Written by Adam Vorobok, Reference Librarian, Downtown Main Library

We humans have a hefty list of fears (some more rational than others): thousands of spiders scurrying on tiny pointed legs; bags of teeth crunching under the strength of your jaws; slithering, slimy tentacles stretching from underneath the bed. Fear is one of our first feelings and it is one we cannot shake off.

When I started Campfire Classics four years ago, I just wanted to read ghost stories out loud. I strongly believed in the transformative power of the spoken word. As each year passed, more and more people showed up to the program and I began to wonder why people were impelled toward the macabre and the haunted.

There are thrill-seekers testing their boldness in the face of terror, the morbidly curious for the unhinged tales of phantom lore, or those who attempt to control the chaos of the unknown. But I realized there is another answer to my question, one that's much warmer: horror stories remind us of our need for community, for family, for loved ones, for friends.

The greatest horror stories evoke an isolating atmosphere, leaving us in the dark with our deepest anxieties and worries exposed. However, humans have always used community to conquer seemingly insurmountable dismay.

The Victorians gathered together on Christmas Eve and read ghost stories together; in fact, even though A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is often associated with the winter holiday, it is a traditional ghost story as well. The French had the L’Esprit Decadent artistic and literary movement and the Grand Guignol puppet theater. Penny Dreadfuls were cheap entertainment for the masses. Around many a campfire, inside movie theaters, and darkened living rooms, people gather together for the shared experience of dread.

Warlock Vorobok and his spooky tomes. 

I view Campfire Classics as more than a spine-tingling adult storytime program, but a comforting communal experience to help us all see hope in the darkness. This year I decided to read tales from women authors who often get overlooked in this genre. Three centuries of classic supernatural stories will demonstrate that despite all the changes in society and technologies throughout time, our fears remain universal. 

The line-up this year is truly spectacular:

October 23rd – Early 20th Century Terror
“The Follower” by Lady Cynthia Asquith
Now in a nursing home, Mrs. Meade recounts to her therapist about the “hallucinations” of a man in a black slouch hat following her…
“The Doll House” by Hester Gorst
After buying a Georgian Dollhouse, the nameless narrator begins to have strange dreams…
“The Ghost” by Catherine Wells
A sick girl is missing out on a family party downstairs when she is visited a famous dramatic actor…or was it?

October 30th – 21st Century Scares
“Horror Story” by Carmen Maria Machado
 A lesbian couple has difficulty enduring a haunting in their new house…
“How to Get Back to the Forest” by Sofia Samatar
Cee is convinced that everyone in camp has been bugged, but how do you remove the bug…

Campfire Classics is hosted at Washington Park at the Porch. I begin reading at 8:00 PM and look forward to hearing your screams.

If you're  looking for some wonderful scary stories to hold you over, check your local Branch Library for some of these classics: 

Ghost Summer
by Tananarive Due

Tananarive Due, a winner of the American Book Award and an Essence and Los Angeles Times bestselling author, brings you her debut short fiction collection! The title novella, Ghost Summer, won a Kindred Award from the Carl Brandon Society (originally published in The Ancestors). 

Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe by Thomas Ligotti
Thomas Ligotti’s debut collection, Songs of a Dead Dreamer, and his second, Grimscribe, permanently inscribed a new name in the pantheon of horror fiction.  Influenced by the strange terrors of Lovecraft and Poe and by the brutal absurdity of Kafka, Ligotti eschews cheap, gory thrills for his own brand of horror.

The Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Caitlín R. Kiernan is one of dark fantasy and horror’s most acclaimed and influential short fiction writers. Her powerful, unexpected stories shatter morality, gender, and sexuality. Her work cuts straight to the heart of the emotional truths we cannot ignore. 

Best Ghost Stories by Algernon Blackwood
A collection of supernatural stories by one of the greatest writers of such stories to have ever lived. This collection contains the story, "Ancient Sorceries", which is the tale of a tourist who becomes enchanted by a strange French town and the secrets hidden there. 

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