It was a winter many years ago when my mother shared two things with me. The first was a The Witch of Coös -New England ghost story disguised as a poem by Robert Frost. That was wonderful. The second was a paperback anthology of stories by Edgar Allan Poe.
It sticks out in my memory for several reasons. My mothers voice, reading loud so I could hear, as she read of the bones making their trip through the house in The Witch of Coos. The warmth of being bundled up in a blanket next to my mom as she helped me through some of the strange words in The Pit and the Pendulum and later the happiness of reading in bed until I drifted off to sleep.
I think I should point out that these stories never left me afraid. When I was ten I took a dare from some kids in town and crept out of the house to spend a summer night in the old graveyard down the street from our sandwich shop in Marshallton, PA. Some of the graves went back to the time of William Penn. I sat in the dark reading some of Jack London’s crazy horror stories by flashlight. No ghosts came to bother me, but I did see an owl and some deer. The only unpleasant part was the cold that comes right before dawn. I should have brought a jacket.
While we tend to center scary stories around Halloween, winter has always been my favorite time of year to curl up with a good gruesome tale. Autumn is so pretty, but winter is ugly and bleak with bare trees and howling wind.
My mother and I read every book in the Chester County and later Haverford Township libraries. We would visit the library once or twice a week and go home overloaded with books. We read everything we could get out hands on, but I always got a thrill when I came across something the was both scary and well written.
Algernon Blackwood, Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft stand out as the favorites of my childhood, and their stories are all available on the web in text or as audiobooks. If you are snowed in today, why not send a shiver down your spine?
If horror stories are not your thing, maybe introduce a kid to Robert Frost instead? I think a lot of my comfort with words, rhythm and melody is the direct result of my mother turning me on to poetry.