Tales to Make Your Skin Crawl

Vampire, zombie and ghost stories by Mary Roach, Joan Acocella, Justin Heckert and more
6 stories

Mary Roach visited a haunted whaling vessel for this 2006 Outside story. Visitors had reported “seeing a six-foot-tall ghost in 19th-century clothing, hanging around and smoking a pipe in the blubber room.” Roach was skeptical the ghost was real and yet, she said, “I still harbor a nagging desire to see or hear a ghost. Because if you see one, then maybe one day you’ll be one, and that’s a nicer prospect than just being dead.”

Though New England is better known for its witch trials, in this month’s Smithsonian, Abigail Tucker wrote about its 19th century vampire panics. Recently in Connecticut, a team of archaeologists exhumed an old burial ground whose corpses had been exhumed, tortured, and laid to rest, their bones reorganized into piles. “The enduring sadness of the vampire stories,” Tucker lamented, “lies in the fact that the accusers were usually direct kin of the deceased: parents, spouses and their children.”

Indeed, vampires seem to have particularly captivated our imaginations. In this 2009 New Yorker essay, Joan Acocella traced the origins of the figure immortalized in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a novel that’s “still ringing in our ears.” Acocella wrote: “Stoker did not invent vampires. If we define them, broadly, as the undead—spirits who rise, embodied, from their graves to torment the living—they have been part of human imagining since ancient times.”

“I love zombies,” Justin Heckert confessed in an Atlanta Magazine piece from last year. In it, Heckert visited the undead set of AMC’s hit series The Walking Dead. Tracing the long history of zombies and his city, he went on to declare that “Atlanta is the zombie capital of the world.”

By Editors Recommend

Something Blubbery This Way Comes

There’s a pipe-smoking ghost aboard the whaleship Morgan! Or maybe not. Either way, the high-tech hunt to catch this spook is a wicked blast.

Nov 2006
From the Web

The Great New England Vampire Panic

Two hundred years after the Salem witch trials, farmers became convinced that their relatives were returning from the grave to feed on the living.

From the Web

In the Blood

Why do vampires still thrill?

Mar 2009
From the Web

Zombies Are So Hot Right Now

Why is the best new show on television filmed here? Simple. Atlanta is the zombie capital of the world.
Sep 2011


Witches are where you find them. But where is that?

May 1974
From the Web

The Joy of Vampire Sex: The Schlocky, Sensual Secrets behind the Success of *True Blood*

“Sookie is sweet, good-natured and can kick your ass while wearing high-heeled pumps and a sundress,” says Anna Paquin. “That’s not how people saw me.”

Jun 2011