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Star Read book choice delivers classic chills from the past by William Croft Dickinson

By Margaret Chrystall

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‘Tales of suspense for the twilight hour…’ reads the cover of this week’s Star Read, beckoning you in like a skeleton finger.

Dark Encounters, classic ghost stories.
Dark Encounters, classic ghost stories.

Dark Encounters: A Collection Of Ghost Stories by William Croft Dickinson makes a great mood-setter for anyone relishing the approach of Halloween.

After 60 years out of print, it revives 14 classic ghost stories written by the Scottish-based history professor and writer of children’s books Borrobil, The Eildon Tree and The Flag From The Isles.

The scene-setting introduction by Alistair Kerr reveals Dickinson edited the original Dark Encounters on his deathbed in 1963.

Many of the stories are set during or after the Second World War, though often take readers back to long-ago times. But there’s often an almost ‘cosy’ frame as university academics settle back in chairs by a fire to share chilling tales that challenge their intellectual and scientific understanding of life.

Alistair Kerr says about The Work Of Evil, a story about an allegedly real rare book in a university library: “I have not sought it out; … it brings early death to people foolish enough to consult it.” Readers seeking out Dark Encounters will find fear, mystery, horror and “a past that may come back … to disturb the present”.

His Own Number (written in 1963) refers to research into computers – and possible second sight: “By pure chance I asked … Murdoch Finlayson: a Highlander from somewhere up in Wester Ross … I say ‘by pure chance’; but perhaps it was all foredained that I should pick on Finlayson. Certainly it seemed so, in the end.”

This book seems a haunting warm-up for fast-approaching Halloween, though the moody, cover with its golden skull also suggests a possible gift for Christmas when creepy ghost stories offer a dark antidote to tinsel fatigue.

A Collection Of Ghost Stories by William Croft Dickinson (Polygon, £12).

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