ghosts across Kentucky and Haunted Houses and Family Ghosts of Kentucky), Tales of Kentucky Ghosts brings together a variety of narratives that not only entertain and frighten but also serve as a unique record of Kentucky’s rich heritage of storytelling.

Reviews:

“Montell vividly recreates the context of storytelling in Kentucky in times past. This evocation of the rich folk history of the region is the special strength and magic his work offers to readers: the sense that their own tales, ways, and beliefs are part of a valuable legacy that deserves respect and honor. This is a matter about which Montell is passionate, and his passion shines through.” -Margaret Read MacDonald, author of Ten Traditional Tellers

Roberta and Lonnie E. Brown, $24.95

Spookiest Stories Ever: Four Seasons of Kentucky Ghosts by Roberta and Lonnie E. Brown

If tree branches scratching at your window on a stormy April night put fear into your heart, or rustling November leaves and the chill that sneaks into your bones during the dark days of winter make you quiver with anxiety, then reading spooky thrillers shouldn’t wait until October.

From master storytelling duo Roberta and Lonnie Brown comes Spookiest Stories Ever: Four Seasons of Kentucky Ghosts, a creepy collection of tales from their home state. Featuring familiar Kentucky landmarks such as the Palace Theater, the Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, and Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, these accounts from across the commonwealth are sure to tingle the reader’s spine. These notable stories, including tales of the “chime child” who can see and talk to ghosts, graveside appearances, and the Spurlington Witch of Taylor County, occur year-round and come from every corner of Kentucky. An essential part of the American storytelling tradition, these ghost stories will delight readers who love getting goose bumps all year long.

Reviews:

“Through the talented, kindhearted narrators of these stories, readers of this book become part of Kentucky’s storytelling community and participate in this state’s rich traditional heritage. Readers are sure to find this book both meaningful and enjoyable.” -from the foreword by Elizabeth Tucker, author of Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses

James McCormick and Macy Wyatt, $19.95

Ghosts of the Bluegrass by James McCormick and Macy Wyatt

Foreword by William Lynwood Montell

In Ghosts of the Bluegrass, James McCormick and Macy Wyatt present stories of Kentucky ghosts past and present. Some of the tales are set in rural areas, but many take place in urban areas such as the haunted house on Broadway in downtown Lexington and in buildings on the University of Kentucky campus, where Adolph Rupp is said to have conversed with the deceased biology professor Dr. Funkhouser. This volume contains chapters on haunted places, poltergeists, communication with the dead, and ghosts who linger to resolve unfinished business from their past lives, as well as a chapter about ghosts who reveal themselves through lights, changes in temperature, or sound. The book even features a chilling account by a nineteenth-century family haunted in their Breckinridge County home.

Whether witnesses believe that a spirit has come to protect those it left behind or to complete an unfinished task, ghostly appearances remain a mystery. As McCormick and Wyatt point out, there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to the supernatural. One thing is certain: these tales will bring pleasure and perhaps a goose bump or two to the reader interested in ghost stories and folklore in the Kentucky tradition.

Reviews:

“I felt like I was there sitting down with some of the area’s best storytellers, hearing authentic stories. McCormick and Wyatt have done a tremendous service to current readers and to future generations by preserving this important part of our heritage.”-Roberta Simpson Brown, Author of The Walking Trees and Other Scary Stories and The Queen of the Cold-Blooded Tales

“Ghosts of the Bluegrass is a treasure trove of stories from Kentuckians.”-Heather Chapman, Lexington Herald-Leader

William Lynwood Montell, $17.00

Ghosts Across Kentucky by William Lynwood Montell

Lynwood Montell has collected ghost tales all over the state of Kentucky, from coal mining settlements to river landings, from highways to battlefields. He presents these suspense-filled stories just as he first heard or read them: as bona fide personal experiences or as events witnessed by family members or friends.

There are over 250 stories in Ghosts across Kentucky that are set in specific places and times. They include tales of graveyards, haunted dormitories, animal ghosts, and vanishing hitchhikers. Montell describes weird lights, unexplained sounds, felt presences, and disappearing apparitions. Phantom workmen, fallen soldiers, young lovers, and executed criminals appear in these pages, along with the living who chance upon them.

Though the focus is on the stories themselves, Montell also includes a chapter explaining our fascination with the supernatural and the deep truths these storytelling traditions reveal about our lives and our pasts.

Reviews:

“280 stories from across the Bluegrass State…reports of phantom workmen, fallen soldiers, young lovers and executed criminals as well as tales of graveyards, haunted dormitories and vanishing hitchhikers.”-Publishers Weekly

“Guaranteed to chill the bones of even the most skeptical, or at least tickle them.”-Kentucky Monthly

“Next time the wind starts to blow, turn off the lights and the television, gather the kids around the fireplace and read these stories aloud.”-Lexington Herald-Leader

“For those who love the unreal and revel in a good scare, this is the ideal bedside table book. . . . It’s positively spooky.”-Louisville Courier-Journal

“Offers a valuable glimpse of rural society in an era when storytelling was a vital part of daily life.”-Cincinnati Enquirer

William Lynwood Montell, $24.95

Tales from Kentucky Funeral Homes by William Lynwood Montell

In Tales from Kentucky Funeral Homes, William Lynwood Montell has collected stories and reminiscences from funeral home directors and embalmers across the state. These accounts provide a record of the business of death as it has been practiced in Kentucky over the past fifty years. The collection ranges from tales of old-time burial practices, to stories about funeral customs unique to the African American community, to tales of premonitions, mistakes, and even humorous occurrences. Other stories involve such unusual aspects of the business as snake-handling funerals, mistaken identities, and in-home embalming. Taken together, these firsthand narratives preserve an important aspect of Kentucky social life not likely to be collected elsewhere.

Most of these funeral home stories involve the recent history of Kentucky funeral practices, but some descriptive accounts go back to the era when funeral directors used horse-drawn wagons to reach secluded areas. These accounts, including stories about fainting relatives, long-winded preachers, and pallbearers falling into graves, provide significant insights into the pivotal role morticians have played in local life and culture over the years.

Reviews:

“A fascinating read. . . . Some of the stories are thoughtful explanations of past funeral customs and ruminations on the needs of grieving, but many are also funny.”-Heather Chapman, Lexington-Herald Leader

“In Tales from Kentucky Funeral Homes, his edited anecdotes preserve many of those traditions for readers interested in commonwealth customs related to passing on.”-Courier-Journal

“It is a unique firsthand record of this history and culture of death in Kentucky relay nearly word-for-word to preserve the language, style and emotion used by the people involved in the ears of horse-drawn hearses and in-home embalming to what we find today in funeral practices.”-Hardin Company Historical Society

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About University Press of Kentucky

The University Press of Kentucky has a dual mission—the publication of books of high scholarly merit in a variety of fields for a largely academic audience and the publication of books about the history and culture of Kentucky, the Ohio Valley region, the Upper South, and Appalachia. The Press is the statewide mandated nonprofit scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, operated as an agency of the University of Kentucky and serving all state institutions of higher learning, plus five private colleges and Kentucky's two major historical societies.

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