The Best Way to Tell a Ghost Story
Use as many specific local details as possible, and “place the ghost-story setting where you actually are,” says Peter Straub, author of Ghost Story ($8, amazon.com). Then let your imagination go wild―but make sure the story features “a hideous crime,” Straub says. “Anything awful will do.”
Give the ghost a creepy moniker that reflects some behavior on the part of the ghost. Maybe the ghost is always whistling, for instance, and is known as the Whistling Man. It also helps to connect the ghost to some historical lore―a pirate’s treasure, say, or the Civil War. Again, be specific. Maybe the ghost was a California gold prospector in 1848 or a Louisiana riverboat captain in 1833.
Try to make some detail from the story come to life. It helps to enlist a conspirator―someone hiding in the bushes who jumps out at a crucial point in the story or (if your ghost is the Whistling Man) someone who starts whistling in the woods at just the right moment. “And that,” Straub says, “will scare everyone right out of their wits.”