Review : The Ghastling Book One

Now, where did I first see The Ghastling…I think it was over on Instagram but I can’t exactly be sure. All I know is that suddenly it was in my life, and I burnt my fingers typing in my bank account details to purchase the first book in the five book series. I had a feeling that it would give me the same satisfaction as Misty Annuals had done back in the early 90’s. I HAD TO HAVE IT. The Ghastling is one of those print publications where I find myself thinking ‘How the fuck did I only JUST NOW find out about this?’ It’s been on the scene of the weird since 2014 and I feel somewhat embarrassed that it’s taken until 2017 for it to come across my radar. But it’s here now, and that’s what really matters.

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Founder and editor Rebecca Parfitt has been working in publishing since 2006 and it was in 2014 that she founded The Ghastling, a literary magazine devoted to ghost stories, the macabre and the oh-so strange…

As I dug a little bit deeper – I have the tendency to want to know almost too much about people. I’m English, it’s what we do – I discovered that Rebecca – talented woman that she is – is also a writer of fiction and poetry. Her debut collection The Days After is published by Listen Softly London and it’s on going on my ‘to buy list’ IMMEDIATELY.

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But back to The Ghastling. I bought the first issue for about £14 plus P&P from Amazon and it arrived pretty swiftly. Could have been a bit quicker, but it’s just because I’m an impatient bitch wanting her dose of 1st class horror yesterday.

First impression when I tugged the slim but gorgeously printed publications out of his cardboard sleeve was ‘yes, wow, love it, yes, freaky as shit front cover illustration…kind of reminds me of myself when I get out of bed in the morning, fucking yes I’m glad I bought this.’ And then I opened it up. And I nearly died.

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Memories from my childhood, from the Misty Annuals, from all the beautifully illustrated ghost story books, from all the Enchanted World Series volumes…they all came flooding back as I carefully leafed through the pages.

I was bowled over by the gorgeousness of each page’s layout, of the vintage illustrations peppered throughout, of the contemporary artwork that periodically appeared including two haunting paintings ‘Jane’ and ‘Sarah’ by Anthony Ryes.

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Then I started proper. The editorial letter was spot the fuck on. I love a good, strong editorial that leaves me chomping at the bit. That’s exactly what Rebecca’s did. Here’s an extract:

‘Our fears take on many shapes and forms: from the intangible – the lurking shadows in the periphery of the mind; to our own mortality and fear of what comes after and will it come back for us…? Whether they occupy our real or imaginary space, they manifest and structure our everyday lives – this is what it feels like to exist.’ – Editorial

Opposite the editorial was what’s probably one of my most adored darkly inspired illustrations in recent years by the writer and graphic artist Paul O’ Connell. 

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Then followed the ghosts and the oddballs and I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into the couch with each page turned. The writing of every story was exquisite – Rebecca makes for a solid editor – suitably tingling my spine. I get weak at the knees at the sight of a good ghost story and I was left so freakingly satisfied. Now, while I didn’t relish each and every one, several of them will be re-read and re-read and re-read. The stories I’ll be thumbing again include A Cold Calling by the brilliant Fay Franklin which I wish had been a few pages longer.

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‘Have you ever met a ghoul? Well, no, of course you haven’t. But it’s a term we use so loosely these days that we think we should know what it means. Those faces, the ones in the cars crawling past a recent road accident, peering out, goggle-eyed, at the scene of death and devastation on the other side of the road. They’re the ghouls of our modern world.’ – A Cold Calling

Another couple I’ll be visiting again are Knock Knock by Storm Jones, Stitch In Time by Marged Parry and Confession by Christina Thatcher.

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“He had a knack for discovering things,” my mother said to everyone throughout my childhood. When I was 8, I brought her a dead robin that had started decomposing beneath one of our pine trees in the yard; it had some needles stuck to its eyes, chest, and feet and it looked like it had bled out all of its blood.’ – Confession

I always really appreciate it when a magazine features a page of info on the contributors – bloody fascinating stuff that nearly always leads me onto wanting to discover yet more about who I’ve just encountered.

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All in all in all, The Ghastling was a magnificent little publication and it’s inspired me, massively so in fact, to really push HARD with the press I’m going to be establishing. As soon as I’m able, I’ll be swooping over to The Ghastling to pick myself up the other four issues.

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