A Haunted House by Virginia Woolf (1944)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror July 16, 2013
Virginia Woolf? A tale of terror? Really? I agree this author is not known for her supernatural horror, but this story does possess a haunting and beautiful darkness. I can hear many of you saying, Oh no, Virginia Woolf with her high modernistic style and all that stream of consciousness prose is too dense. I’m not a fan of Woolf either, but A Haunted House (very short at 700 words) will likely surprise you at how entertaining this little tale is for a 7-minute read.
Here’s the key. Do not approach reading this story for plot or action. Woolf’s narrative style requires a close reading, slow and careful, to get the impact of her stunning language, the imagery, and the ghostliness. Create a blank page in your reading mind and expect nothing.
We are in an old English house with a garden, apple trees spinning darkness, wood pigeons bubbling their coos from wells of silence. We meet a ghostly couple in the first paragraph. They are searching for a buried treasure in the house. The live occupants of the house are fully aware of the ghosts from knockings, shutting of doors, wandering footsteps and … from “the pulse of the house.”
Try not to slide over a single line as they all carry a beauty and symbol of their own.
“Death was the glass; death was between us …” What possible buried treasure could these two ghosts desire to find for themselves now?
Woolf will keep you suspended until the very last line and, once you absorb it, I dare you not to murmur a small gasp.
Read it at University of Adelaide
Listen to the narration by David Federmen, Librivox, Ghost Story Collection on YouTube
If you liked the literary darkness of A Haunted House by Woolf, do leave me a message. This type of story is quite a diversion from the typical tales of terror on this blog. Did you find it refreshing? boring? too literary? stimulating?
On another note ...
Anybody a Ralph Waldo Emerson fan out there? I’ve got a page on Google+ if you’d like to stop by. Google+