Ghosts and Stray Cats

Ghosts and dervishes, witches and imps, aliens and fiendish solicitors of doom. Here, in the spirit of All Hallows’ Eve, we revisit some of our favorite, richly terrifying tales.

“For the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief,” commences Edgar Allen Poe’s immortal story “The Black Cat,” aka a husband’s worst nightmare. Poe’s story served as inspiration for Joyce Carol Oates’s “The White Cat.” In her version, Oates imagines a wife who survives a jealous, destructive husband, thus brilliantly recasting the devil. We present both “cats” here.

“People who don’t know one think ghosts are angel-food things,” writes Holly Wilson in “The Lonely,” putting us on notice regarding the shady characters we’re about to meet. In “The Cryptozoologist,” Skip Horack casts us into the world of the slithering with the opening line, “Grandpa is easing along with a cane pole on his shoulder when up ahead a long, thin snake goes zipping through the short grass.”

The best writing takes us to the edge and makes us want to look. Poet Natalie Diaz reveals the underbelly and prevalent racism of a trick-or-treat culture in her unforgettable “Hand-Me-Down Halloween.” And, finally, in “A Distant Episode,” Paul Bowles invents a linguistics professor who, when confronted by the abyss, dares to wonder, “What is it?”

Bring on the tricksters and the sirens, the blood-soaked axes and the menacing knocks on the door. It’s Halloween. Enjoy!

                                                                          — Carol Edgarian