When I was a little kid, I loved spooky stories. I'd get these cheap collections from my Scholastic book order, books with pulpy paper and blurry photos on the covers, stories about aliens and ghosts and supernatural phenomena. I'd read them late at night and be too scared to turn my light off.
I wish I still had some of those books. I'm sure the writing is as cheesy as it gets. I eventually graduated to Stephen King, and then mostly off supernatural altogether, except for the occasional magical realism book.
But then last year I stumbled across a series on, of all things, the Weather Channel called American Supernatural. It's a series that looks at supernatural tales and legends from the perspective of the role played by weather. The series reminded me of those old books--the production values and acting are totally cheesy, the story lines laughable. And yet, it was hugely entertaining (at least to me).
One of the fun things about the series is the occasional appearance by experts in folklore, like Marcus LiBrizzi, an instructor at the University of Maine who collects and studies folk tales from around the world. Doing a little digging, I found he'd written a book called Dark Woods, Chill Waters, a collection of supernatural tales and legends from Down East, Maine.
Such a fun book for a former supernatural junkie like me! But part of what's fun is the lack of cheesiness. This is much better written than many regional collections of ghost stories (I've read enough to know), and LiBrizzi provides a lot of context for the stories--what was happening in the area historically, economically, psycho-socially, etc. So it's not just a collection of well-written tales, but a history of the area.
It's a short (140 pages) read, with tales veering from almost sweet to terrifying (how about a ghost confronting a young mother and demanding she make a Sophie's Choice-type decision?). I read it, got a few goosebumps, and finished it wishing I could find more books like this--readable and fun, but with more context and good writing.