Ready for an excerpt break? It's Monday, so you might need one (we don't judge, only sympathize). Today we've got a sample from Seanan McGuire's latest, Sparrow Hill Road, which kicks off the author's new Ghost Stories series. It's the tale of ghost Rose Marshall, the girl from the countless spooky stories of women being murdered, who helps guide lost souls. Intrigued? Read on..
There is nothing more human than the ghost story. Every culture in the world creates hauntings for itself, things that lurk in the shadows and wait for the unwary. Yet, at the same time, there are certain ghost stories and certain forms of haunting that seem to be quintessentially American. This leads us to the story of the Phantom Prom Date. Her story is considered an example of the Hitchhiking Ghost sub-type (see Appendix A for further details on the base legend), but has been expanded into a cautionary tale for teenagers about the dangers of driving recklessly. It is perhaps no coincidence that the Phantom Prom Date first began to walk the roads of America in the early 1950s, when concern for teen driving was at a national high.
The most interesting thing about this legend is that it presents a hitchhiking ghost with no specific geographical ties. Unlike Chicago’s White Mary or New Hampshire’s Lonely John, the Phantom Prom Date can be seen anywhere in North America, and has made appearances in locations as diverse as Florida, Ontario and the Pacific Northwest. The only American state with no recorded sightings is Hawaii, which fits with the legend — how would a ghost whose only means of travel is the highway reach a state surrounded entirely by water?
The physical appearance of the Phantom Prom Date may also be relevant. One would expect a legend this far-ranging to present with a dozen different descriptions, but all recorded sightings have included the same details. She is in her mid-teens, with shoulder-length, light brown or dark blonde hair, Caucasian, attractive enough to be noticed without being strikingly beautiful, and wearing a green silk prom dress with matching dress flats. Neither the style of her hair nor the style of her dress changes from report to report; she seems to be caught in the era where she died, forever roaming the highways of America, forever looking for someone who can help her find the way home . . .
— On the Trail of the Phantom Prom Date, Professor Laura Moorhead, University of Colorado.
The Dead Girl in the Diner
THERE’S THIS VOCABULARY WORD — “linear.” It means things that happen in a straight line, like highways and essays about what you did on your summer vacation. It means A comes before B, and B comes before C, all the way to the end of the alphabet, end of the road . . . end of the line. That’s linear.
The living are real fond of linear. The dead . . . not so much. It’s harder to make everything fall into a straight line when nothing begins until you die. The dead begin our “lives” as newborns with heads full of memories, and it can make even the most straightforward story a little difficult to follow. I’ll do my best.
My name is Rose Marshall. This is not a story about my life, although my life will occasionally intrude on the proceedings. It’s messy and unfortunate. It’s also unavoidable. Sorry about that. Only not really, because like I said, the dead aren’t all that invested in “linear,” and I’ve been dead for a long damn time.
If, like us, you must read more, Sparrow Hill Road is on sale tomorrow, in stores and online. And for more spooky tales, be sure to visit our Everything Paranormal page!