Tag Archives: classic short stories

The Lost Ghost

The Lost Ghost by Mary Wilkins Freeman (1903)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    July 28, 2015

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Stephen King once said, “We need ghost stories because, in fact, we are ghosts.”

It was a dreadful little face, with something about it which made it different from any other face on earth, but it was so pitiful that somehow it did away a good deal with the dreadfulness. And there were two little hands spotted purple with the cold, holding up my winter coat, and a strange little far-away voice said: ‘I can’t find my mother.’

“‘For Heaven’s sake,’ I said, ‘who are you?’

 “Then the little voice said again: ‘I can’t find my mother.’ ”

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Two sisters are living in an old country house with a ghost. But this is not your usual ghostly apparitions.  Mary Wilkins Freeman wrote the most emotional and hypnotic ghost story in The Lost Ghost. Our story begins with two women in rocking chairs discussing their beliefs about ghosts. Mrs. Meserve recounts a story of when she was a student and boarded with two spinsters in a lovely but haunted house. I challenge you to read this and not weep. The audio below is the best!

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Read The Lost Ghost at East of the Web.com

 

Listen to the audio by Librivox on YouTube.com

 

 

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In The Southwest Chamber, we have two sisters, Amanda and Sophia, who are running a boarding house. Aunt Harriet has died in the southwest bed chamber. This is a homespun, charming, and yet sinister little tale. Again, Mary Wilkins Freeman lures you in with a comfortable and enchanting setting that turns wicked.

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Read The Southwest Chamber at Readbookonline.com

 

 

imgresMary Wilkins Freeman lived in Brattleboro, Vermont during the late 1800s-1930 and became famous for depicting women living in rural villages of New England. After years of writing with no financial payment, she sold her first story The Beggar for $10.  She became a prolific writer, published fifteen volumes of short stories, fifty uncollected stories and essays, fourteen novels, three plays, three volumes of poetry, and eight children’s books. In 1926 she was awarded the William Dean Howells Gold Medal for Fiction by the American Academy of Letters, and later that year she was inducted into the prestigious National Institute for Arts and Letters.

 

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Filed under fiction, ghost stories, Ghosts, horror blogs, literature, short stories, short story blogs, tales of terror, Women In Horror

A Witch is a Witch

The Witch  by Anton Chekhov (1918)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   March 3, 2015

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The lovely and young Raissa, adorned with hair plaits that touch the floor, is a witch. Or maybe not. Her husband Savely is a red-haired, grouchy and repulsive  older man who believes his wife is a witch and blames her for the wicked snowstorm and cold they must endure in their little house in the countryside.

Our story opens in true Chekhovian style with descriptive atmospherics.

 

imgres“A plaintive lament sobbed at the window, on the roof, or in the stove. It sounded not like a call for help, but like a cry of misery, a consciousness that it was too late, that there was no salvation.”

A postman and his partner become lost in the storm and knock at their cabin door. Raissa opens the door to these strangers. And the postman becomes enchanted, or should I say bewitched, by Raissa’s lovely neck.

 

 

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Watch for the fascinating dark imagery that is the star of this story. Sexual and spiritual desires are themes in this fiction by the long acclaimed master of the short story, Anton Chekhov. He is famous for his anti-climactic endings that leave a reader to ponder Chekhov’s messages. And his prose! We can still marvel today at his talents.  Eudora Welty  said “Reading Chekhov was just like the angels singing to me.” For my writer followers here, in case you’ve not read Chekhov’s Six Principles of a Good Story, here they are. My favorite is #6. Chekhov certainly fulfilled that one.

  1. Absence of lengthy verbiage of a political-social-economic nature
  2. Total objectivity
  3. Truthful descriptions of persons and objects
  4. Extreme brevity
  5. Audacity and originality: flee the stereotype
  6. Compassion

 

150px-Anton_Chekhov_and_Olga_Knipper,_1901Chekhov’s death has been a well-known story in literary history. Raymond Carver fictionalized it in his short story Errand (read it here). If you’re a Chekhov fan, you must read Errand. Chekhov’s wife Olga  tells it like this.  “Anton sat up unusually straight and said loudly and clearly (although he knew almost no German): Ich sterbe (“I’m dying”). The doctor calmed him, took a syringe, gave him an injection of camphor, and ordered champagne. Anton took a full glass, examined it, smiled at me and said: “It’s a long time since I drank champagne.” He drained it and lay quietly on his left side, and I just had time to run to him and lean across the bed and call to him, but he had stopped breathing and was sleeping peacefully as a child.” [From Olga Knipper, Memoir, in Benedetti, Dear Writer, Dear Actress, 284]

 

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Read The Witch at the Classic Reader http://www.classicreader.com/book/394/1/

Unfortunately I could not find an audio of this story but there are many others here at Chekhov Audio.

[Art of nude witch is by Albert Joseph Penot, “Sabbat,” 1910]

 

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Beyond Victorian Vampirism

Good Lady Ducayne   by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1896)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    February 9, 2015    Classic Tales from Women In Horror 

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This is the second week of celebrating Women in Horror Month. Are you ready to explore the short stories of Mary Elizabeth Braddon?

 

They were dreamers—and they dreamt themselves into the cemetery.

Young and healthy Bella Rolleston takes a job as a companion with Old Lady Ducayne. Bella quickly learns that Ducayne’s previous two companions became ill and died while caring for her. Mosquito bites? Or something more sinister? When Bella begins to show the same symptoms, dreams of whirring of wheels, sinking into an abyss, and struggling to regain consciousness, she is too innocent to see the truth of her employer and the local physician Dr. Parravicini.

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What is curious in this story is how the author Mary Elizabeth Braddon uses science and medicine instead of the supernatural to build a chilling story of suspense. Aging and vanity vs. youth and beauty are the hallmarks of this story not to mention poverty vs. money. The subtext runs a lovely quiet horror tone that is smoothly written by a master writer.

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Mary-Elizabeth-Braddon-horse-228x300Mary Elizabeth Braddon, born in London in 1835, wrote some ninety books, short stories, essays, and plays and was revered for her ‘sensation novels.’ She was rated alongside Wilkie Collins and admired by Charles Dickens and Henry James. Lady Audley’s Secret was her most popular novel. She introduced one of the first female detectives Eleanor Vane in Eleanor’s Victory (1863) and then again in 1864 created sleuth Margaret Wilmot in Henry Dunbar. At Chrighton Abbey, Dead Love Has Chains, and The Doctor’s Wife are worthy of rediscovery.

 

 

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You can read Good Lady Ducayne online at Gutenberg.net.au. Scroll down to the title.

Listen to audio versions of Braddon’s short stories (Sorry, Lady Ducayne is not among them but other short stories here are quite good) at Librivox.org Library.

 

I can highly recommend Braddon’s At Chrighton Abbey. This is Downton Abbey with a ghost. Sarah Chrighton returns to her homestead Chrighton Abbey, to the wintery “fairy forests and snow wreathed trees.” The abbey  is a stately grey stone, ivy- and moss-covered estate. Carriage rides, drawing room firesides,  hunts and hounds, a servant’s ball, and of course the Butler Truefold and Housekeeper  Mrs. Marjurum make this short story a snuggle-up read. Not to mention the family curse coupled with shadowy presences that only Sarah can see. I found this story to be one of Braddon’s most gracefully written ghost stories ever. Read it here at Gutenberg.net.au.

 

 

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Filed under Christmas ghost stories, fiction, ghost stories, horror, horror blogs, literary horror, literature, quiet horror, short stories, soft horror, supernatural, tales of terror, vampires, Women In Horror, Women in Horror Month

Into the Darkest Valley

Valley of the Spiders   By H. G. Wells (1903)

Tuesday’s Tale of  Terror    January 27, 2015

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Into the darkest valley. Shadows go before them through the trails of the mountain path. Three men are on an adventure in the wilderness: a gaunt man with a scarred lip, a man riding a silver bridle, a dreamy little man on a white horse. They are pursuing a girl with a bleeding foot. They ride for four days, with a shortage of water, and finally come upon a wild dog. This is the first sign. Not long after, they come upon ragged floating globes, cobwebbey, that begin to descend across the valley.

 

imagesWhat do you do when you see a spider in your bathtub? Are you apt to kill it or scoop it up and send it to the outside world where it belongs? Next time you see a spider, wish on it and gently blow it away. They are cute little buggers, right? Not according to H.G Wells.

 

 

imgresWells’ descriptions of gigantic spiders have the makings of a real nightmare. There’s no scooping these guys away. Wells crafts a classic drama about cowardice and pride and the power of nature.  He is considered a visionary and the most prolific writer in science fiction–he wrote over fifty short stories. It is said that all were written quickly and virtually at a single sitting each. He said of his short stories “I found that taking almost anything as a starting-point and letting my thoughts play about it, there would presently come out of the darkness, in a manner quite inexplicable, some absurd or vivid little incident more or less relevant to that initial nucleus. Little men in canoes upon sunlit oceans would come floating out of nothingness, incubating the eggs of prehistoric monsters unaware; violent conflicts would break out amidst the flower-beds of suburban gardens; I would discover I was peering into remote and mysterious worlds ruled by an order logical indeed but other than our common sanity.”

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Read Valley of the Spiders at Online-Literature

Listen to the audio version on YouTube.com

 

 

Next Month, February, is Women in Horror Month!

 

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A Bloody Hand Upon Her Cheek

The Birthmark   by Nathaniel Hawthorne  (1846)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   April 1, 2014

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Georgiana,” said he, “has it never occurred to you that the mark upon your cheek might be removed?” … Her husband tenderly kissed her cheek—her right cheek—not that which bore the impress of the crimson hand.”

Aylmer, Georgianna’s husband, is a man of science with a powerful intelligence and imaginative spirit that guides his work. But his love for his splendid and beautiful young wife drives him to a deed we might all want him to succeed in—or do we?

Georgianna was born with a birthmark, a rather fierce-looking tiny bloody hand print on her left cheek. Folklore explains it might have been imprinted by a fairy as a token of magical endowments. Aylmer has other thoughts on this and sees it more as a symbol of sin or even decay and death.

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One night Aylmer has a dream … “He had fancied himself with his servant Aminadab, attempting an operation for the removal of the birthmark; but the deeper went the knife, the deeper sank the hand, until at length its tiny grasp appeared to have caught hold of Georgiana’s heart; whence, however, her husband was inexorably resolved to cut or wrench it away.”

If anyone can effectively use dreams in fiction, it’s Hawthorne.

“When the dream had shaped itself perfectly in his memory, Aylmer sat in his wife’s presence with a guilty feeling. Truth often finds its way to the mind close muffled in robes of sleep, and then speaks with uncompromising directness of matters in regard to which we practise an unconscious self-deception during our waking moments. Until now he had not been aware of the tyrannizing influence acquired by one idea over his mind, and of the lengths which he might find in his heart to go for the sake of giving himself peace.”

As the story flows, the horrors of tampering with Mother Nature prevail: “Dearest Georgiana, I have spent much thought upon the subject,” hastily interrupted Aylmer. “I am convinced of the perfect practicability of its [birthmark] removal.”

And so, Aylmer, attempts to remove the birthmark, using an elixir  he has developed in his laboratory. Watch out for Aminadab, the lab assistant, an ape-like man whose presence represents more than just a servant.

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Is there really any true perfection in our world? If there is perfection, where does it exist? This tale by Hawthorne is just as timely today as it was in the 1800s. Self-image, acceptance, fear vs. trust, and the mystery of Mother Nature are beautifully foreshadowed throughout the prose. I suggest listening to the audio as Hawthorne’s language in this story is truly a thrilling experience. Every paragraph vibrates with deep spirituality and a haunting last impression.

 

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Read the full text of The Birthmark at Classic Reader.com

 

Listen to the audio version at Storm-Nemesis Blogspot

 

Watch the 2010 film adaptation by Mikael Kreuzriegler and Ken   Rodgers at Vimeo.com. This is not exactly true to Hawthorne’s fine prose but still an intriguing 16-minute film.

 

 

You might also like Hawthorne’s short story  The Haunted Mind, a vivid and eerie dreamscape featured here in January 2013.

 

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

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     The Gothic Wanderer   Sirens Call Publications  The Fussy Librarian

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Filed under classic horror stories, Dreams, fiction, Hawthorne, psychological horror, short stories