House of Haunts
Heather Daughrity, ed.
Watertower Hill Publishing (October 13, 2023)
Reviewed by Carson Buckingham

I have to say that this is the most beautiful book I have ever had the occasion to review. It is a signed, numbered hardcover with a sleek cloth surface. The paper cover is a very classy design and nice texture. The interior illustrations are gorgeous, as is the layout of the entire book. I loved it before I even opened it.

Unfortunately, most of the stories, at least for me, did not live up to the aesthetics.

The idea was a great one. This is an anthology in which each story takes place in one room of a Hale House, a haunted mansion, with the editor not only contributing a story, but a running commentary before each section of the book, which was divided into The First Floor, The Second Floor, The Third Floor, and The Grounds. Architectural drawings of the house floor plan are even provided. It was so well thought out that it absolutely killed me that all the stories… even a majority of the stories…  weren’t winners.

I loved eight of the 23 stories. Seven were just okay, and eight ran from predictable to absurd, were draggy, riddled with errors and were very tough to get through.

The eight I loved follow:

“Save Me a Spot on the Old Porch Swing” by Ronald Kelly—this was a tale of a cherished grandson gone wrong and the grandmother who would be there for him…always. This is my favorite out of all of them.

“Roses and Worms” by Joe DeRouen—A real estate agent trying to sell Hale House gets more than he bargained for from an interested party.

“Bluebells in the Ring” by Jo Kaplan—A pregnant couple move into Hale House during the Spanish Flu epidemic. The wife’s project is to fix up the nursery, and she has company that arrived in a box of old toys.

“Spiral Upward” by Gage Greenwood—Overnight success lands a young woman in Hale House, and she finds that her favorite room causes her to face the truth of a traumatic incident which she is unprepared to handle.

“A Flicker of Candlelight” by Simon Bleaken—A haunting that reunites two ghost lovers, thanks to a servant girl.

“My Fair Lady” by Brooklyn Ann—restoring an antique car with an equally antique partner.

“Inherited” by Christy Aldridge—In a haunted treehouse, a little boy comes to know the truth about his mother, with horrific results.

“Opening Move” by J-F Dubeau—a memorable chess game.

So, is it worth the price of admission for so few good stories? Only you can judge that. For me, it wasn’t. And for me, it gets a generous 3 stars out of 5, because the stories I loved, I really loved, and I threw in an extra half star for the amazing presentation.

About Carson Buckingham

Professionally, Carson Buckingham has made her way in life doing all manner of things, most of which involve arson. She is currently employed as a freelance writer on a work release program. In her spare time, she studies forensics, in hopes of applying her new knowledge to eluding the authorities more effectively the next time. She is originally from Connecticut, but now resides in Kentucky—and Connecticut is glad to be rid of her.