Ghost Story Aficionados

The Haunted House  by Pliny the Younger  (1000 AD)

An Ancient Ghost Story,   Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   January 3, 2017

Ghosts are and have been a permanent feature in our human history, whether you believe in them or not.


‘And this, my friend, may be conceived to be that heavy, weighty, earthy element of sight by which such a soul is depressed and dragged down again into the visible world, because she is afraid of the invisible and of the world below-prowling about tombs and sepulchers, in the neighborhood of which, as they tell us, are seen certain ghostly apparitions of souls which have not departed pure, but are cloyed with sight and therefore visible.  -Plato’s Phaedo


Portrait of Plato. Luni marble. Roman copy after a Greek original of Silanion. Inv. No. MC 1377. Rome, Capitoline Museums, Museum Montemartini.

Portrait of Plato

Are we in good company with Plato? I think so. Let’s take a moment in this new year, apply a bit of philosophy, and believe in ghosts. Let’s go back to ancient Roman times. You may have heard of this gentleman Pliny the Younger (Pliny the Elder was his uncle). Pliny the Younger (in Latin Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus) was a Roman author of 9 books of letters, which described ancient Roman life. He was a lawyer, philosopher, financial wizard, famous orator, and a Roman Senator.



If you pride yourself on being a ghost story aficionado, you must read this one; it’s probably the very first ghost story ever written.  The Haunted House is from Pliny’s correspondence and begins …

“There was at Athens a mansion, spacious and large, but of evil repute and dangerous to health. In the dead of the night a noise, resembling the clashing of iron, was frequently heard, which, if you listened more attentively, sounded like the rattling of chains…”


Come read the story of Athenodoros and the haunted house from the turn of the second century AD, in a letter from Pliny the Younger to his friend Sura.




Read The Haunted House by Pliny at

Scroll down to LXXXIII — To SURA (9-minute read)


Listen to the audio at  (7 minutes)



Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 180 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery,  supernatural, horror, and ghost stories. Join me in reading one short story every other week! Comments are welcome.


 Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

The Kill Zone

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror     Horror Novel Reviews     

Monster Librarian 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed


Thriller Author Mark Dawson

Dawson’s Book Marketing site:





Filed under classic horror stories, fiction, ghost stories, Ghosts, haunted houses, Hauntings, horror blogs, mysteries, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, supernatural, supernatural mysteries, tales of terror

5 responses to “Ghost Story Aficionados

  1. VoiceBeforeTheVoid: Thank you for your remarks. Fascinating! Your website is great. You’ve got some amazing poetry too. I’m still discovering it.


  2. Jay

    Though I was a Classics Minor in college, I don’t remember this story by Pliny the Younger. I will have to check it out. I would doubt there weren’t earlier ghost stories than this one, though it may be the first one written down that has survived. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I expect it is the first ghost story ever written. Unless you go back to BC, Gilgamesh … maybe.


      • Thank you for the link, Paula. I’d first encountered this story in a volume of “ghost stories through the ages” (or some such to that effect). There were a couple of older “ghost stories” in the book preceding this one of Pliny’s; I think they both were taken from the Tanakh. I suspect there must be examples of “ghost stories” present in other ancient literatures, such as Egyptian, Indian, and Chinese, in addition to the Mesopotamian that you mention. Nonetheless, I also suspect that Pliny’s story might be the oldest surviving “modern” ghost story – that is, a ghost story of a construction recognizably literary, even genre-rific, complete with a moralizing exhortation to honor the dead with proper funerary rites.

        Among the English translations of Pliny’s letters are included one by John Delaware Lewis and another by William Melmoth. I didn’t wholly like either of their translations for presenting dramatically, so I cobbled them together into the version you quoted. Their separate translations:

        John Delaware Lewis:
        “There was at Athens a mansion, spacious and commodious, but of evil repute and dangerous to health. In the dead of night there was a noise as of iron, and, if you listened more closely, a clanking of chains was heard…”

        William Melmoth:
        “There was at Athens a large and roomy house, which had a bad name, so that no one could live there. In the dead of the night a noise, resembling the clashing of iron, was frequently heard, which, if you listened more attentively, sounded like the rattling of chains…”

        I’m very much enjoying perusing your blog’s cache of previously profiled horror stories – you’ve uncovered some nuggets unknown to me (such as Wharton’s horror, and the work of Stenbock, and of Julian Hawthorne), which I must explore.

        Liked by 1 person

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