England's Peak District Gets Eerie in 'Help the Witch'

England's Peak District Gets Eerie in 'Help the Witch'

Friday, 25 October, 2019

The right book can instantly transport you to anywhere — and anytime — in the world. Every Thursday, we recommend one of our favorite books with a strong sense of place so you can see the sights, meet remarkable people, go on exciting adventures, and feel big feelings. Bonus: You don't even have to put on pants.

This post is part of our 'Weekend Getaway' series.


This weekend, we recommend a getaway to England’s Peak District. In this collection of short stories by Tom Cox, you’ll visit a maybe-haunted house and wonder if that’s ‘just the wind’ or something else entirely.

Everything Tom Cox writes has an urgency about it — as if the words flow unbidden and uninterrupted. But the details are so telling, the observation so shrewd, the words cannot be accidental. When he describes a tree, a hill, a storm, or a bracing swim in the ocean, you feel the tree bark, the grass, the wind, and the chill.

Cox is probably best known for writing books about cats that are not really about cats. His nonfiction narratives tackle the big stuff of life — love, death, magic, fear, history, family — by introducing us to all-too-human and feline characters and taking us into their day-to-day adventures. He’s got a rambling soul and shares his passion for the outdoors, walks that take unexpected turns, the wisdom of trees, and the hilarity (and tragedy) of family.

Image courtesy of The New York Public Library

This, his first foray into fiction — and winner of a 2018 Shirley Jackson Award — is a collection of stories that are foreboding and eerie, unsettling but not scary. These tales transport you directly to the heart of central England’s Peak District. Cox’s tales draw on his affection for folklore, and he uses the tools of nature writing to explore the shadowy depths of this house and just what might be under that tree. The stories are gauzy and shimmery, like the things you glimpse from the corner of your eye, only to have them disappear when you look directly.

Nine Tiny Stories About Houses, one of the best of the bunch, is told via brief snapshots of nine homes and the people who’ve passed through their walls. Another outstanding tale is the title story, a first-person account that places us in the room with the narrator who finds himself in a very spooky situation, indeed.

Friendly tip: Invest in a night light.

Outside, the dark is very dark. But in the day, the whiteness is very dark too, sometimes ever darker. — Tom Cox

Help the Witch

by Tom Cox

This collection of eerie stories (256 pages) was published in October of 2018 by Unbound Publishing. The book takes you to the Peak District of central England. Melissa read Help the Witch and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.


Help the Witch


Top image courtesy of Zoltan Tasi.

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This weekend, we recommend a getaway to Templeton, NY — aka Cooperstown. IRL, there's the Baseball Hall of Fame and James Fenimore Cooper. In the book, there's a lake and old friends and — oh, yeah — a monster.

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