Appalachian Winter Hauntings is a collection of eleven holiday-themed short stories all centered around the Appalachian Mountains. Edited by Michael Knost and Mark Justice, it was originally published by Woodland Press in 2009. These tales tend toward the somber side with most of the primary characters dealing with heavy loss. All are well written and worth reading. You can pick up a copy from Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Appalachian-Winter-Hauntings-Weird-Mountains/dp/0982493959
1. “The Peddler’s Journey” by Ronald Kelly – A grandfather tells the legend of a civil war peddler who died in the Appalachian Mountains attempting to deliver a gift to a boy during a snowstorm. Death isn’t the end of this Peddler’s journey.
2. “A Soul’s Wage” by Brian J. Hatcher – An ambitious man, climbing the corporate ladder, takes a sudden, dramatic fall one Christmas which may have been orchestrated by vindictive spirits.
3. “Lorelei Wakes At Midnight” by Patricia Hughes – A man, strangely obsessed with a dulcimer kept in an Appalachian Mountain store, finally gets to purchase it following the death of the long time shop owner. He’s warned by an old woman that it’s cursed, but he ignores her and buys it anyway. Afterward, a ghostly woman appears every night at midnight and plays a tune, keeping him awake. All who’ve sold or given away the dulcimer in the past have been burned to death soon afterward. The ghost is particularly active around Christmas time due to some tragic events that happened at that time when she was alive.
4. “A Sky Full and a Big Green Forever” by Steve Vernon – After having lost first his mother then his father the previous two Christmases, a man mourns their passing as the holiday rolls around again. He reminisces about going out with his father to cut down and bring home a Christmas tree. The feeling of loss is well conveyed in this tale that has a very satisfying conclusion.
5. “The Christmas Bane” by S. Clayton Rhodes – An officer tells a prisoner about a Krampus-like creature that stalks the area. It’s called The Christmas Bane, and the officer says he believes it will be coming for him in his cell that night unless he takes steps to appease it.
6. “Smoke in a Bottle” by Steve Rasnic Tem – Returning to his childhood home following the death of his mother, a man remembers his penniless youth and about his alcoholic father’s eccentricities. Later he begins seeing a shadowy figure which leads to realizations about his past.
7. “The Nativity Tray” by Sara J. Larson – A woman who lost her family in a car accident provides an impoverished young man she encounters with a coat and a meal on Christmas Eve. There’s more to him than initially meets the eye.
8. “Apple Head Dolly” by Scott Nicholson – A boy from a poor family isn’t happy with the orange and knife he receives as his Christmas presents. He’s envious of his younger sister’s haul of candy and homemade apple head doll, which some say can be used for dark magic in the right hands.
9. “Yule Cat” by JG Faherty – A brother and sister find out first-hand that their grandparents’ tales about the celebration of Yule and the things that move about during that time are real.
10. “The Christmas Letter” by EmmaLee Pallai – A young boy visits the mine where his father died in an explosion while he was still a baby, seeking to communicate with the man he never got to know. One Christmas, he receives a response.
11. “Beggars At Dawn” by Elizabeth Massie – A soldier, crippled during WW I, returns home to his family but struggles to find a job. Going to a hidden tunnel in the mountains, he encounters someone who sheds some light on his choices.
Article by Matt Cowan