Review of ‘Our Haunted Shores: Tales from the Coasts of the British Isles’ edited by Emily Alder, Joan Passey and Jimmy Packham

“We’re all going on a… horror holiday!” A collection of scary seaside stories, carefully curated to give a flavour of the genre from the late 18th century to the 1930s. This is the fourth I’ve read in the British Library’s Tales of the Weird series and although I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as Evil Roots and Chill Tidings, I preferred it to Weird Woods.

As usual with these books, there is a mix of famous and lesser known authors, with each story or poem having its own introduction, although in this book these were too academic for my taste and the editors’ favourite word seemed to be ‘liminal’.

Generally I enjoyed these 20 texts. They had a strong sense of place and a sense of dread. Here’s what’s included in the collection, with my favourites marked.

‘The Haunted Beach’ by Mary Robinson – a gothic poem about the ghost of a fisherman.

‘Two Sonnets’ by Charlotte Smith – gloom-laden poetry reminiscent of Mary Shelley.

‘Narrative of a Fatal Event’ by Anon – sad tale of guilt and friendship with a natural history theme.

‘The Strange Student’ by Anon – enchantment and horror on the Scottish coast.*

‘What Was It?’ by Anon – wordy yarn about sea monsters.

‘One Day at Arle’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett – intensely emotional story with a lot of dialect.

‘Two Folk Tales’ by James Bowker – a dark fairytale and a shiver-inducing gothic tale.

‘The Last of Squire Ennismore’ by Charlotte Riddell – truly haunting story with a moral message.*

‘Legends’ by H D Lowry – grim and creepy tale of the damned.

‘A Ghost of the Sea’ by Francis Prevost – a bizarre story in four parts.

‘Crooken Sands’ by Bram Stoker – entertaining Scottish-themed tale.

‘The Sea Raiders’ by H G Wells – fabulously Wellsian adventure about an invasion of man-eating giant squid.*

‘The Sea Fit’ by Algernon Blackwood – sinister slow-burning tale of ancient beings.

‘Where the Tides Ebb and Flow’ by Lord Dunsany – a brilliant apocalyptic vision.*

‘Four Folk Tales’ by Sophia Morrison – some interesting Manx myths.

‘Out of the Earth’ by Arthur Machen – very odd story about scary children and the First World War.

‘A Tale of an Empty House’ by E F Benson – excellent example of a traditional ghost story.*

‘On the Isle of Blue Men’ by Robert W Sneddon – horrible squid people attacking a lighthouse.

‘Seashore Macabre: A Moment’s Experience’ by Hugh Walpole – unexpected combination of holiday nostalgia with gothic horror.

‘A Coast-Nightmare’ by Christina Rosetti – terrifying apocalyptic poem.

As you can ‘sea’, I was very impressed with five of the stories. I thought that ‘beach’ one was worth [sea] ‘weeding’, however. I recommend you spend a few ‘squid’ on this ‘sand’-sensational book. If you’re a fan of classic supernatural fiction, I’m ‘shore’ that you’ll enjoy it.

First published in 2022.

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