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how to see ghosts

In some ways, this Halloween marks the end of an era. As I already mentioned, some things are going on that I can’t talk about just yet, but they’re leading to changes that won’t impact you, dear reader, too much, but will have a big impact on me. So, this Halloween has been unusual, in that I haven’t celebrated in some of the ways that I have in the past, even while other traditions have held firm.

It’s a stretch to say that it wouldn’t be Halloween without a new book with my name on it coming out, but that’s closer to true than not, over the last decade. This time around, as it happens, there is a new Orrin Grey book out. How to See Ghosts & Other Figments officially launches today. Electronic copies are available now, and print copies should be shipping directly. But that isn’t all. Elijah LaFollette of Magnetic Magic Rentals and I teamed up to bring you a special Halloween treat – a new story by yours truly, illustrated and designed by him.

“Familiar” is a very short, never-before-seen tale that should be suitable for the spooky season, laid out and presented immaculately by Eli only at Nightclub Zine. Hopefully that will help tide folks over until How to See Ghosts shows up on your doorstep in the middle of the night. Or at least give you something to read this evening between trick-or-treaters.

In spite of distractions, I’ve had a good and festive Halloween month. I watched something like 40 movies this month, if you count each installment of GDT’s Cabinet of Curiosities as a movie. Of those, the vast majority were first-time-watches for me, and many took place on or around Halloween. Some highlights include hosting Ghostwatch at the Stray Cat Film Center as part of the Horror Pod Class, They See You (2022), Werewolf by Night (2022), hosting House on Haunted Hill (1999), Nerdoween (of course), an Analog Sunday double-feature, and seeing Flying Phantom Ship for the first time thanks to the Blu-ray from Discotek. For those who aren’t familiar, Flying Phantom Ship is a 1969 anime that Hayao Miyazaki worked on, and it has to be seen to be believed.

As I type this, the afternoon of Halloween is wearing on toward evening, that lazy, golden time so well captured in John Carpenter’s classic film. I don’t have a lot planned to close out the day, but it’s been a good month. I hope you have a spooky Halloween night and lots of spooky days and nights to come…

How to See Ghosts & Other Figments by Orrin Grey conjures forth more monsters, ghouls and ghosts than any midnight horror show in memory, but with real emotional depths to back them up. It’s like peering through the eyeholes of a cheap Halloween monster mask to see the tangible and very human sadness lurking just beneath.”

That’s the blurb, very kindly provided by the great Trevor Henderson, that decorates the back cover of my latest collection, which is now available to pre-order direct from the publisher, just in time for Halloween. Those who have been following along for a while now will note that this is the time of year when my collections generally come out, for reasons that I hope are obvious.

Along with the pre-order link, the cover art by Nick Gucker was just revealed. Again, those who have been paying attention already know that Nick did the covers for my last two books from Word Horde. He always makes my books look amazing, and this is no exception. I’ve joked before that Nick’s covers sell more copies of my books than I do, but it isn’t actually a joke.

This time around, we took inspiration from my favorite cover of Jean Ray’s classic weird novel Malpertuis. Which is great, by the way, and was recently re-issued, with new annotations and afterword by Scott Nicolay, from Wakefield Press, part of their ongoing mission of releasing translations of Jean Ray’s weird tales, which are all instant must-buys for me.

As for my own book, How to See Ghosts & Other Figments is perhaps my most eclectic collection to date, with all he usual author’s notes and afterwords and a new introduction by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who was one of the earliest editors to publish one of my stories.

The eighteen tales contained within span from some of my shortest to some of my longest, including the novelette “The Drunkard’s Dream.” They also include stories dating back to when I was in college, all the way up to stories that were first published earlier this year. Included among those are several pieces that border on juvenilia, repurposed and (I hope) revitalized in a way that makes them feel right at home alongside my more recent work.

The reasons I chose these stories are often ones that I get into in the author’s notes, but they all seemed to fit to me in ways that I hoped strengthened the entire book. There are themes that bind them all together, ones that I noticed (as is my usual wont) only as I was collecting the stories and writing the author’s notes, and I hope that the result is a whole as cohesive as any of my tighter previous collections. So far, the reactions seem to indicate that I managed it.

“When I think of the world of horror, I think of Grey’s world.”

That quote is from the first (as far as I know) official review of the book, which came from Shane Burley writing for Full Stop. The review also calls How to See Ghosts my “biggest step forward to date,” which is sort of what you’re always hoping each new book will be, while simultaneously dreading that you’ve maybe already plateaued. It is a really kind and extensive review, and I’m very glad to see folks already enjoying the book.

For those of you reading this but not yet enjoying the book, it should be in your hands very soon, assuming you’ve already pre-ordered. And if you haven’t, there’s still time! Pre-orders will get a signature sheet sticker that I recently signed while watching Halloween 5, but please don’t let that dissuade you. And if you prefer ebooks or the like, all those options will be available soon.

As I mentioned earlier, this October has been a bit hectic and unusual, for mostly good reasons, but of course a new book coming out is always big news, and it bears repeating. I don’t actually have copies of this one in my hands yet, either, but everything has been done on our end, and it should be shipping out forthwith. When copies arrive at my doorstep, be sure that you’ll be hearing more about it, and until then, stay spooky and, if you don’t hear from me before then (you probably will), happy Halloween!

“It was the start of the year in our old Celtic lands, and we’d be waiting in our houses of wattles and clay. The barriers would be down, you see, between the real and the unreal, and the dead might be looking in to sit by our fires of turf.”
Halloween 3 (1982)

However you feel about them, traditions are one of the ways we anchor ourselves – to the past, to our families and friends, to the world we know. From traditions that are part of cultural norms (presents at Christmas, fireworks at the 4th of July, the basic structures of weddings and funerals) to personal rituals that are bespoke for each individual, we all have them.

For me, one tradition that has settled in over the past decade is Nerdoween. It happens every October, hosted by the gents from the Nightmare Junkhead podcast. A themed triple-feature of horror movies, with the titles a mystery until the picture begins to roll. I went to the very first one, eight years ago now, and saw both Demons and Night of the Demons for the first time. (The third film on the docket was Demon Knight, but by then it was early morning and I had just watched Demon Knight the week before, as it happened.)

My adopted brother, Jay, came with me to that first Nerdoween, and he’s been with me at every one since. Over the course of the intervening years, I’ve seen twenty more movies courtesy of Nerdoween, skipping out on only one, for similar reasons to why I missed Demon Knight that first time around. Of those movies, 22 in total, counting that first year, nine were first-time watches. Which, given how many horror movies I’ve consumed, is a pretty good average. Every year but two I saw at least one movie for the first time.

This year’s theme was eating, and the movie I saw for the first time was Gnaw: The Food of the Gods 2 (1989), which was an experience. I did that over this previous weekend, when I also partook of a somewhat less long-lived but equally vital Halloween tradition: an Analog Sunday double feature, this time watching Dead Inn (1997) and Witches Sabbath (2005).

For those who have been following along for a while, you’ll know that Analog Sunday has become an important part of my life over the last few years. Through it, I’ve seen all sorts of movies I would probably otherwise never have experienced and, even more importantly, made some of my closest friends. Recently, it has moved into the Rewind bar in the basement of the Screenland Armour, which has been accompanied by some growing pains, but this double-feature was back upstairs and felt like a return to old times.

After watching five movies at the Screenland in two days, I drove back just two days later and hosted a screening of House on Haunted Hill (1999), a movie that has been a favorite since I first saw it in its Halloween theatrical run. Back then, I had never seen the original 1959 version, which has since become my literal favorite movie of all time.

The screening was fun. Haunted Hill ’99 makes for good seasonal programming. Spooky and campy and occasionally genuinely deranged. We had a good crowd, including one person who was seeing her first horror movie in a theatre. I think she picked a good one to start.

Eli, who hosts Analog Sunday, loaned me his tombstone props, and so I was able to decorate the place for some ambiance – harkening back to when I first saw the much worse haunted house movie of 1999, Jan de Bont’s frankly terrible remake of The Haunting, on opening night in a Wichita theatre whose lobby was decked out in fog machines and fake headstones.

That’s almost it for me this Halloween season, when it comes to appearances and theatrical endeavors. There’s just one left – another thing that has become a monthly staple, hosting a movie followed by a live podcast at the Stray Cat Film Center. It’s something that we’ve only been doing for a short while now, but it’s going strong. Last month, we did Uzumaki, which had our best turn-out to date. For Halloween, on October 27, we’re showing the movie that I’m probably most excited about of anything we’ve done yet: the 1992 faux newscast Ghostwatch.

It’s going to be a special night. And, in a lot of ways, the culmination of what has felt like a special Halloween season, despite some behind-the-scenes things that have kept me busier and less engaged than I might otherwise be. And the season isn’t over yet. There should be some news about my next collection, How to See Ghosts & Other Figments, coming very soon now…

October is an important month to me. I’ve talked a lot about this before. As a horror writer and person who predominantly consumes horror media, it’s a big time of year for me. Most years for the past decade or so, I’ve had a new book coming out in October, and this year will (hopefully) be no different, assuming supply chain issues don’t kick How to See Ghosts & Other Figments a little later into the season.

None of that is really why I love October so much, though. I love Halloween. It’s my favorite time of year. I love the grinning pumpkins, the autumn leaves, the fake cobwebs, and all that jazz. I love the fun of it, the carnival curtain covering the morbid reminder of our own mortality. I love autumn, the time of year that feels most right to me.

Every October, in various ways and for various reasons, I try to make the month feel special. For myself, for my friends and family, and for those who follow me online. This year, some things have come up. Nothing bad. In fact, some possibly quite good. But they’re going to change the dynamic of how I spend my time over the coming weeks.

Most years, I try to do a #31NightsofHalloween countdown on Twitter, running through what I’m watching, reading, and otherwise imbibing to celebrate the season. I’ll still be doing that, but there’s a real chance that I won’t be consuming quite as much as I otherwise would.

There are still some really exciting events happening in October. Nerdoween on the 15th, Analog Sunday on the 16th, and Tyler Unsell and I hosting Ghostwatch on the 27th at the Stray Cat Film Center. Not to mention my book which, hopefully, I’ll have more news about soon. And I’ll probably fit more other stuff in around that than even I am expecting. But if October is a little quiet this year, it’s not for any bad reason, and not for lack of enthusiasm.

The spirit, as they say, is willing.

In the meantime, I’ve seen a lot of folks asking for recommendations for movies to watch during the spooky season, and over on Twitter I’ve compiled a thread (two of them, actually) of some of the best ones I’ve ever seen that most folks never talk about. These are not just some oddities (that I love) that I have encountered over the years. These are, at least for my money, dyed-in-the-wool classics, every bit the match of their more famous counterparts, in various ways, and any one of them should be a guaranteed homerun for your Halloween viewing.

“It’s a perfect night for mystery and horror. The air itself is filled with monsters.”
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

No sooner had the calendar flipped than the skirmishes began. September 1 is either still summer, or it’s the first day of Halloween. At least by observing the battle lines drawn up on Twitter and elsewhere across social media, you must choose a side.

Naturally, and to the surprise of no one, I am on the side of the Autumn People, described so evocatively by Ray Bradbury in Something Wicked This Way Comes: “For these beings, fall is the ever normal season, the only weather, there be no choice beyond.”

There is a story in Ian Rogers’ Every House is Haunted which argues that autumn is a uniquely magical season because it is the only one that doesn’t exist in perpetuity somewhere on Earth. There are places where it is, for all intents and purposes, always winter, always summer, or even, arguably, always spring. But there is no place where it is always autumn.

There is, in other words, no October Country (described again by Bradbury): “That country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay.”

Perhaps the only country where it can be autumn all year round is the one in our hearts.

On September 1, I put up my Halloween decorations this year. As the rough beast that is Christmas slouches ever earlier in the year, decorative gourd season is squeezed shorter and shorter each anum, so what harm if it bleeds a little into the summer?

Little enough else of my behavior changes with the changing of the season. I am one of those Autumn People, and I watch monster movies all year long. If anything, only the tenor of the movies I seek out changes with the leaves. As the season turns, I want movies that evoke that small-town, autumnal beauty that represents Halloween as much as grinning pumpkins or sheeted ghosts.

I reach back, even more than I do the rest of the time, to black-and-white horrors that feel delightfully stagebound. To films that crunch with dry autumn leaves underfoot. October proper has its own traditions. There’s Nerd-o-ween, which I will be attending once again this year at the Screenland Armour, making my eighth year in a row, never having missed an occurrence, even the year that I was dying. There’s Analog Sunday, which will be rolling out a double-feature, and the Horror Pod Class, where we’ll be hosting Ghostwatch at the Stray Cat Film Center. And then, of course, there’s the fact that my own new collection should be out in time for Halloween – or thereabouts.

While September is the first month of Halloween, though, it hasn’t quite reached the same saturation point for me. Monster movies are still the order of the day, wherever possible, or creaky thrillers replete with cobwebs. But the seasonal quality of them hasn’t yet solidified. Alien invaders and city-crushing kaiju are still fair game in September, as much as they are the rest of the year.

As I said, I keep the October Country in my heart year round, but I also watch a lot of other kinds of movies. In September and October, it’s monster weather. Ghost stories will come, as October ramps up and the winter gradually shakes the leaves from the trees. For the moment, though, give me rubber creatures or old dark houses, and I’ll be happy – a sentiment that I could honestly aver any time of year, without hesitation.

Let’s start with the bad news: I won’t be at NecronomiCon Providence this year. Which is a bummer for any number of reasons, not least because I’ve been helping out (in very small ways) with the film programming, and I’m excited to see that come together. But alas, this year it just isn’t in the cards.

(Also, my contributions to the film programming are borderline nonexistent, so all the good bits are going to be Phil Gelatt’s fault. You can blame me whenever something goes wrong. I won’t be there anyway.)

There are a lot of you that I’m going to miss seeing, which makes me sad. But with any luck we will mostly survive until the next convention (though that seems more touch-and-go than we’d all like these days) and I’ll see you all again soon.

With that out of the way, here’s some better news: It has recently come to my attention that I have not been sufficiently vocal about the fact that I have a new collection coming from Word Horde later this year.

You can expect to hear a whole lot more about How to See Ghosts & Other Figments, my fourth collection of short, spooky stories and, somehow, my seventh full-length solo book in the weeks and months to come, including cover reveals, a table of contents, and other goodies. For now, though, I can let you know that it’s going to be my longest collection to date, with 18 stories from across my writing career.

Also, if you happen to be a reviewer and you’re interested in getting your hands on How to See Ghosts a little early, you can reach out to the folks at Word Horde by emailing publicity[at]wordhorde[.]com, and they’ll hook you up.

That’s about it for now but, if you haven’t already, head over and check out the Kickstarter for the latest thing I worked on at Privateer Press. It’s in its final days and it’s pretty cool, if I do say so myself. You can also read a little more about my involvement in it here.