There’s always the temptation, when recommending anything, to go only for the deep cuts. It’s true that Robert Aickman wrote several volumes’ worth of “strange stories,” many of them very good. It’s also true that “Ringing the Changes,” from 1964’s Dark Entries: Curious and Macabre Ghost Stories, is probably the best known, or the “most anthologized,” or however people like to subtly dismiss anything with a certain profile.
But “Ringing the Changes” is probably so popular because it’s one of his best. It contains all the basic elements that make night—and indeed, the ancient, instinctive terrors of Halloween—most frightening. The story’s about worlds and time and reality and the ancient and modern colliding. But the premise is simple: a man and his much younger wife honeymoon in a dreary resort town where the church bells literally never stop ringing. In short, it’s a pretty perfect ghost story. Read it, of course—and then read more of Aickman’s work—but if you are tempted to move into other media, I’m afraid I must be very firm with you: this is the only version allowed. While it’s goofy enough, there are several others out there that are frankly ludicrous. And not in the good way. Think smacking kisses. Did I mention it’s also sort of a love story? Well, maybe that goes without saying.
Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.