1. We dedicated our first Curious Tales publication, The Longest Night, to MR James. If I ever find myself the only occupant of a room with twin beds, I will be thinking of James’s story ‘Oh Whistle, and I’ll Come To You, My Lad’ as I lie awake in the dark trying not to look too hard at the other, ‘empty’ bed.
2. This year’s collection, Poor Souls’ Light, celebrates the work of Robert Aickman. In his marvellously strange story ‘Ringing the Changes’, a couple honeymoon out of season in an East Anglian coastal town, arriving to a cacophony of church bells. ‘Why did you have to come tonight of all nights?... Take her away, man... Now. While there’s still time. This instant.’ This story smells of ‘dense rotting weed’ and brandy, and it clings.
3. ‘The disease,’ says the protagonist of ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’, ‘had sharpened my senses’. It’s a splendid way into a disturbing story. In ‘The Spite House’, my contribution to Poor Souls’ Light, this ‘Edgar Allan Poe story about a dead man whose heart seems still to beat beneath the floorboards’ is what my character reads before having trouble sleeping...
4. Shadows & Tall Trees has been a treasure trove of weird and creepy stories since 2010. The story that opens issue 5 is Gary Fry’s ‘New Wave’ in which a father and son move into a house at the back of which is a farmer’s field that looks ‘like a churning body of water’. Never has a rippling field of wheat been so sinister. The ending – the very last line – is just perfect.
5. Of all these stories, ‘It’ by Adam Wilmington is the one that most defies categorisation and necessitates the broader umbrella of stories about some kind of haunting. ‘It’, which won the Manchester Fiction Prize 2013 and appears in Best British Short Stories 2014, is fantastically unsettling and like all the best such stories, haunts the reader ever after.