Haunted Voices is an anthology of Scottish horror, featuring 31 diverse tales told by new and established oral storytellers. To celebrate its launch, brand new indie press Haunt Publishing invites the audience to Lighthouse Bookshop for a thorough spooking to usher in this fine selection of Scotland’s new gothic fiction. We hear from five of these ghoulish voices, following an introduction by Haunt Publishing’s founder, Rebecca Wojturska. Wojturska talks about her inspiration in founding Haunt – quite simply that she wanted to see more gothic fiction – and her mission to show how diverse horror can be: that there can be humour, and that it is entirely possible to subvert the standard tropes of blood, gore, vampires and fear. The atmosphere tonight is proof of that; the audience is rapt but lively, ready to both laugh and gasp along with an eclectic mix of tales.
We begin with Sheila Kinninmonth’s ‘Lambkin’. The story is simple but Kinninmonth’s delivery makes it come alive. She abandons both microphone and script, and instead spins her tale by rote, illustrating twisted horror with only her booming Fife intonation.
The next story, ‘Scan Lines’ by Ali Maloney, is entirely different, primarily because it is accompanied by Gavin Inglis on the synth. Every word is made more unsettling by the crooning tones Inglis summons; we experience nightmarish cinema suspense live and in stereo, and the story is all the more wonderful for it.
Anna Cheung’s ‘The Bean-Nighe of Glen Aros’ is a short, sharp, haunting wee tale of inevitable death, told modestly and with a smile – somehow this does nothing to diminish its eeriness.
Up next is Sean Wai Keung with ‘The Possession’. Wai Keung is an award-winning storyteller, and it shows. He spins his story of “hungry ghosts” who gather at street corners and gossip about Love Island, with an endearing combination of comedy and dramatic elocution.
The audience at this point is totally enthralled. We have no idea what to expect next, save for the knowledge that it will add a new layer of diverse depth to the rediscovery of horror we are experiencing. Dave Watson’s closing rendition of ‘The Cravin’ does not disappoint. With his Glaswegian retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’, Watson brings a newfound horror and a sense of mischief to the tale of a man sitting alone in the dark, who is called upon by a demon. His words build to one comedic crescendo after another, punctuated by commentary on the pleasure of vices and fear of retribution in a whirl of rhyme and meter that is, undoubtedly, better heard than described.
Hearing from these storytellers reminds the audience of the power of performance. Words change shape when read aloud; they are reformed and imbued with emotion. They allow horror to be reimagined in a new light, as it is throughout the Haunted Voices anthology, an eclectic collection that does away with tropes and showcases the diverse potential of gothic fiction.
Image: Haunt Publishing