Winter Ghost Stories

I’d normally add both of these library finds to another post about that, but next month the focus will be on the February holiday of red and pink hearts. January is a good month for ghost stories, not as perfect as autumn, but it’s after the bright lights of winter holidays have died and the sky is often gray and the days are short and cold. Those are pretty good ghost story conditions…

I was lucky enough to have the library recommend a horror book that was a Japanese translation, our library has a good selection of those and it was where I found my first Murakami and Natsuo Kirino books. I really enjoy those, and since horror is up my alley, I was so excited to get “The Graveyard Apartment” by  Mariko Koike. The translation is old, it was done I think over twenty years after the novel broke out in Japan, but the feel of the book is still mostly modern.

The main character, Misao and her husband and daughter move into a bargain apartment. It’s beautiful, it’s convenient. It’s overlooking a graveyard and a crematorium…and it’s haunted.


The slow dance of the characters moving into the understanding that the otherworldly danger is real was done very well. Misao and her husband Teppei struggle between financial ruin and bailing on the increasingly menacing living space. They bought the apartment,  but everyone else in the building moves (most rented) and the couple and their young daughter are left alone there.

The everyday life details make this story. Misao is a work-from-home designer, and the nuances of motherhood and attempting that career seem vivid to me. The paranormal stuff slowly creeps in like cracks webbing across a window. If you didn’t have a fear of elevators before reading this, you will by the end. The end is, unfortunately, where I think a lot of people will have some issue. The story is good, but you want more. More details, more why’s and how’s and more on the tragic back story of the main couple. The ending to “The Graveyard Apartment” is sudden and swift, but somehow also very final. It’s not something I see often, but if you enjoy J-horror, it won’t stop you from liking this book. It’s not spectacular or unexpected, it’s a basic ghost tale, but it’s not bad at all.

My second ghost read came off my eldest daughter’s recommended books list. “Took” by  Mary Downing Hahn is a decent ghost tale read for any age, though you’ll find it the right amount of scary for a horror-loving elementary student, with the most frightening creature being an assembly of bones in overalls. It is imaginative and fast-moving and full of the dread you feel just before something goes really wrong.

Money problems force a formerly well-off family to search for cheaper lives away from the city, and under a charm by the local witch, they buy a dilapidated home that has housed rounds and rounds of families who had daughters kidnapped.



My issue here with this was similar to “The Graveyard Apartment”-the ending. The family of the main characters, Daniel and Erica Anderson, is emotionally abusive and neglectful. You get the impression that if everything goes right, things will get better, but after so long of the other kind of parenting that feels unlikely and forced. As long as that doesn’t bother or trigger you into not being able to enjoy the storyline, it’s fine. But, I wish it had been dealt with in another way, and it impacted me negatively.

That said, this still is a grand ghost story and a fast read. Both of these titles make good winter ghost stories to curl up with and read while having a warm cup of coffee or tea.



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