Ghost stories seem most abundant in the backcountry, places already physically haunted by derelict farm machinery and the skeletal remains of residences past. Those structures radiate the energy of what once was, firing the imagination about what may remain.
Idaho, a reserve of derelict mining camps and pioneer ghost towns, is the perfect setting for such stories, and a recently published book, Hauntings From the Snake River Plain, collects original stories, essays and poetry about those places in one volume.
Released in August by Twin Falls-based The Other Bunch Press, the collection anthologizes 27 Idaho writers such as Elaine Ambrose, Bonnie Dodge and Boise Weekly's Bill Cope. As with many things hyper-local, objective quality sometimes takes a backseat to regional celebration.
Some stories could definitely have used that time-tested editor's note: show, don't tell.
A story called "Lost Souls of the Lost Cave," by Andrew W. Black, takes readers through an exploration of a cave, narrated with the verbose and melodramatic literary stylings of Kipling or Poe.
"These pages cannot adequately express the horror," Black writes, as the shadows bear down on his narrator.
But there are some strong and concise depictions of place, as well.
Patricia Santos Marcantonio uses Idaho's supply of petroglyphs to craft a creeptacular, ghost-in-the-machine-style story rich with native imagery. Cope explores a family's supernatural visit to a highway rest stop, while Dodge tells the story of a woman purchasing her dream house, which, of course, was on the market after being the scene of a mysterious death, something any movie-goer can tell you rarely works out.
The anthology isn't big on richly worded depictions of what the censors refer to as "graphic content." For some horror fans, that might be a disappointment. For others, it is simply a choice to focus on more artful creeping senses of foreboding instead of ham-fisted blood and gore.
As with all anthologies, readers will find some stories more to their liking than others. But it may also give some good reason to keep driving past that creepy roadside landmark they always wanted to stop at.