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Edmonton publisher pairs with Hollywood comedian on spooky new project

Patton Oswalt selected 11 short stories for Hingston and Olsen's Ghost Box collection

Michael Hingston created the Ghost Box. A collection of scary stories for Halloween.

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Kevin Tuong / Edmonton Freelance

Michael Hingston created the Ghost Box. A collection of scary stories for Halloween.

An Edmonton publisher’s new scary-story project started with a startling, but decidedly unfrightening, occurrence.

Hingston and Olsen Publishing’s first project, the Short Story Advent Calendar, somehow caught the attention of actor and comedian Patton Oswalt, who bought one online and elevated its profile worldwide.

“We were really excited about that because we saw his name come through the order form. We were both huge fans of his,” said Edmonton author and journalist Michael Hingston, who runs the business with his partner Natalie Olsen.

Oswalt started posting photos on Twitter of himself reading the short stories, giving the young Edmonton publisher “the best free advertising you could ask for.”

“Every single day he was showing off Natalie’s design work, he was promoting the names of the writers – many of which were local writers or smaller writers from Canada and the U.S., so that was amazing,” Hingston said.

Oswalt then contacted the pair to thank them for the advent calendar and suggested they compile a horror-themed short story collection called the “Ghost Box.”

Hingston said he didn’t know much about scary stories, and asked if Oswalt wanted to curate them – to which the comedian immediately replied, “Yes.”

“Obviously you don’t hesitate when someone like that offers to work with you,” Hingston said.

“I can’t literally think of another example of a publisher as small as we are getting someone as prominent as he is.”

The result is a collection of 11 stories, each individually bound inside a creepy looking box with a magnetized lid, released just in time for Halloween.

The tales cover a wide range of styles, tones and eras in horror writing.

Some authors are long dead, while some are at the peak of their careers. Some, like Game of Thrones author George RR Martin, are famous, and others more obscure.

“The stories themselves are amazing – I think they’re really genuinely scary and there’s a great mix of stuff,” Hingston said.

Olsen designed the packaging and presentation, while Hingston secured the rights for the stories and other behind-the-scenes publishing work.

The stories add up to a novel-sized read, with about 250 spine-tingling pages in total.

“It’s to get you in the Halloween spirit,” Hingston said.

“In the era of pumpkin spice, pumpkin beer, Thanksgiving season, it’s all part of that. It’s all the build-up to Halloween.”

The collection is available through Hingston and Olsen’s website.

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