20th Century Ghosts
Goodreads ratings
3.95 / 5

"20th Century Ghosts" Summary

By Joe Hill

horror | 316 pages | Published in NaN

ISBN_13: 9780061147975

Estimated read time: 6 min read

One Sentence Summary

A collection of haunting and imaginative short stories that blend horror and heart.


"20th Century Ghosts" is a collection of short stories written by Joe Hill, an acclaimed author known for his horror and supernatural fiction. Published in 2005, this collection showcases Hill's versatility and storytelling prowess. With a blend of eerie, poignant, and thought-provoking tales, "20th Century Ghosts" offers readers a captivating exploration of the human condition within the realm of the supernatural.

Brief Synopsis

The collection comprises fifteen short stories, each with its own unique atmosphere and narrative. Hill's stories are set in various locations and time periods, ranging from the 1900s to the present day. While some stories are explicitly supernatural, others explore the darker aspects of human nature or delve into themes of loss, love, and longing. The collection also features a few stories that pay homage to classic horror tropes while adding a fresh twist.

Main Characters

Character NameDescription
Alec SheldonA writer struggling with his creative process and haunted by his past.
Imogene GilchristA young girl with an unusual gift for attracting ghosts.
EddieA young boy who discovers a hidden movie theater with a ghostly projectionist.
FrancisA ghost who becomes trapped in a movie theater.
DavidA young man dealing with the loss of his brother and the strange occurrences that follow.
Greta BowieA woman who finds herself drawn to an abandoned amusement park.

Summary of Different Story Points Over Chapters

"Best New Horror"

In this story, Alec Sheldon, the editor of a horror fiction magazine, receives a submission that terrifies him. As he investigates the origins of the story, he becomes haunted by his own past.

"20th Century Ghost"

This story follows the life of Imogene Gilchrist, a young girl who attracts ghosts. She forms a unique bond with a ghostly boy named Francis and learns to embrace her gift.

"Pop Art"

In "Pop Art," Hill explores the friendship between a boy named Arthur and a ghost named Art. Despite their differences, they form a deep connection that transcends life and death.

"You Will Hear the Locust Sing"

David, a young man mourning the loss of his brother, encounters a mysterious girl who warns him of impending danger. As he delves deeper into the mystery, David uncovers a chilling secret.

"Abraham's Boys"

This story focuses on the relationship between two young boys, Jack and his younger brother, Nick. They are the descendants of the legendary vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing, and their lives become intertwined with the supernatural.

"Better Than Home"

The story revolves around Francis, a ghost trapped in a movie theater, and his unexpected encounter with a young boy named Eddie. Their connection leads to a bittersweet resolution.

"The Black Phone"

A kidnapped boy named John finds himself trapped in a basement with only a disconnected black telephone. However, he soon discovers that the phone connects to the spirit world, and he must find a way to escape his captor.

"In the Rundown"

Greta Bowie, a woman haunted by her past, finds solace in an abandoned amusement park. As she explores the park's eerie attractions, Greta confronts her fears and learns the power of redemption.

Main Events

  1. Alec Sheldon's haunting past resurfaces as he investigates a terrifying story in "Best New Horror."
  2. Imogene Gilchrist forms a bond with the ghostly Francis in "20th Century Ghost."
  3. The friendship between Arthur and the ghost Art defies the boundaries of life and death in "Pop Art."
  4. David's encounter with a mysterious girl leads him to uncover a chilling secret in "You Will Hear the Locust Sing."
  5. Jack and Nick, descendants of Abraham Van Helsing, confront the supernatural in "Abraham's Boys."
  6. Francis, a ghost trapped in a movie theater, finds a connection with young Eddie in "Better Than Home."
  7. John must find a way to escape his captor using a disconnected black phone in "The Black Phone."
  8. Greta Bowie confronts her past and finds redemption in an abandoned amusement park in "In the Rundown."

Themes and Insights

  1. The power of storytelling: Hill explores the influence of stories and how they can shape our lives and beliefs.
  2. Grief and loss: Many stories in the collection delve into the themes of loss and the different ways people cope with grief.
  3. The supernatural in everyday life: Hill seamlessly blends the supernatural with ordinary settings, highlighting the presence of the extraordinary within the mundane.
  4. Identity and self-discovery: Characters in the stories grapple with their identities, often discovering hidden aspects of themselves in the process.
  5. The duality of human nature: Hill explores the dark side of human nature, showcasing both the capacity for cruelty and the potential for redemption.

Reader's Takeaway

"20th Century Ghosts" is a captivating collection of short stories that seamlessly blend horror, supernatural elements, and poignant human experiences. Joe Hill's ability to create vivid and multifaceted characters, coupled with his atmospheric storytelling, makes this collection a must-read for fans of the genre. Each story offers a unique perspective on the human condition, leaving readers with a sense of wonder, unease, and a deeper understanding of the complexities of life.


"20th Century Ghosts" exemplifies Joe Hill's talent for crafting compelling narratives that transcend the boundaries of genre fiction. With its diverse range of stories and themes, this collection is a testament to Hill's ability to captivate readers with his haunting prose and thought-provoking storytelling. Whether you are a fan of horror or simply enjoy well-crafted short stories, "20th Century Ghosts" is sure to leave a lasting impression.

20th Century Ghosts FAQ

  1. Who is the author of '20th Century Ghosts'?

    The author of '20th Century Ghosts' is Joe Hill.

  2. What genre does '20th Century Ghosts' belong to?

    '20th Century Ghosts' is a collection of horror and supernatural short stories.

  3. How many stories are included in '20th Century Ghosts'?

    There are 15 stories included in '20th Century Ghosts'.

  4. Are the stories in '20th Century Ghosts' interconnected?

    No, the stories in '20th Century Ghosts' are not interconnected. Each story stands alone.

  5. What is the length of '20th Century Ghosts'?

    '20th Century Ghosts' has a total length of approximately 400 pages.

  6. Are the stories in '20th Century Ghosts' scary?

    Yes, '20th Century Ghosts' contains horror and supernatural elements, and some stories can be considered scary.

  7. Is '20th Century Ghosts' suitable for young readers?

    '20th Century Ghosts' is intended for adult readers due to its mature themes and content.

  8. Has '20th Century Ghosts' won any awards?

    Yes, '20th Century Ghosts' won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Fiction Collection in 2005.

  9. Can I read '20th Century Ghosts' even if I don't usually read horror?

    Yes, '20th Century Ghosts' is a collection of diverse stories that appeal to a wide range of readers, not just horror fans.

  10. Is '20th Century Ghosts' a standalone book or part of a series?

    '20th Century Ghosts' is a standalone book and not part of a series.