Review of Haunted Nights—A Halloween Collection

I’ve got another new Halloween book for you! Haunted Nights, a Horror Writers Association anthology edited by Ellen Datlow and Lisa Morton just came out two weeks ago, on October 3rd. The anthology collects sixteen never-before-published short stories by major authors including Garth Nix, Seanan McGuire, and Kelly Armstrong all revolving around the central theme of Halloween.

Haunted Nights aims to delve deep into Halloween’s roots and then bring the holiday to brand new places. In the book’s introduction, Lisa Morton familiarizes us with the history of Halloween from the Celtic folk traditions to its modern American incarnation. She highlights some of the earliest pieces of literature to mention the holiday and references related holidays that will find their way into some of the stories: the Catholic All Souls’ Day, the Welsh Nos Galan Gaeaf, the Mexican Dias de los Muertos, and the ubiquitous Devil’s Night. As a renowned “Halloween expert,” Lisa Morton does an impressive job of succinctly capturing the soul of the holiday in a four-page intro, in addition to gathering an exquisite collection of stories to suit the theme. However, it was name recognition for the other editor, Ellen Datlow, that initially drew me to Haunted Nights. Datlow is a prolific producer of anthologies who specializes in the horror genre and has put together some of my favorite collections. I knew with her behind the wheel of this project, it had to be good.

The book gets off to a very strong start with one of my favorite tales in the collection: “With Graveyard Weeds and Wolfsbane Seeds” by Seanan McGuire (author of Every Heart a Doorway) is an adorably spooky tale about a little ghost girl in a haunted manor that just wants some friends to play with. The next story to really hit me was “A Small Taste of the Old Country” by Johnathan Maberry, a gleeful revenge-on-Nazis story that was especially satisfying in this current political environment. My absolutely favorite story in the collection was “Wick’s End” by Joanna Parypinski which takes the classic myth of “Stingy Jack” and the origin of the jack-o’-lantern, but gives it a surprise twist ending. A few of the stories toward the middle began to lose my attention, but the final two tales brought things back up to speed. “Lost in the Dark” by John Langan truly immerses you in the story of a horror movie fan who finds out his favorite film may not be entirely fiction. The very last tale, “The First Lunar Halloween” by John R. Little, was perhaps the most original of them all. Set in a distant future where Earth has been destroyed by aliens and only a small outpost of humans have survived beneath the surface of the moon, the story follows a young teacher who wants her class to experience the old Earthen tradition of Halloween. She brings her class up to the surface of the moon for some spooky fun, but things don’t quite go as planned. I wasn’t expecting to run into some sci-fi in this anthology, but it worked surprisingly well.

Check out the book, and let me know what your favorite stories are in the comments. And as always, I’d love to hear your recommendations for what short story collections I should read next.

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