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For Halloween, Thirteen Eerie Stories from around the World

By Susan Harris

Once again the days shorten, the shadows lengthen, and the ghouls come out as Halloween rolls around. To help you celebrate this sinister time of year, we offer thirteen stories lurking in our crypt—er, archives—guaranteed to send a chill down your spine, from tales of the unearthly to depictions of evil that is purely manmade. We trust you’ll enjoy reading these (with every light on in the house).

“As he stared at the stake, stunned, Marcello was thinking how that smell had kept them company during the night, the entire night, when they slipped into their sleeping bags, then out, then back in, finally falling asleep; it was a rancid smell, something rotten: the smell of rotten meat.”

Marco Candida trails two campers who pitch a tent and seal their fate in “Dream Diary,” translated from Italian by Elizabeth Harris.


“She looked like she’d probably cut an elegant figure, one of the elite, before falling into a sewer. Her legs and hands, her raincoat, her face and hair were stained with grime. I locked my taxi, quick as a flash. Absolutely not, I couldn’t.”

Johary Ravaloson’s Malagasy cab driver picks up a truly deadbeat passenger in “Water in the Rice Fields up to My Knees!,” translated from French by Allison M. Charette.

Image: Photo by Michael Mouritz, courtesy of Unsplash

“On the evening of the tenth day of the seventh lunar month, we ‘invited’ all the ancestors to our home.”

Zheng Xiaolu finds social intrigue rippling through the annual ritual honoring the dead in “The Festival of Ghosts,” translated from Chinese by Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping.


“When we got there I’d summon a spirit. I’d do it because we were mediums. We weren’t just regular mediums, either—we were frauds.”

Sakumi Tayama channels a young girl, recruited by a phony medium, who discovers her own uncanny ability in “Spirit Summoning,” translated from Japanese by Mark Gibeau.


“Making my way through little groups of children I explained at the top of my voice to the ticket-sellers that my daughter had disappeared, and asked whether they hadn’t seen her?”

Rodrigo Rey Rosa tracks the frantic father of a lost child in “Some Other Zoo,” translated from Spanish by Daniel Hahn.

Image: Photo by Janko Ferlic, courtesy of Unsplash  

“I made tea in the office, read the paper, and peered into the library a few times. The girl was reading books peacefully, apparently uninterested in what was going on around her.”

Maritta Lintunen’s librarian grows obsessed with a mysterious visitor in “The Message Bearer,” translated from Finnish by Emily Jeremiah.


“But there was one occasion in particular that was somehow kind of creepy. Why, at the time I didn’t think anything much of it, although later it struck me as downright weird.”

Okamoto Kido drops in as a woodcutter and his son entertain doubts about an unexpected guest in “The Kiso Wayfarer,” translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori.


“He managed to send out a few faint signals that received an immediate response. There were nine of them, and they were there, very close by.”

Ana María Shua’s new mother is blissfully unaware that her baby is not who—or what—she thinks in “Octavio the Invader,” translated from Spanish by Andrea G. Labinger.

Image: Hospital nursery, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“‘I don’t know, it doesn’t say anywhere, but you see, they gave the pattern. I’ve never seen one like it, but I’ll figure out how to work with it,’ she said gaily.”

Dejana Dimitrijević’s expert in crochet finds a project takes on a life of its own in “The Cover,” translated from Serbian by Alice Copple-Tosić.


“A fire’s coming! It’ll be here soon!
A female snake kept warning us
For ages it lived in the storage above the closet
We grew up hearing its voice”

Takako Arai sees the ghost of a factory worker haunt two young sisters in “Wheels,” translated from Japanese by Jeffrey Angles.


"We haven’t managed to send this evil spirit back to Hell because it has never been possible to detain him until the end of the conjurations. But now he's here inside, good and tight.”

Aldolfo Albertazzi’s mischievous demon terrorizes a monastery and defies the prior in “The Devil in the Decanter,” translated from Italian by Traci Andrighetti.

Image: Monastery cloister, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“On his last evening, fate decreed that Rashid Lamine was the one singled out to spend the night with Manolo, to help him through his last moments, hardly suspecting that his friend’s death would drag him into the worst kind of nightmare.”

Aziz BineBine’s political prisoner assists a dying comrade and discovers he retains more than memories in  “Tazmamartyrs,” translated from French by Lulu Norman.


“One afternoon, in La Plata, I found a woman’s letters in a corner of the closet.”

Ricardo Piglia’s bilocational writer improbably discovers both sides of an epistolary romance in “Hotel Almagro,” translated from Spanish by Sergio Waisman.

Published Oct 31, 2019   Copyright 2019 Susan Harris

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