Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Pocket Book of Ghost Stories: Review

"...there's a ghost, but that nobody knows it's a ghost?"
"Well--not till afterward, at any rate."
("Afterward" by Edith Wharton) 

The Pocket Book of Ghost Stories by Philip Van Doren Stern (ed) is a collection of spine-tingling stories from the mid-1800s to the early 1940s. It brings together such famous stories as "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Poe as well as tales that I had never heard of before. An excellent group--that gave me something a little more spooky for the Spring Into Horror Read-a-Thon. Well work a look, if you can find yourself a copy. ★★and a half.

A run-down of the stories:

"The Beckoning Fair One" by Oliver Onions (1911): A classic haunted house story where an unsuccessful writer moves into rooms in an otherwise empty house, in the hope that isolation will help his failing creativity.  Things get creative all right--but not in the way he anticipates.

"The Mezzotint" by Montague Rhode (M. R.) James (1904): Mr. Williams is sent, on approval an engraving (the titular mezzotint) of a view of a manor-house.  It comes highly recommended from trusted dealer.  But it seems a very amateurish thing.  Williams is of a mind to send it back.  Then he realizes that scene is not changes and a frightful story is acted out.

"Tarnhelm" by Hugh Walpole (1933): A young boy is sent to Cumberland to spend Christmas with his uncles. He is haunted by dreams and waking visions of a ghastly yellow dog. Or is it just a dream?

"The Willows" by Algernon Blackwood (1907): Two friends are canoeing down the Danube.  They run into more than they bargained for on an island covered by "willows."

"August Heat" by W. F. Harvey (1910): Two men meet, as if by chance, on a hot August day but each has had a vision of sorts about the other's future.  And the "heat is stifling.  It is enough to send a man mad."

"The Mark of the Beast" by Rudyard Kipling (1890): Three Englishmen living in India make rather free with the drinks on New Year's Eve. One of their party desecrates an idol of Hanuman, the Monkey-god, is bitten by a strange leprous "Silver Man," and then told by one of the temple priests, "You may be done with Hanuman, but Hanuman is not done with you." How right the priest is.

"Couching at the Door" by D. K. Broster (1942): A poet is stalked by an odd, furry creature (somewhat resembling a woman's boa)--that apparently only he can see.He tries drowning it and burning it up in his bedroom fire...but it keeps coming back.

"The Familiar" by Sheridan Le Fanu (1872): The story relates events leading up to the death of Captain James Barton, who is haunted by a strange figure who may or may not be a ghost, but whose relentless appearance causes Barton to lose his senses and eventually his life.

"The Upper Berth" by F. Marion Crawford (1894): Brisbane, a young man is crossing the Atlantic on his favorite ship, the Kamtschatka. He stays in Cabin 105 but all is not as it seems and soon Brisbane will have to fight for his life as the secret of the upper berth is revealed. [You can listen to a version of this below.]

"The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe (1843): The classic Poe story about a man whose conscience gets the better of him.

"The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892): The story revolves around a young wife and her descent into madness. She's diagnosed with "hysteria" and must remain quiet in her room where she becomes obsessed by the pattern and color of the wallpaper. "It is the strangest yellow, that wall-paper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw – not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things. But there is something else about that paper – the smell! ... The only thing I can think of that it is like is the color of the paper! A yellow smell."

"Afterward" by Edith Wharton (1910): Mary and Ned Boyne leave behind their dreary life in Wisconsin for a home in rustic Dorsetshire. But you can only run so far, and some things – some secret things – may follow you. A creepy and tragic ghost story about how things from your own life may haunt more than any ghost could.

"Full Fathom Five" by Alexander Woollcott (1929): Two sisters whose car had broken down on a lonely country road, spent the night in a deserted house. Late that night, they see the ghost of a sailor standing at the fire place. The next morning there was a pool of salty water there that had a piece of seaweed in it. A few years later, they had the piece of seaweed analysed. It was the kind that grows only on dead bodies.

1 comment:

fredamans said...

I would read this for some of the authors alone... Walpole, Poe and Wharton are among my favorites in classics! I would definitely like this one, I'm sure!