Haunted Historical Fiction: Strange Ghosts on Audiobook

A feast for the senses, All Hallows Eve is soon upon us! This October, let’s sample some dark auditory treats. If you enjoy spooky stories with historical heft, troubling the soul long after the senses have calmed, stay tuned. Literature abounds with strange and tragic historical ghosts, voiced by talented actors.

Set in 1862, after the death of Abraham Lincoln’s 11-year-old son, Willie, from typhoid, George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo is chock-full of weird ghosts. The bardo is a Tibetan limbo where the deceased Willie interacts with other spirits, who are voiced by a cast of over 150 actors, including Susan Sarandon, Megan Mullally and Keegan-Michael Key. 

Sarah Perry’s Melmoth, performed with eerie drama by Jane Cramer, will leave you with chills. Inspired by the 19th century Irish story of Melmoth the Wanderer, the action begins when a scholar leaves his research notes in the care of the fastidious Helen, an English translator living in Prague. Helen quickly becomes obsessed with Melmoth, whose calling is to haunt those with dark pasts.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Labyrinth of the Spirits starts with the unforgettable sentence “That night I dreamed that I was going back to the cemetery of forgotten books.” Death, burial and the everyday horror of life under an oppressive regime are plentiful in this gothic detective story set in Franco's Spain. 

Sing, Unburied, Sing is the story of a struggling African American family from Mississippi. Each member of the family is haunted by the cruelty and injustice of the past, and representatives of each generation interact with spirits. On a trip to pick up his father, who is being released from the storied Parchman prison, 13-year-old Jojo encounters a restless ghost, who attaches himself to the family and follows them home.

Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being flips between the perspective of a Japanese girl named Nao in post-dot-com Japan and a woman named Ruth on the opposite coast in 2012 British Columbia. Ruth finds Nao's diary, protected by a Hello Kitty lunchbox wrapped in plastic baggies, on the shore. Pulled into Nao's story, Ruth begins to wonder if Nao perished in the 2011 tsunami.

What are some of the stories that haunt your dreams? Let us know in the comments. Happy Halloween!

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