Blog post alert: Kathleen Jennings has a long, amusing, and excellent post on Some elements of ghost stories. Instead of piggy-backing too much on Jennings, however, I chose a picture form John Muth's Zen Ghosts (which includes a Japanese ghost story) because I love both the story and the art.
I have to say up front that I don't read ghost stories much. I'm not, for instance, a fan of M. R. James. And yet, Tryst by Elswyth Thane is one of my favorite recent discoveries (after borrowing it two years in a row from the public library, I finally found a good 1939 copy to buy at a price I could justify). "They" is one of my favorite short stories by Rudyard Kipling. Peter Beagle's Fine and Private Place and Neil Gaiman's Graveyard Book established a genre for me—of which George Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo is obviously the most extraordinary. Well, and I've just bought Jeanette Winterson's Night Side of the River because I admire her work so much.
Hmmm. Maybe I do read ghost stories. I even outlined one once. Hmmm.