RIP Short Story Monday: Four Last Ghost Stories

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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 Quincunx1(1906), 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 (1984) 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 (1994) 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 (1995), 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.

  1. I didn’t know what a Quincunx is until I read this. See Wikipedia for a description; the story also describes the symbol the narrator finds
Reviewed on November 7, 2011

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • That sounds like a nice collection. The ghost story has long been a favorite genre of mine. One of my 2011 projects has been to read a short story a week. I came up with a list last December and divided them into four categories, one of which was ghost or horror stories. I assigned each category to a suit in a deck of cards (spades of course for horror/ghost stories) then drew a card to pick my next story each “week” (well, I’m way behind for the year, but you know how that goes.)

    One story you might like since you mentioned that you enjoyed the humorous ones is Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost (if you haven’t read it already). My book club also read short, ghost stories last month and that was one of my favorites they picked.


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