Monday, 9 August 2010

Famous Modern Ghost Stories

This collection of fifteen famous ghost stories edited by Dorothy Scarborough was first published in 1921. Only about half of the stories have survived the past century with any notoriety intact. Scarborough's selection process was quite wide and loose with the term ghost. Most of the stories are drawn from American publications of the time, the Harper brothers gaining the biggest slice of the publishing credits.
Gems for me are:
  • The Willows by Algernon Blackwood, more a novella than a short story but one of the great horror stories of the 20th Century (see my previous review).
  • The Beast With Five Fingers by W.F. Harvey - A very creepy story about a possessed severed hand. This story spawned two feature films.
  • The Woman at Seven Brothers by Wilbur Daniel Steele - Very atmospheric ghost story set on a remote lighthouse. I admit I have a love of lighthouses and relish any story well told from its windy staircases, lamp-rooms and common rooms. This story is a little traditional but still well told.
  • Ligeia by Edgar Alllan Poe - Poe shows off his sumptuous use of the English language, penning on the layers of creepiness with aplomb. Some of Poe's stories are worth reading just for the use of language alone: e.g. 'blacker than the raven wings of midnight'. Brilliant.
The rest of the stories range from quite good to quite trite. None of them are particularly bad but some seem to have been added to raise the story count. There are also a few oddities worth a read like Myla Jo Closser's At the Gate. The image of all the faithful dogs waiting patiently at the gates of Heaven for their owners to arrive is quite moving. None of the dogs will go through without their owners.

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