Season of Fear: Why We Love Ghost Stories in Summer

I’ve always been fond of ghost stories in the summertime. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of reading ghost story anthologies in my room on warm August nights, having convinced my grandma to buy me pulpy paperbacks with garish covers over the school break. Other rites of passage — staying up late, telling ghost stories by summer camp firesides — reinforced the association of hot weather and chilling tales in my subconscious (and the subconscious of millions of other North American kids). It’s a great season for sci-fi, too, I might add (B movies at the drive-in, anyone?). In fact, genre and summer go together like Texas and chainsaws.

Outside North America, summer holds similarly spirited significance. In Japan, it is a traditional time for telling ghost stories. During the Edo period (1603-1868), groups of storytellers would gather to tell kaidan, or weird tales. A hundred storytellers would light a hundred lanterns and with each story told, they would extinguish one lantern so that the night would get literally darker and scarier as things went on. On a more spiritual and less spooky note, August is traditionally the time of the Ghost Festival in China. Sometimes called the Hungry Ghost Festival, it is a time to reconnect with the spirits of ancestors, similar to our Day of the Dead or All Soul’s Day in November.

Here at Boroughs of the Dead, we’re taking this summer to reconnect with our roots and the things that originally drew us into the world of ghosts and storytelling. We’re offering a pared-down schedule of our classic Manhattan ghost tours on Saturday nights in July to keep the focus on all things spectral and chilling on these hot summer NYC nights. We’ll be taking a brief hiatus and closing the office from August 1st (M.R. James’ birthday) through August 30th (birth date of Mary Shelley, who knew a thing or two about telling weird tales over summer vacation) to work on our book, train new staff, and create new tours in preparation for what we hope will be a somewhat normal Halloween season (fingers crossed). Our fall schedule will go live around Labor Day.

And, of course, throughout the whole time, we’ll be reading.

We already have a list of recommended books for those who love ghosts and NYC history, and to that list we would also add NYPL’s list of Horror Books for Summer Reading, Bookriot’s list of Summer Scares, and Litreactor’s 10 Horror Books Perfect for Summer. And of course, for the younger ones, Goodreads has a list of Middle Grade Horror… because we need future generations to carry the torch when we have extinguished our 100th lantern.

What’s your favorite horror story to read (or watch) during the summer? Drop your pick into the comments below! Then treat yourself to a personal pan pizza.