The House of the Dead Hand by Edith Wharton (1902)
Tales of Terror August 9, 2016
We all know the novel The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde as the most famous story about a painting that has supernatural powers. In Edith Wharton’s The House of the Dead Hand, we have a Leonardo masterpiece owned by a possessive doctor named Lombard and his daughter Sybilla who live in Sienna Italy. A young man Mr. Wyant comes to their home to view the painting. Of course, there’s much more than just observing a work of art going on here. The painting is a mesmerizing beauty, but we all know that beauty without spirituality is an empty vessel.
This story sneaks up on you, is psychological and supernatural, and has a twisty ending. Edith Wharton was known as a skillful social commentator especially in her fiction. In this short story, we find a mystery of a young woman trapped by her father, a forbidden romance, and the atmosphere full of dark descriptions and subtle spirituality.
The House of the Dead Hand …
“The name comes from an antique hand of marble which for many hundred years has been above the door … The hand was a woman’s — a dead drooping hand, which hung there convulsed and helpless, as though it had been thrust forth in denunciation of some evil mystery within the house, and had sunk struggling into death.”
The mystery here is written in classic Wharton style. Her stories are realistic of her times and culture. This story is a bleak message about a father-daughter relationship and typical male dominance of the early 1900s. While Edith Wharton was known as the dark prophetess, she was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize—in 1921 for Age of Innocence.
Read the short story at EastOfTheWeb.com.
THE MOUNT, LENOX, MASSACHUSETTS
Recently I toured Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, Massachusetts. At The Mount, there are reported ghosts who float the passages, linger in the bathroom, and occupy chairs. The house is magnificent but I didn’t sense any ghosts as I toured the rooms, no footsteps or chills, no desperate whispers at my back. Because the reality of ghosts fails logic and reason, some of us believe in them because we sense them emotionally. The house has a quiet imperious air and reflects the stately Wharton as I imagine her. Here are a few images of my moments with Edith Wharton on a Friday afternoon in Lenox.
My view as I sipped iced tea on Edith’s stone and marble veranda.
Lush green everywhere.
No ghosts lurking but the shadows at the window had shapely images of distorted heads looking in from the green boughs at the glass.
Edith’s window lounge. Can’t you just see her reclined with a book in her hand? An unidentified flower-scent hovered in the air.
Read more about the ghosts at The Mount.
My favorite image for The Age of Innocence by Victor Gabriel Gilbert,
“An Elegant Sioree”
The Mount, Lenox, Massachusetts (1900s)
Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free short stories and ghost tales. This is a compendium of over 170 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery, supernatural, and ghost stories. Join me in reading one short story every other week! Comments are welcome.
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