Ghost Eaters

A Novel

Formats and Prices





This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around September 20, 2022. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

“A Gothic-punk graveyard tale about what haunts history and what haunts the human soul. An addicting read that draws you into its descent from the first page.”-Chuck Wendig, New York Times best-selling author of The Book of Accidents

One of Vulture’s Best Horror Novels of 2022 (So Far), this terrifying supernatural page-turner will make you think twice about opening doors to the unknown.

Erin hasn’t been able to set a single boundary with her charismatic but reckless college ex-boyfriend, Silas. When he asks her to bail him out of rehab-again-she knows she needs to cut him off. But days after he gets out, Silas turns up dead of an overdose in their hometown of Richmond, Virginia, and Erin’s world falls apart.

Then a friend tells her about Ghost, a new drug that allows users to see the dead. Wanna get haunted? he asks. Grieving and desperate for closure with Silas, Erin agrees to a pill-popping “seance.” But the drug has unfathomable side effects-and once you take it, you can never go back.


for M

Branches they bore of that enchanted stem,

Laden with flower and fruit, whereof they gave

To each, but whoso did receive of them

And taste, to him the gushing of the wave

Far far away did seem to mourn and rave

On alien shores; and if his fellow spake,

His voice was thin, as voices from the grave….


Behold, if the plague be spread in the house, it is a fretting leprosy in the house: it is unclean.



a ghost story

three years ago

Tripping our asses off in the cemetery is Silas's idea. We dose back at his dorm to give the acid a head start. By the time we abandon campus and hop the wrought-iron fence surrounding Hollywood Cemetery, the four of us are all well on our way to peak fry.

"What're we doing what're we doing," Amara keeps repeating under her breath, a giddy litany. "What're we doing what're we—"

"Remember your partners," Silas whispers as he scales the fence first. He just high-jumps those spikes like a grave-robbing Olympian. Now that's some gold-medal trespassing.

Poor Tobias can't seem to find a foothold on the fence. His tattered Vans keep slipping, reminding me of that puny kid on the playground who doesn't have the upper body strength to pull himself up the monkey bars on his own. He's too embarrassed to ask for help, shooing Silas's hand away whenever he offers it. "I got it, I got it," he keeps muttering.

Amara and I are the only ones left on the street, so we plant our hands on Tobias's scrawny ass and heave-ho him over. I can literally feel the bone in his butt cheek as we push. From where I'm standing, it looks like he takes flight for a moment, just a beanpole of a bat flapping his wings through the bruised purple sky.

Amara is next. She starts to shriek, practically impaling herself on one of the rusted spears. We all shush her—try to, at least, in between laughing our asses off. She flips over the fence and falls flat on her face. It's far too dark for me to see her land—Silas won't let us use the flashlights on our phones—so there's a hot second where I worry if Amara's cracked her skull open on a tombstone or something. But she's cackling like an absolute candyflipping witch, rolling around in the grass, so we know she's still breathing.

"Come on, Erin." Silas beckons through the bars. He's gripping them with both hands, leaning his face through the gap. He's a convict and I've come to break him out. "Your turn."

I can't help myself. His face is right there. Lips right there. I lean in and kiss him through the fence. Flecks of rust dig into my cheeks, smearing my makeup. Here comes the lockjaw.

"Jesus, guys," Amara whispers-but-not-really-whispers. "Get a tomb already."

Suddenly I'm second-guessing myself: I can't climb over this. What if I lose my footing and fall on one of those spikes?

"Easy does it," Silas says. "I got you."

Silas and Tobias each grab a foot and hoist me up while I pull on the top rail. Imagine a cheerleader pyramid, where these two strapping young lads lift me over their heads and I perform the most absolutely fucking perfect hip-over-head airborne tumble you've ever seen, both feet landing directly on a headstone, a total Bring It On crowd-goes-wild dismount.

You'd be wrong. I land on my ass. Hard.

Silas hovers just above me. "You okay?"

"I think I broke my hip."

"You'll live," Silas says. "Take my hand."

Silas says hop on one foot.

Silas says pat your head.

Touch your nose.

…Silas didn't say.

The four of us take in the meandering rows of tombstones tilting like loose teeth. The cemetery's called Hollywood because a few Richmond natives became celebrities way back whenever, returning home only after they kicked the bucket to get buried in their native soil. Everyone returns to Richmond someday. Mostly this place is full of dead Confederates, but there are a few forgotten starlets in the ground. Tourists take photos next to their gaudy graves—but tonight, hours after the cemetery gates close and the only occupants are six feet under, all 135 acres of this place belong to us.

"Follow me," Silas says. "Watch your step."

Tobias trips on cue. Tripping while tripping, hardy har. He's practically blind on the best of days, even with his wire-rimmed specs. Swap out the daylight for some liquid sunshine and add a few granite stumbling blocks and it's no wonder he can't stay on his feet.

"Where are we going?" I have to ask.

"You'll see."

Silas never tells us what he's got hidden up his sleeve. That would ruin the surprise, wouldn't it? He has this uncanny ability to rally the troops, enlist the rest of us to do just about whatever he wants—and what he wants most out of life is to gogogogo. His lust for life is addictive and thrilling and downright exhausting all at once. Who cares if we have to wake up tomorrow morning for class? Haven't we realized academia is merely for sheep? Silas says we're better than all the other undergrad lemmings, and who are we to argue? Sounds good to me. He can somehow convince us to forget our inhibitions, to lose ourselves in the white heat of the moment. To hop trains in the dead of night. To embark on random road trips with no destination. To take jaunts through haunted plantations that last until the sun rises over the abandoned tobacco fields.

This city is ours, he always says. The Four Musketeers. All for one and one for Silas…

We found each other through our mutual admiration for postmodern authors during our freshman fiction writing workshop. Paul Auster cosplay, basically. Silas wants to be David Foster Wallace, bandana and all. Tobias called dibs on DeLillo. Amara has an unhealthy obsession with Pynchon, so she claimed him. Silas said I had a Lethem streak in me, but I've never read him. L'eggo my Eggers, I said, hoping to sound pithy. I'm ready to be the world's first Erin Hill. The literary world was our oyster and Silas made me feel like I was its black pearl.

"Something bit me." Amara groans as she smacks her palm against her bare shoulder. Figures she didn't dress appropriately for grave robbing. "How much further?"

"Almost there."

"Can you just tell us where we're going? I'm getting eaten alive out here."

"Patience," Silas says. "Good things come to those who wait…"

A cherub perched on a pillar twists its neck toward me just as I pass it. I stop to make sure, staring at the chubby naked baby with brittle wings. Its washed-out eyes blink back.

Oh, good, I'm not just imagining it. Glad I cleared that up.

Its chiseled features have been sanded down, all the decades of rain and cold weather erasing its face to a gray plane. But it still has its eyelids, opening and closing over two slopes of stone, a pair of rotten eggs stuffed in its sockets. The headstone is too small for an adult.

Oooh, shit…A baby is buried here. Did I just say that out loud? I can't tell for sure. I run my hand across the tomb, tracing every letter with my fingertips like I'm reading braille:


"Erin?" Silas takes hold of my arm, bringing me back. "You okay?"


"You sure?"


"Stay with me," he says, taking my hand and leading me through the undulating row of graves—and in my head, I think it's in my head, I say stay with me, stay with me, stay.

The headstones won't keep still. The marble flexes. Tombstones turn my way as I walk by. They may as well be dancing toadstools, their inscribed umbrella caps bopping along—


I just have to keep cool. Breathe in deep. Don't freak.

"What're we doing," Amara keeps reciting. "What're we doing what're we doing…"

We're pushing our personal boundaries, I imagine Silas might say. We're living life to its fullest. We're turning this city into our own personal playground and howling at the moon. But he keeps quiet, silently guiding us through the bopping headstones.

Tobias won't talk. Won't peek out from his shell. The acid isn't helping, I can tell. I don't want to know what personal horror movie is projecting across the inside of his skull right now.

But I don't care. My world is me and Silas. My hand in his. He's leading me along, always my guide. I don't know if my feet are touching the ground anymore. I could be a balloon, for all I know. My arm is a string and Silas is running through the cemetery while I whip in the wind.

"Here we are," he says, stopping before a mausoleum that seems to be some bizarro cross section of Masonic and Egyptian architecture. The concrete is covered in kudzu—nope, scratch that. It's spray paint. I have to squint to make out what's scrawled across the vault. Even then, the warped words don't want to keep still long enough for me to read them. All I can make out is—


The gate to the tomb should be locked—shouldn't it?—but Silas pries it open no problem, hinges giving in with a rusted wail that echoes throughout the rest of the cemetery.

"No fucking way," Amara says. "I'm not going in there. There are spiders!"

"Then wait outside," Silas says. "You're on lookout."

The mausoleum swallows Silas right up. Tobias ducks his head in next, as if he's Silas's lost shadow, careful not to clock his noggin against the top of the doorway.

Wait for me, I imagine Silas's shadow saying, wait for meeeee!

Amara looks at me. At this point in our friendship, the two of us have perfected our psychic abilities, communicating with one another strictly through brain waves.

Are you really going to do this? she asks with her eyes, her voice coming in loud and clear in my head.

I, uh…guess so? We've come this far, you know?

The fuck, Erin? She's not pleased, clearly. For real?

Come with me!

No, no way.

Fine. Party pooper. I duck into the mausoleum and immediately feel the drop in temperature. The chill is thick. It seeps through my skin, reaching deep, all the way to the bone.

I have a quick minute to myself while Silas and Tobias plot together and Amara confronts the massive expanse of slumbering corpses just beneath her feet outside.

I do what I always do in moments like these: I pull out my Sharpie from my pocket and find a free spot on the wall. The inhabitant of this mausoleum will forgive me one small indiscretion, considering the countless others who have already thrown up their own graffiti. Couples have scribbled their names: PAUL + HANNA 4-EVA. A few rudimentary pentagrams. Loopy-lettered tags: ZOMBI. LONG LIVE VIDEO FAN. GHOSTBUSTAZ.

My contribution is relatively simple in comparison:


Present tense. Not past. I'm leaving a little part of myself behind. I'll always be here.

"Jesus, it's freeeezing," Amara squeals behind me. She can never be alone for long. She knows this, I know this. Silas definitely knows this. She can't stand being by herself. She slides up next to me and threads her arm through mine, shivering. "Miss me?"

"Always," I say. The two of us hunch together in our ringside seats to Silas's séance.

"Everybody sit in a circle," he says.

He's brought candles. Of course he has. His backpack is like a one-stop shop for all your supernatural needs. He pulls out the appropriate paraphernalia and gets to illuminating.

"I'm not sitting on somebody's grave," Amara snipes—and for once I don't disagree with her. I can hear the chitinous limbs of insects flexing all around us. Some mile-long centipede is winding up my leg and it won't stop, no matter how many times I try swatting at it. I'm coming for your cooooch, the centipede utters as it rounds the bend. Coochie-coochie-coooo!

"Come on," Silas says, snapping me out of it. "Mr. Pool won't mind."

"Who's that?" I ask.

"Ever hear of W.W. Pool? Some call him the Richmond vampire, but that's just bullshit. He's really a revenant."

Amara's snort reverberates through the tight confines of the crypt.

"Sorry," she says. "What's a…a reve-whatever…"

"Revenant. Someone trapped between the living and dead."

"Poor him," I say, my focus drifting to the liquid-like shadows cast by the candles. I don't feel any wind but they certainly seem to be flickering from some external force, rippling outward.

"Give me a hand," Silas says to Tobias while running his fingers along the crypt's marble shutter.

Tobias hops to it without protest. "Yeah, okay." It's the most I've heard him talk all night.

Silas says help me break into this tomb.

Silas says help me dig up this grave.

Silas says…

"Um," Amara starts, "what're you doing?"

"I just need to get his tongue."

"I'm sorry, what? Come the fuck again?"

"They say if you can cut out a revenant's tongue, you can speak to the dead." Silas says it so matter-of-factly, as if this is the most normal thing in the world.

"Nope," Amara says. Her voice bounces off the mausoleum walls. "Goodnight, I'm out."

"A little too late to back out now, don't you think?"

"Are you kidding? You never told us we were gonna be chopping off crusty body parts!"

"Would you have come if I had?"

"Hell no!"

I watch from the sidelines as Amara and Silas continue to bicker.

"And why exactly did we have to drop acid for this?" Amara asks.

"Why not?" is Silas's answer. Always his answer. "It helps with the spiritual connection. There's somebody I want to talk to."

His mother, I think. Silas doesn't say her name out loud. He doesn't have to. We all know she passed away when he was nine years old. He freely shares that she'd been in a car accident, but I'm the only one who knows Silas was buckled in the backseat when a sixteen-wheeler smashed into their Toyota Matrix on the interstate. Silas told me about their vehicle spiraling through the air, how he lost himself in the vertigo of the moment, how he remembered watching his mother's hair whip around, fanning around her face as her neck twisted…and twisted. Suddenly they were staring at each other, his mother's bloodshot eyes peering into the backseat through the gap in the headrest, her chin perched between her shoulder blades. Her spinal column had curlicued to the point of near decapitation. The only thing keeping her head physically attached to the rest of her was her corkscrewed skin.

Not that it stopped her from talking. She looked so confused. She didn't understand what was happening to her. She was already dead by then, but she was still talking to me. Telling me everything was going to be all right. That I was going to be okay. That she loved me.

Silas walked away from the wreck without a scratch. A miracle, he said. That's when he started believing in ghosts. Always chasing after his mother.

The mausoleum wall has crumbled along the corner. All it takes are a few swift kicks administered by Silas's heel for it to give away. The rock disintegrates, exposing a casket inside.

"Fuck this," Amara moans. "Fuuuck this so muuch."

"You take that side," Silas instructs Tobias. "Just help me pull."

The boys are busy busting out some Podunk Dracula or whatever the hell Silas called him, leaving me and Amara to wig out. We both know this is fucked. Amara doesn't need to convince me, but she'll blame me because she can't blame bulletproof Silas, and of course she'd never blame herself.

My attention drifts toward the mausoleum entrance. To the dark pressing in.

"…Guys?" Nobody pays attention to me. "Guys!"

"What?" Silas asks. "What is it?"

"Ghosts" is all I can say as I point to the doorway. The cemetery is full of them. Orbs of light wash over the graves. They're drawing near. Floating our way.

"You see them too, right?" I whisper. "Please tell me you see them."

"What are they?" Amara asks, awestruck.

"Run," Silas says.

Silas says…

Silas says…

Silas grabs my wrist and yanks. My arm snaps taut before the rest of my body is whisked out of the tomb. I can't look away from the balls of light bouncing through the rows of graves, the ghosts stretching their spectral bodies out farther and farther.

Wait. Those aren't ghosts.

Flashlights. We're being chased by cemetery security. Well, fuck a duck. We're booking it through the world's most impossible obstacle course. I count three beams behind me. There's more of us than there are of them, which means maybe one of us will be lucky enough to survive the night.

"Go go go!" Silas shouts over his shoulder.

Amara screams. She's done for, I know it. There's no way she's going to make it. I'll bail her out later, I promise myself. My parents will fork over the money to spring her from jail. Can you even bail a pal out on your Amex?

Tobias takes the lead. He doesn't even look back. Fucking long-legged gazelle in drain-pipe jeans. He's leaping over graves like his life depends on it. Oh shit oh shit oh shit, he pants between each pump of his legs before banking left and vanishing among the headstones. Good as ghosted.

Silas hasn't let go of my wrist, thank god. I'd be done for without him leading the way, guiding me through the endless maze of graves. I'm thinking far too linearly to be running for my life right now. I want to run straight while the headstones won't stay in a single-file line.

The cherubs cheer us on, clapping their tiny hands. A granite angel solemnly shakes her head. I can't help but think of my mom, how disappointed she'd be in me right now.

"Run faster," Silas says. "Come on, Erin!"

He yanks my arm to the left and it nearly pops out of its socket. Before I can see where I'm falling, we land on the ground. Blades of grass scratch my neck. Silas presses his palm over my mouth and I know I'm supposed to be still, be quiet, but everything inside me is shrieking.

A grave. We're lying on someone's grave, hiding behind their tombstone.

I'm trying so hard to hold my breath as a rent-a-cop waddles right on by, key chain jangling. Silas and I cling to each other and squeeze, compressing our bodies together to fit behind the headstone. Even after the guard passes us, we don't move until we know for certain the coast is clear.

"Think we can make a break for it?" he asks. I inhale Silas's words. I can taste them on my tongue. The sun will be coming up in a couple hours. We could run or we could…

"Stay." I kiss him so hard that the back of his head hits marble but he doesn't pull away. I run my fingers through his hair and can feel dead leaves tangled within it. "Stay with me."

I want to keep hidden within the shadow of the tombstone, our heads pressed against it, chests rising and falling with every frantic breath, hearts never settling, inhales tethering together until we've syncopated our exhales, breathing in and out in unison, sharing a pair of lungs.

My hand wanders down his chest and lands on his pants.

"What're you doing?" he asks.

"What do you think?"

"You sure? I don't have any protection on me."


"We have to keep quiet."

"Very quiet," I whisper.

Silas's hand runs down my waist. That's his hand, isn't it? It takes a moment for me to realize those aren't the infinitesimal legs of a centipede lockstepping their way across my skin.

I need to focus on his body. Focus on his flesh. Focus on his hands. I can feel the coarseness of his fingertips as they tunnel beneath my shirt—and for just a moment, I slip out of reality. They're not his fingers anymore but the squiggly insects that call these coffins home, that squirm through the muck and mud and feast on the flesh of every last corpse in this godforsaken cemetery. Long forgotten starlets. The corpses of dead Confederate generals.

And now me. I'm next. I have this stupid poem running through my head from when I was a kid—the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms play pinochle on your snout—and now that I've thought it, I can't un-think it.

The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out—

Silas's fingers burrow their way into my body.

worms crawl in—

I know I'm just buckling under a bad trip, but it doesn't stop the worms from foraging through my skin. I need to stay focused. Follow Silas through.

worms crawl out—

Silas's lips mash into mine, but his lips aren't lips, they're maggots. I feel one slip in and tumble upon my tongue, down my throat.

worms play—

My zipper exhales. Silas has found what he's looking for. What I've offered. I just have to work through the trip. If I keep my eyes closed, it won't be so bad. I just have to hold on to Silas.

Hold on…


Now I hear them. All of them below. The dead. We must have woken them. Agitated their eternal slumber. Now they're moving around, tumbling in their caskets, awake and aware of us writhing above them. I can hear the creaking of their brittle fists and I can't stop myself from picturing them all jacking off just underneath us, hundreds of bones draped in papery husks, buffeting against the tight confines of their coffins.

We've raised the dead. Every last gasp, every slipping sigh that escapes my mouth must send them into a frenzy. They're cheering Silas on with their parched voices, Go go go!

They want me.

I can't feel Silas anymore. The second he releases himself inside me, his body loses all of its contours. The entirety of his physical being bursts over me and the thing I'm holding in my arms is no longer flesh but a knot of worms, all of them tangled into one another, writhing against my skin, working their way through me and over me and oh god they won't stop squirming they're feeding on me crawling in crawling out playing pinochle on my snout.


I can't pick up a pulse. There's no responsiveness. No breath. Vitals all point toward a code blue. It's going to take a second for the defibrillator to charge up and that's a second I don't have. I'm losing him. I can launch into CPR, but I usually save that for the end of the night.

"I hear they've got good chicken wings," Tanner says.

I should just call it. Announce the time of death on this blind date, bag it and tag it before happy hour ends—but no, I'm not giving up. No one dies tonight. Not on my watch.

The waiter finally arrives with my G&T, not a moment too soon. Every sip counts here, so I quickly apply the pads—Clear!—hoping to jolt some life back into this conversation.

"So," I start.

"So," he echoes, drumming his fingers against the table.

Nothing. Still can't hear a heartbeat. I ask the waiter to prep another round of epinephrine, raising my already half-empty glass, the swirling ice clink-clink

On Sale
Sep 20, 2022
Page Count
304 pages