Tag Archives: phantoms

Christmas Eve’s Phantom

Between the Lights  by E.F. Benson  (1912)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    December 15, 2015



Christmas ghost stories are a worldwide tradition. This story by E.F. Benson takes place on December 24, Christmas Eve. A story within a story, if you will, and striking a dark tone.  Between the Lights is perfect for a read aloud, guests sitting round the hearth, glasses of nog in hands, fire spitting, candlelight throwing shadows against the dark windows.



Outside, wind drives the snow and only the sounds of the scurry of snowflakes and the voice of our narrator prevail. He reports about another Christmas Eve’s event at this same house as he sat in his chair.

“It was nearly dark, but a little light came in from the door opposite to me, which seemed to lead into a passage that communicated with the exterior of the place …  there now burned a dim firelight, and my eyes were drawn there. Shapes were gathered round it; what they were I could not at first see.”


But our narrator does see what materializes between the lights and it’s not just shadows or faded light. “It haunted me; for months, I think, it was never quite out of my mind, but lingered somewhere in the dusk of consciousness …”



 What does he see between the lights that Christmas Eve night? What happens to the dusk of his consciousness in the clear light of day? Phantom of the mind … or real?


Read Between the Lights at Gutenberg.net.au (Australia). Scroll to the Table of Contents and select the title (4th story).

Listen to the Podcast. No. 11 on the itunes list at Corvidae.co.UK. Narrated by Richard Crowest.

Edward Frederic Benson (known as Fred) was an English author of over 50 novels and various collections of short stories. He is famous for his scandalous novel Dodo in 1893 and Mapp and Lucia (Lucia series, 1920s), which explore Edwardian society (not quite Downton Abbey but certainly full of English snobbery, small town rivalry, and British high society). He has had a cult following for decades because of the Lucia series. Many of his readers remember him for his ghost stories. More info on this author  and his novels at the EF Benson Society.



[Images from WikiCommons.]

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Filed under Christmas ghost stories, Christmas stories, fiction, ghost stories, horror, horror blogs, literary horror, quiet horror, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, supernatural

Mysteries of the Invisible

The Horla  by Guy de Maupassant  (1887)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   August 25, 2015



“I began to see myself through a mist in the depths of the looking-glass,

in a mist as it were through a sheet of water …”


The mysterious invisible. Unfathomable powers. Phantoms from the void. This short story may be a psychological horror story—de Maupassant’s most famous story—but it is also a masterpiece of suspense and a finely constructed narrative by a writer who was institutionalized shortly after the publication. The Horla in French means “the outsider there.”

Sanity vs. doubts of sanity, vs. insanity vs. a real phantom. Our protagonist has an irritation of the nerves. He lives alone, unmarried, and begins to have recurring nightmares of a creature crushing and choking him in his bed night after night. Rest and relaxation make no improvement. Soon enough we find that an invisible being is feeding on milk and water inside the bedroom and slowly but surely taking possession of our sad and tormented young man.

There’s a line in this story that struck me:  “When we are alone for a long time we people the void with phantoms.”   I especially like how de Maupassant makes the reader feel that everything happening is false and at the same time makes you feel that everything is real. What a writer!






de Maupassant published over 300 short stories and 6 novels.  H.P. Lovecraft found inspiration  from The Horla for his The Call of the Cthulhu.






“I entered literary life as a meteor, and I shall leave it like a thunderbolt.” –Guy de Maupassant


Read the short story at Gutenberg.org (Scroll down to The Horla)


Listen to the audio at Librivox on YouTube.com


Watch the 1963 film (a loose adaptation), starring Vincent Price, “Diary of a Madman” on YouTube.



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HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com

Rob Around Books     Sillyverse    The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror classic authors.


Filed under fiction, haunted mind, horror, horror blogs, phantoms, short stories, short story blogs, tales of terror

Behold, the Phantom Mirror

In the Mirror by Valery Brussof (Bryusov), 1918

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   March 19, 2013

Look in a mirror. What do you see besides your own reflection? A hypnotic pair of eyes staring back or a deep magnetic attraction? Let’s say this reflection holds a secret, a consciousness inside the expanse of glass.  Might there be an apparition there? A rival? Phantoms?

In the Mirror was written by little known author Valery Brussof (1873-1924), Russian poet, writer, and scholar, embracer of Bolshevism, and leader in the Russian symbolist movement during the Silver Age. He is remembered for his horror novel The Fiery Angel, a 16th-century romantic drama about the passionate Renata and her sexual and spiritual occult practices.

While superstitions and folklore abound about mirrors bringing bad luck or telling the future, Brussof doesn’t go that route. We are clearly in the present harsh light of reality. He writes this story with subtle atmospheric technique, as we are dragged into the mysterious abyss of a reflected and fragmented universe.

Vanity is a favorite sin. And so it is with our character, a daring woman of beauty who loves mirrors but weeps and trembles as she discovers the mirror’s truthful depths.

We are in December, the winter dawn, when a confrontation manifests between this woman and the image she finds inside her mirror. Consciousness is a strange energy—pale, half dead, a burning-icy feeling that may very well breathe darkness into the soul.

“Come hither!”

Read In the Mirror here curled up in a gloomy corner with moonlight bending the window glass, maybe a flute of potato vodka at hand and a bit of zakuska (delicate meat-filled pastries). Escape with Valery Brussof.


I’d love for you to leave a comment. Stop back next Tuesday for another Tale of Terror.

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The Phantom Coach. Is Death a passenger, or is it our dark consciousness?

The Phantom Coach by Amelia B. Edwards

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   January 29, 2013

Do we really believe in spirits of the dead lingering here among us, or do we only play with this idea in fiction—where it’s safe to accept it? If we read some of the modern paranormal investigations where ghosts are verified by EMF meters and electronic voice phenomena, even digital night photography, many people are not convinced ghosts exists. Skeptics are necessary if not endearing votes. But even personal experiences carry doubts of what might be convincing reality. Let me ask, are you a believer that spirits of the dead can haunt us here, or are you a skeptic?

The Phantom Coach (1864, written some 150 years ago) by Amelia Edwards is a story that addresses this question in a subtle but chilling way.

Meet our narrator, James Murray. He’s out in the dead of winter (pardon the pun), grouse hunting. Bitter cold, a gathering darkness, and a sudden heavy snowfall warn him to head home to his lovely bride expecting him by dusk. But inside the ominous snowfall, winds, and nightfall, James loses his way on the “bleak wide moor.”

James recalls stories of lost travelers, wearied out and found dead in the snow. Fear mounts as the dark cold and isolation threaten him. Is death near? As fate would have it, he meets a servant man, Jacob, with a lantern who guides him to his master’s farmhouse not too far away.

The master of the farmhouse is an odd sort, living pathetically alone for twenty-three years among flour-sacks and lumber, hundreds of old books, a telescope, jars of chemicals and microscopes, maps, and an ornately carved organ of medieval saints and devils. The two men dine on a meager supper and like a good host, the master invites James to chat with him by the fireside.

The master speaks of the soul, dead spirits and powers, prophecy, and supernatural appearances of ghosts. The brooding mood affects James, and he thinks this man somewhat of a sage, both scientific and philosophical. The sage is a true believer in the scientific cause and effect of dead spirits, and for that he was ridiculed by the skeptics and cast out of all respectable society, to be forgotten by all.

James finds this man’s despair quite sad, however declines to pronounce his own opinion on the phenomena of the dead. At last, the snow abates. The night sky clears. James takes the sage’s advice to catch the midnight mail coach at the crossroads not too far away.

Anxious to rush home to his bride who is likely sick with worry by now, and after a glass of whiskey, James walks the long miles in the icy cold, keeping an eye out for the signpost at the cross-road but does not come upon it. Has he lost his way again? Alas, the midnight mail coach appears with four steaming grey horses. When it stops for him, James boards with much gratitude and settles into his seat with three men who neither speak nor stir, “with the dank dews of the grave upon them.”

What happens to poor James now? Where does this coach bring him? Does he believe what he experiences on this fateful ride through the wintry woods?

I read this nostalgic story in an old book from my local library, Great Ghost Stories, edited by Herbert Van Thal, illustrated by Edward Pagram, Hill and Wang, Inc., NY publishers. The book has pen & ink illustrations. I felt like a little kid again, turning the thick pages by hand, examining the pictures and running my fingertips over them as if the scenes would grow bigger by touching them. With this digital age of books on Kindle, Nook, and computer screens, reading the old books can be a much more tactile experience, deepening the imagination of the story.

The author Amelia B. Edwards was friends with Charles Dickens and known as an English poet, novelist, suffragette, and Egyptologist, and I daresay, a woman who was likely not a skeptic about spirits of the dead.

And what of our James? Is the phantom coach a supernatural reality? Or born of suggestion? Or an experience from the dark of the consciousness?

Read it here online:


And if you’d like a film version to watch, try this on YouTube (7 minutes) by Richard Mansfield. This is an artistic black-and-white performance, done in shadow puppetry.


Do leave a comment … are you a believer or a skeptic?

And stop by next Tuesday for another Tale of Terror.


Filed under fiction, ghost stories, Ghosts, horror, paranormal, phantoms, short stories, supernatural, tales of terror