Review: Hauntings, edited by Ellen Datlow

hauntingsEllen Datlow anthologies are dependable reads, especially when it comes to delivering a wide selection of high quality of fiction. This holds true with Hauntings, Datlow’s new reprint anthology of ghost stories–all of which were originally published between 1983 and 2012– is packed with well-written and engaging tales.

One of the best things about reading a reprint anthology is that after a few stories, it’s fairly clear how much reading the editor has done to cherry-pick the best pieces for her anthology; Datlow did her homework, and the result is a superb collection of haunting tales. Hauntings is a reprint anthology that showcases some of the best fiction published over the last twenty years. As a result, there is something for everyone and a majority of stories are likely to be hits for most readers. While no anthology can include everything, it would have been nice to see a few more horror writers in the line up but that’s a small quibble. In fact, the beauty of Hauntings is that this anthology serves as a good example of how today’s writers can easily and seamlessly cross between genres without missing a step.

Some of the standout stories within Hauntings include:

“Closing Time” by Neil Gaiman is a haunting tale of four boys who enjoy the adventures that come with being young and exploring the unknown with the innocence and ambition that only children can manage. However, what makes this tale special is a sense of profound memory and loss that comes with the way that the story is framed, which also gives a deep sense of time passing.

“The Ammonite Violin (Murder Ballad No. 4)” by Caitlin Kiernan is a lyric tale that feels like music written into words. Featuring a main character who is as compelling as he is disturbing, you will find yourself unable to stop reading as the story drives forward to what you believe to be the inevitable conclusion. However, this dark tale is likely to surprise and satisfy you with its final note.

“The Have-Nots” by Elizabeth Hand is a personality pack story written in the second person. There aren’t that many short stories written in the second person because it can go wrong so easily. However, Hand is adept at weaving the second person narrative into the story, pulling the reader into the piece in such a way that you may feel like you’re one of the ladies in the room. This is a strong character driven story with an edge that keeps you wondering, “What happens next?”

“Distress Call” by Connie Willis sets course for a ghost story that will keep you guessing about what actually happened to Caroline. The creepy house, the odd narrative twists and turns, and the building urgency to unravel the truth combine nicely to create a great read that feels very fresh.

“Hula Ville” by James P. Blaylock is a wonderful tale of a man in search of an angel.  From start to finish “Hula Ville” is a page-turner. Well-written and well paced, the story begins with a boy waking to find an angel standing at the foot of his bed, which begins his quest to find the angel–a quest that lasts for most of his life. Within a few short pages, the sense of time passing and events experienced create a compelling tales that will leave you with an equal mix of wonder and loss. This story goes by far too quickly, and will leave you wanting more.

“Haunted” by Joyce Carol Oates is aptly named. This is a masterful piece of fiction. The details and descriptions create a rich texture that seems bright and as full of hope as life should be for two young girls exploring the world around them, but as the story builds darker notes seep into the tale. Dark images, dark words, dark thoughts–they leave you feeling as if you had been there with Melissa on her last visit to Minton House and that her memories have somehow become your own. And, as is the case with any good ghost story, the echo of the story says with you long after you have read the last word.

“Mr. Fiddlehead” by Jonathan Carroll is a charming tale about two good friends who have very different relationships with one of the girl’s imaginary friends. This is a clever story that has a fresh take on the genre of childhood “imaginary friends”. It’s a quick read that has the potential to take you by surprise at the end as this charming tale turns somewhat alarming.

Overall, Hauntings is a strong anthology, packed with dark and twisted tales from today’s top authors. Each piece creates its own disturbing fictional world while simultaneously working together to construct the anthology’s larger theme that speaks to the darker sides of humanity without actually losing touch with those things that make us human. A great summer read…just keep the lights on!

Title: Hauntings by Ellen Datlow
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Tachyon Publications (April 1, 2013)
Date: April 1, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-1616960889


  • Ellen Datlow “Introduction”
  • Pat Cadigan “Eenie, Meenie, Ipsateenie”
  • Dale Bailey “Hunger: A Confession”
  • E. Michael Lewis “Cargo”
  • Lucius Shepard “Delta Sly Honey”
  • David Morrell “Nothing Will Hurt You”
Caitlin R. Kiernan “The Ammonite Violin (Murder Ballad No. 4)”
  • Joyce Carol Oates “Haunted”
Elizabeth Hand “The Have-Nots”
  • Neil Gaiman “Closing Time”
  • F. Paul Wilson “Anna”
Jonathan Carroll “Mr. Fiddlehead”
  • Terry Dowling “The Fooly”
  • Paul Walther “The Toll”
  • Simon Kurt Unsworth “The Pennine Tower Restaurant”
  • Connie Willis “Distress Call”
  • Stephen Gallagher “The Horn”
Michael Marshall Smith “Everybody Goes”
  • Richard Bowes “Transfigured Night”
James P. Blaylock “Hula Ville”
  • Jeffrey Ford “The Bedroom Light”
  • Gemma Files “Spectral Evidence”
  • Kelly Link “Two Houses”
  • Adam L. G. Nevill “Where Angels Come In”
  • Peter Straub “Hunger: An Introduction”


Amazing Stories is giving away one copy of Hauntings, edited by Ellen Datlow via a random drawing on July 1, 2013. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below, and you’ll be automatically entered into the drawing.

Please note that only registered members of the Amazing Stories website are eligible to enter the drawing since you must be a member to leave a comment, but the good news is that joining is free and easy!

Contest Rules:

  • Leave a comment below (at the bottom of this review) to be automatically entered to win a copy of Hauntings.
  • Only Amazing Stories members are eligible to enter.
  • All entries must be date stamped by midnight on June 30, 2013.
  • If you are under 18 years old, you must have your parent’s permission to enter.
  • The contest is open world-wide

(Your privacy is respected. We do not supply personal information to 3rd parties.)

Related articles

Stardust by Nina Allan

Stardust: The Ruby Castle Stories, by Nina Allan

Stardust is one of three books by Nina Allan published so far this year. First was the story collection Microcosmos. Next came the novella, Spin. Now we have Stardust, published as a very striking hardback by PS Publishing as PS Showcase #11. Stardust is subtitled The Ruby Castle Stories, but who (or what) is Ruby […]


  1. Glad to have these in one place. I’ve read a few ( Gaiman, Willis) but look forward to reading the collection. Thanks!

  2. This is right down my alley…Most of the the television programs
    that I watch have to do with hauntings and such!
    Many thanks, Cindi

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.