Ghost Stories for Nonbelievers
“Fear is a condiment, like Cayenne pepper; a little is an excellent relish.”
This is an edition of The Wonder Reader, a newsletter in which our editors recommend a set of stories to spark your curiosity and fill you with delight. Sign up here to get it every Saturday morning.
In December of 1908, the writer and Presbyterian minister Frank Crane published an article in The Atlantic called “Ghosts.” In it, he explains that as you grow up, the good ghosts die young, and the bad ones live on.
Crane’s bad ghosts are metaphors: He’s lamenting the lingering shadow of ideas, politics, and even fashion—he really hates tall hats—of decades past. But the good ghosts he yearns for are indeed specters—of a sort: “The kindly fee-faw-fums of childhood, how many delicious shivers we owe them; the Things that stood behind floors … that lurked in closet corners and under the bed … we miss them, for fear is a condiment, like Cayenne pepper; a little is an excellent relish.”
I couldn’t agree more. So for the first edition of The Wonder Reader, I’ve scoured The Atlantic for the very best things to read about those visitors who inspire a delicious shiver—and sometimes even help us see the world differently.
By Benjamin Mitchell-Yellin
You can believe in the story without believing in the ghost.
The Broken Technology of Ghost Hunting
By Colin Dickey
Spirit-tracking tools work the opposite of most consumer electronics—the more glitches, the better.
Eight Ghost Stories in Which the Dead Won’t Go Quietly
By Colin Dickey
Books about ghostly visitors—comedic and frightening, welcome and unwelcome—that will cling to you long after you’ve put them down
- Where science and miracles meet: Recent speculations in physics reveal that believers and nonbelievers may have more in common than they think, the physicist Alan Lightman wrote last year.
- When cameras took pictures of ghosts: In photography’s early days, people used it to suggest the endurance of the departed, Megan Garber wrote in 2013.
I’ll leave you with these lines from Robert Graves’s 1942 essay “Common Sense About Ghosts,” which have been making me smile since I read them: Of the one time he believes he saw a ghost in daylight, Graves writes, “There may have been a slight cosmic accident, assisted by my memory … and (if you insist) by three or four glasses of Pommard.”
Have a great day, and I’m looking forward to sharing weekends of wonder with you.