The Beckoning Fair One by Oliver Onions (1911)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror May 13, 2014
Paul Oleron is a writer, creatively frustrated with his manuscript named Romilly Bishop about a heroine who is winsome and adorable, and maybe a tad plump. He finds himself stuck at Chapter Fifteen. With the goal of finishing his novel, he rents a house (a gloomy red brick house with a broken gate), moves in and begins his struggle to finish the story. But the house begins to create its own story.
“A shadow, light as fleece, seemed to take shape in the kitchen … The low illumination on the blind at his elbow grew dimmer … a flower fell from a bowl, and lay indistinct upon the floor; all was still; and then a stray draught moved through the old house, passing before Oleron’s face. . . .”
In no time the haunted Oleron, decides to burn the manuscript and begin again, recreating the heroine into something else. But his dearest friend, the winsome and adorable, and a tad plump, Elsie Bengough, suggests keeping the heroine exactly as is. Oleron is torn as to how to proceed. When Elsie endures the wrath of this odd and haunting shadow present in the house, Oleron decides he must sever his relationship with Elsie and sends her away.
“Once or twice he called “Romilly!”
Who is Romilly now? He realizes, of course, the key to finishing the book is to recreate Romilly as jealous, wicked, beautiful, cunning, and altogether evil.
The Beckoning Fair One is as much a romance as it is a ghost story as it is psychological terror. Does Elsie return to Oleron? Will Oleron complete the novel? Who exactly is Romilly?
If you’re a writer, as I am, and create evil characters in your manuscripts, you will enjoy this thrilling story by Oliver Onions.
We writers love to feel our characters alive on the page. But what would happen if we become too deeply involved with an evil character and steeped in the creative process? Possession? Projection? Obsession? Creativity vs. insanity vs the supernatural is an exciting theme and Onions does it successfully with a smooth hand. In its era, The Beckoning Fair One was considered to be the best in the genre in psychological horror.
Read the full text at University of Penn. org. The story is a bit longer (novella length) than most that I feature here. Settle in; allow the story to fold over you as it moves along with a good pace of suspense.
Listen to the Librivox Recording. I liked this recording but, again, settle in because it’s over two hours. I think it would go well with a savory hot dinner and a very rich dessert!
If you do read this story, do leave me a comment. I’d love to hear your reaction to this classic tale.
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