Although the RIP challenge technically ended last week with Halloween, I had one more week of ghostly short stories to enjoy. As with past weeks, I enjoyed how each of the stories I read had a different feel. Walter de La Mare’s story was probably my least favorite of the week, but I enjoyed each story (also including stories by Penelope Lively, Alison Lurie, and Ray Bradbury) to some degree. (None of these stories are in the public domain, so I cannot link to them for you.)
In Walter De la Mare’s story “The Quincunx”1, the narrator’s friend is haunted by his deceased benefactress. From beyond the grave, she doesn’t want to him to find her hidden treasure. The narrator is the one watching the haunting and being influenced by it, and the end has a nice twist. This was a shutter-inducing short story for me, but that was a good thing.
“Uninvited Ghosts” by Penelope Lively is a light-hearted story about children who are haunted by ghosts. Of course, the parents don’t believe in ghosts, as they cannot see them. This story is quite short and has lots of humor to give it a light feel. It is definitely a ghost story, but as with the P.G. Wodehouse I read last week, it’s a funny one. I love the children’s ultimate resolution to their annoying ghost companions.
“The Highboy” by Alison Lurie was a favorite for me this week, because it has a “haunted furniture” premise. I loved the concept of our furniture having ulterior motives! It may sound strange premise, but I promise, it works wonderfully! There is a degree of humor in this story, but most of all it was simply a wonderful ghost story: the narrator, like me, begins the story skeptical of ghosts, and by the end, she’s certainly been convinced.
Finally, I finished the week with “Another Fine Mess” by Ray Bradbury, in which two women are haunted by the scene from a Laurel and Hardy movie they had loved as children. The women also loved the haunting, because it seemed like a special walk down memory lane for them. I wasn’t familiar with the Laurel and Hardy movie, but I still found it a nice way to end the Everyman’s collection of ghost stories: it reminded the reader once again that not all “hauntings” are unpleasant.
In the end, I absolutely loved reading through the Everyman volume of “Ghost Stories” (edited by Peter Washington). I loved how the classic and modern classic stories selected for the volume ranged from humorous to sad to serious to complicated. It showed how “ghosts” can be of our own creation (like the character from the novel we wrote years ago) as well as ghosts that live in furniture or appear in faces around us as we live our lives. Some ghosts are people who have died, but others are figments of our imagination. Some ghosts are complex ideas (think: Borges).
I have mentioned before that I don’t like being “scared.” Well, none of these stories were overly spooky for my tastes: they were just right. They gave me a bit of a ghostly feeling as I read throughout the past two months, but in the end, they were simply fun stories, and most of them were written wonderfully. I am always in awe of how authors are able to capture characters, setting, and plot in a short story, and this volume confirmed the impressive ability of authors to do just that. Everyman’s volume of “Ghost Stories” is highly recommended for the RIP season.
P.S. Although there is a freaky cat on the cover, I have no idea why. I don’t think any of the stories had a haunted cat of any kind.