Oh I so wish this had been the audio collection I'd chosen for my Christmas listening this year. instead of the woeful "Dark Holidays."
"Classic Tales of Ghosts and Vampires," is a quality collection that gets off to a cracking start with "The Upper Berth," by F. Marion Crawford. It's not the first time I've tried to cross the pond in cabin 105 but it remains a creepy voyage nonetheless. Guy de Maupassant's "Was it a Dream," isn't quite a horror story, being more another of Maupassant's journeys into the darker corners of the human psyche. There is some pretty creepy graveside imagery though. It's over thirty years since I first took the hard drop in Ambrose Bierce's American Civil War chiller "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." I recognise it straight away. Sometimes a story just stays with you.... forever. Mary E. Wilkins Freeman delivers both chills and real sadness with her excellent tragic tale "The lost Ghost." E. Nesbit's stories have kept her name alive for more than a century, with children's favourites like "Five Children and It," and "The Railway Children," still delighting kids today as they did then. "Man-Size in Marble," is perhaps suitably ponderous in delivering its stony dénouement considering the nature of the spooks on offer. Amelia B. Edwards "The Phantom Coach," is exactly what you'd expect. It's not the strongest story but still pretty creepy. Ambrose Bierce is back with a second offering of chills. "The Moonlit Road," recounts a ghostly encounter from three perspectives. Not one for sleepy heads but once all the accounts are assembled this tale delivers from both sides of the veil. "The Signalman," was born out of Dickens' own dice with death when he survived the Staplehurst rail crash. One of the best. E. Nesbit gets another chance to provide some scares in her carefully staged "The Shadow." Very chilling. She demonstrates how leaving things unexplained adds to the impact of the story and its power to unsettle and disturb. The third Ambrose Bierce story "The Damned Thing," is another great piece of writing but in my estimation is closer to Science Fiction than a ghost story unless you equate 'ghost' with something that can't be seen by human eyes. Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Body Snatcher," draws heavily from the Burke and Hare murders. It's a good story but as a ghost story it takes too long to admit to itself that it is one. The supernatural ending seems tacked on. A Victorian example of marketing perhaps? We finish off with Lovecraft's "The Statement of Randolph Carter," which should serve as a horrific warning to seekers of occult forbidden knowledge. Recurring character Carter appears here for the first time. In amongst that lot were sprinkled four vampire stories, the pick of which is Stoker's "Dracula's Guest," a prequel, false start, whatever... to his most famous work. Great choice of stories and the voice talent for the narration is very good. I'm booking Vol. 2 for next Christmas.