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African Ghost Short Stories | Author Q&A | Story Inspirations

Posted by Gillian Whitaker

Our latest release, African Ghost Short Stories, explores the deep-seated supernatural element in African storytelling, from ancient tales and folklore to the vibrancy of today’s African horror. The anthology includes a foreword by award-winning Nigerian-British writer Nuzo Onoh and an introduction by Prof. Divine Che Neba, and was created with invaluable editorial support from writer and editor Chinelo Onwualu. We also worked with the wonderful Conscious Dreams Publishing to help get the word out on submissions for this theme. To celebrate its publication, some of the modern authors tell us more about the inspiration behind their story – so read on for a fascinating glimpse of the book’s contents!

African ghost short stories gothic fantasy Q&A

What was the inspiration behind your story in this anthology?

Oluwaseyi AdebolaEyo Adimu

I’ve always been fascinated by the Eyo festival which is held in Lagos, Nigeria. I love the colour, the vibrancy and palpable excitement whenever these masquerades come out on the streets. Like many other things I encounter in life, I like to play a game in my mind of imagining an origin story. When I did a bit of research into the event, it turned out to have an even more captivating backstory to it. Like many other works of art, I orchestrated a marriage of sorts between folklore and fiction and birthed the story ‘Eyo Adimu’.


Michael AgugomTrue Yarn

‘True Yarn’ is an attempt at pushing myself to see how much experimentation I can do with the short story form. I had read stories by African authors considered ghost short stories, but I just didn’t want to write one that only satisfies the requirements of the subgenre. I wanted an experimental contemporary form that incorporated elements of the investigative thriller, one that drew from contemporary migration issues (which was what inspired the story: I had the question – if a dead victim from a failed attempt at crossing the Mediterranean for better life and opportunities in Europe returned to tell us her story, what would she be telling us?). I wanted to do even more with the form.


Florence Adongo Bull – A Sly Ogre Is Outwitted by a Woman

I am interested in getting my people’s traditional oral narratives to a wider audience. I believe that the stories hold interesting examples of ethical behaviour and moral probity that hold true across the world for all time. For example, the ogre in my story symbolises evil and his defeat represents the triumph of good over evil, a universal theme that resonates with people across different societies.


Tara CampbellSasabonsam

I was researching the Ashanti for a larger project I was working on, and of course that involved delving into cultural traditions. Reading a book of West African folktales, I became fascinated by all the different modes of storytelling and the creatures that inhabited the stories. When I read stories with monsters, I often gravitate toward the monster’s perspective. I mean, everyone – and everything – has their reasons for doing what they do, right?


Rutendo ChidzodzoWhen Rain Clouds Gather

‘When Rain Clouds Gather’ was inspired by a conversation I had with my mother. We were talking about Zimbabwean traditions and ‘Kurova Guva’ came up. I was fascinated by this tradition; how we had specific rituals dedicated to the deceased, how family duties didn’t stop at death etc. I jokingly asked my mother what would happen if something interrupted the ritual and that was the beginning. Also, family is very important in our culture, so much so that there’s a saying that discourages family members from killing one another. At a young age, we’re told that we can’t harm our family members otherwise they’ll haunt us when they die. I thought that was very fascinating. I wanted a story that married these two ideas together.


Mwenya S. ChikwaHaunting Justice

The main idea had been floating in my mind for a while. When I came across the submission call, and saw it called for ghosts, a quick search brought up a good article that decried the dying legends of Zambian ghosts. Another inspiring piece was a recent news article about a court case involving haunted killers. The victims’ urgency in their own justice would inspire the story’s drive.


Bekwele Chuku – You

For the most part, I came upon this story. It was all laid up in my mind, and I just had to tell it. But also, I’m always eager to write stories that explore women’s plight in a patriarchal society, and I believe that that fascination, and the stories of ghosts that my parents, uncles, and aunts would tell, subconsciously weaved itself into the fabric of this story.


Melody CooperSundown

The original concept for ‘Sundown’ came about when I learned that in Los Angeles in 1938 one of the towns was a sundown town, which surprised me because I thought that was only something in the American South (sundown towns were racist towns that either punished or killed Black people that were caught in them after the sun went down). I learned that there were hundreds of sundown towns across the country in the North, Midwest, South and West. In doing more research, I discovered that several ethnic communities were ostracized in LA around the same time in addition to Black people, including Filipino, Japanese, Mexican, Jewish and Native American peoples. My TV pilot script version of ‘Sundown’ got me into the HBO writing program before Lovecraft Country was produced. With my script, I wanted to explore folklore monsters of various cultures and examine the history of racism through the lens of horror. LA had a large KKK presence in the 1930s and when I was revising the script, Trump and the idea of ‘America First’ reared their heads and it seemed as if factions of the United States were regressing back to 1938. During this year’s writers’ strike in Hollywood, I realized the story was still very relevant and important, so I decided to adapt part of it into a short story. In embracing folklore from many cultures, one of them was the Ewe folklore creature Adze, which is known to the people of Togo and Ghana as vampiric.


Carol B. DuncanPeeny-Wally

My story ‘Peeny-Wally’ was inspired by characters from Caribbean folklore, especially the douen from Trinidad and Tobago. The title ‘peeny-wally’ is Jamaican nation language/creole for fire-fly. I use it to refer to the small light of illumination of the title character. Drawing on the history of enslavement in the Caribbean, I imagined the plight of enslaved children and how folkloric characters may have emerged to explain psychological and spiritual aspects of traumatic experiences.


Stanley GazembaGoat’s Feet

My story was inspired by the many myths we heard growing up in the countryside about the coastal city of Mombasa, the weird tales about jinnees that did strange things, especially to a first-time visitor from upcountry. In the stories they usually presented themselves in the form of a beautiful exotic lady in distress, who the country bumpkin was tempted to ‘rescue’, only for them to end up losing all their money. It is a tale I have explored in detail in my novel Footprints in the Sand (Kingoyo Press, Sweden).


Gabrielle Emem HarryVessels and Warnings and Words Go Out and They Return

‘Words Go Out and They Return’ was inspired by a real ritual for revoking curses that I read about in a research paper about Ibibio cultural practices. I just found the process really interesting. ‘Vessels and Warnings’ is inspired by Nollywood tropes. I just decided to tell the story from the point of view of the girls who fall victim, instead of the money ritualists.


MaryAnn IfeanachoMykonos in Congealed Blood

I started writing this story few weeks after the death of my father. Back then, the name was ‘Bibliotherapy’ and writing it was my attempt of making sense of the illogicality of death as a whole. Like one of my main characters, I desperately wanted to believe my dad was just lost, not dead.


Lucky Grace Isingizwe – Come Play with Us

In Rwanda’s Western province, there is a haunted place by a hill called Kamagali. This haunted area is referred to as mu Bihonga. My cousin used to pass by there on her way to collect water when she was younger and she would sing a Christian song in her head and run very quickly. She’d hear laughter, talking, dancing, and even a whoosh of a stick being thrown even though she saw no stick or anyone who’d thrown it. Lots of people have similar experiences of the place and my dad told me this place used to be a cemetery. Anyway, when my cousin told me this story, I thought basing a ghost story off of this place would be perfect.


B.T. KarumaSacred Dead

‘Sacred Dead’ was partly inspired by a story I heard as a kid – about a relation who became severely ill after refusing the honour of being possessed by an ancestor. Where I come from, such stories aren’t relayed as fiction; they’re fact. I wanted my story to explore what our folklore and urban legends say about death, ghosts, and the afterlife. Our ghosts are balls of flame, our dead watch over the living, and ancestors are sacred.


Kay MabasaMount Nyanga

The inspiration behind this story was Mount Nyanga itself, the tallest mountain in my country, where people have sadly gone missing and have never been found, not even their remains. I grew up on Mount Nyanga stories, elders telling me of what I should never do if I were to ever visit the mountain, so I wouldn’t anger the spirits guarding the mountain and go missing. I’ve never been to the mountain and I don’t think I ever will, because I unfortunately haven’t outgrown the stories even though it’s quite safe and nobody has gone missing for years. I guess I’m like Alice in that way.


Uchechukwu NwakaImonina

My story, ‘Imonina’, was a culmination of several sources of inspiration. First, was the tortoise that plays a big role in several Nigerian folktales, especially as a wise and cunning creature. I was also trying to explore techno-sorcery, as the company in the story does by utilising the artifact’s mysterious powers to render a form of virtual (or augmented) reality. Finally, I wanted to try something a little outside my comfort zone, hence the Hausa roots of the story’s co-protagonist. I’ve really mostly been exposed to Igbo and Yoruba stories in Nigerian storytelling media and I wanted to do something different.


Ivana Akotowaa OforiThe Legend of the 37 Bats

My story was inspired by the colony of megabats outside the 37 Military Hospital in Accra. The sky darkens at dawn and dusk with thousands of winged bodies every day. When I discovered the local legend about their arrival in Accra and their almost supernatural refusal to migrate elsewhere, a story about them just begged to be written. My protagonist is inspired by a friend who lives with fibromyalgia. She and her husband are two of the sweetest people I know.


Anjali PatelOur Bones Were the Mortar

The African Burial Ground National Monument was the inspiration behind this story. It’s real, as is the fact that New York’s Financial District sits on top of an African burial ground with upwards of 15,000 bodies. I used to work in the Financial District and when I think about walking to work over the gravesite of my ancestors…it haunts me. The main character’s struggle with duty and selfishness is a reflection of my own.


Peter K. RotheUncle Bobo

‘Uncle Bobo’ is a homage to my time growing up in Benin, Africa. We used to go to the beach and drive past seaside villages watching fishermen pulling their nets. We often went to the city of Ouidah where there was a great arch called ‘The Port of No Return’, where slaves were taken to America. This arch, and the rich history surrounding it and the region, inspired the story.


Makhosi SthembiOf Mother’s Death

This story is inspired by my work as a sangoma, a native healer, where I sometimes have to cleanse and heal vengeful spirits, even those of children whose spirits are called amanono in Zulu culture. This story deals with amanono who, like their mother who suffers from mother hunger, want justice for their unnatural deaths, not through healing or cleansing however, but through murder.


Franka ZephThe Banyan Tree

Caribbean culture is rich in folklore yet gets very little exposure in mainstream publications. We have our own mythical characters so I thought why not feature them? The first one I thought would be fun to write about was the Douen – a mischievous spirit said to lure children into the forest. Certain trees are affiliated with the supernatural realm and the banyan is one of them. Pairing it with the Douen was a natural fit and the story just came together. I also wanted to give this ghost its own backstory which impacts 5-year-old Asha and her mother who must confront a secret from her past to unravel the mystery. ‘The Banyan Tree’ is very much a female-driven story centered around girlhood innocence and women’s autonomy. Though narrated in standard English, this story contains dialogue featuring the local Trinidadian dialect which is often marginalized in mainstream publishing.

African ghost short stories gothic fantasy

To read these stories and more, buy the book from our website here!


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