Ghosts Out Of Season

I’m not exactly sure why, but Christmas, particularly Christmas Eve, seems to be equated with ghost stories, even more so than Halloween. Perhaps it’s down to that Dickens fella.

If ever I turn to such fayre, I prefer the older, Gothic-type tales, my favourite, so far, being The Phantom Coach, by Amelia B. Edwards, set on a wild, wintry, northern moor.

Recently, on a coach journey of my own, albeit a motorised version, I finished the book that I was reading, and searched my Kindle for something else to read. I found three books that I had uploaded last year, and hadn’t gotten around to reading yet, by Sheridan Le Fanu. Le Fanu was a great 19th Century Gothic writer, and really should be as well known as the likes of Poe and M R James, who himself was a champion of this author, and I decided to delve once more into his world.

I began In A Glass Darkly, a collection of five stories of varying length (in effect, a mix of short stories and novellas). They are all linked by being case studies of a certain Dr Martin Hesselius, who investigates medical cases with a twist of the supernatural about them. A stormy, winter evening would have been a more preferable time to immerse myself in these, rather than a sun-kissed August afternoon, but still, needs must.

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My favourite stories in this are Green Tea, a tale of a clergyman who is haunted by a freaky, red-eyed black monkey, whose plaguing of the poor man becomes progressively more disturbing, and also the wonderful Carmilla, the vampire story that was written before, and was an influence on, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This has long been a favourite of mine.

The role of Carmilla was played by Ingrid Pitt in the film adaptation The Vampire Lovers. Just thought I’d throw a little Hammer connection in there for you!

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Immediately on finishing this collection, I ordered an anthology of shorter ghost stories by Le Fanu, selected by James himself, for the princely sum of one pence!! One pence-I don’t even mind if I hate it at that price. Maybe I will wait until late December to read it. That will please the wife when she starts planning for Christmas.

One of the other three stories in this collection is called The Room In The Dragon Volant. One of the characters in it made this speech:

“Just so! You English, wherever you are, always look out for your English boors, your beer and ‘bifstek’; and when you come here, instead of trying to learn something of the people you visit, and pretend to study, you are guzzling, and swearing, and smoking with one another, and no wiser or more polished at the end of your travels than if you had been all the time carousing in a booth at Greenwich.”

Over a hundred years later, and it seems that we English haven’t changed that much.

7 thoughts on “Ghosts Out Of Season

  1. Sounds like a great collection, Andy. I don’t know why, but when the weather turns cooler, I’m all for ghost stories. And I don’t just mean around Halloween. There’s something about being cozy inside that makes me turn to horror stories.

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    • I think we are both on the same page, Linda 🙂 And promoted by this post and the book, I ended up watching The Vampire Lovers last night. Of course, my wife went to bed 🙂

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  2. I’ve read Carmilla but didn’t know the author had written other stories. I know what you mean about us English. I don’t know any other languages except a tiny ( not very useful) bit of french. When i went to Paris and tried to order in the native language I was told scornfully by the French waiter “not to botherrr!” ha ha

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  3. I swore I’d never have a Kindle (and technically it’s just a handy app on my tablet) but it’s been great for downloading free gothic classics, Through a Glass, Darkly included. I’ve just read The Castle of Otranto and now have The Monk to read when on holiday next week.

    I was also dipping into Poe last week, thoroughly enjoying the story about the maniacs taking over the asylum (‘The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether’), which kept dipping into French phrases that threw my monolingual English brain completely. So much for my French GCSE!

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    • Yes, there are some great (and free) stuff to get out there. I’ve loads of stuff loaded on mine that I haven’t gotten around to yet, just like the Le Fanu ones. I have Lovecraft, and also the completed works of Bram Stoker. In addition to THAT novel of his, the only other thing I’ve read of his is the short story Dracula’s Guest. The favourite ghost story of mine that I mentioned:The Stagecoach, was a freebie too, in a collection of Christmas ghost stories, also featuring Dickens and Le Fanu. Don’t have enough time to read them all!! 🙂

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