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Classic Ghost Stories

Classic Ghost Stories

A weekly podcast which reads out ghost stories, horror stories and weird tales every week. Classic stories from the pens of the masters. Occasionally we feature living authors, but the majority, are dead. Some perhaps are undead.


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S0303 Number 13 by M R James

Number 13 by M R James Number 13 by M R James is a spooky story of a missing room and its missing inhabitant. Including old churches, musty documents, secrets, the occult and bookish blokes rummaging around Unlucky for some, but not really for Mr Anderson though it gave him quite a shock. This story was commissioned by Gavin Critchley who kindly has allowed me to broadcast it to you all. If You Appreciate The Work I?ve Put In Here If You Appreciate The Work I?ve Put In Here You could buy me a coffee ( Become a Patron ( And you can join my mailing list and get a free audiobook: ( Music By The Heartwood Institute*** (***) Babylonish Church. I wonder whether this was James? own view or he is merely representing the view of his character. James was an Anglican and the protestant view of the Catholic Church was not and in some circles remains not wholly tolerant or kind.  I read an article arguing that because James was so drawn to the medieval period that he must be in possession of a Catholic sensibility, in which the whole world is in some sense sacred. I am not sure this correctly represents Catholic dogma or the Medieval European World View. But it?s fun to read about such things. James leaves things out. For example the red light, the dancing figure that might be a man or a woman. I think he deliberately leaves unresolved threads. I think he does the same in Story of a Disappearance And an Appearance in which we have to try to reconstruct the narrative ourselves to figure out what actually went on, rather than James spoon-feeding us the rational explanation (rational though perhaps also supernatural. The two things aren?t exclusive). In this again I think he is a little like David Lynch who allows images to emerge from his subconscious and uses them leaving us to try and make sense like a Rorschach image. I?m not against, this, and I might be wrong. In the end, we might walk away from this story wondering: eh? The dancing, singing androgynous spirit, the portmanteau that vanishes and then reappears with apparently no significance. I think he just throws this weird stuff in to unsettle us. This is eerie (by Mark Fisher?s definition) in that it has an agent who has a purpose, but both are obscure to us therefore unsettling us. The weird arm that reaches out is one of a string of weird arms: Grendel?s arm in Beowulf, the arm that takes the baby Pryderi in the tale of Pwyll in the Mabinogi. I also heard via Jon Gower about some farmers in Carno who believed there was a house where a monstrous arm appeared. The number of windows is a clue. I take from this that there was a Room 13, but that Room 12 and Room 14 were enlarged to gobble it up. Perhaps because of its bad reputation.  Nicholas Francken is a bit of a red herring. He is an occultist and I?ve said elsewhere that James?s interest in the occult suggests he knew more about it than he lets on in common with his contemporaries, Arthur Machen, W B Yeats etc who were members of the Golden Dawn. But he leads us to believe that we are going to find Francken?s body buried below the planks and then we just find some kind of occult document that no one can read. Another unresolved riddle.  Support this podcast
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S0302 The Earlier Service by Margaret Irwin

The Earlier Service by Margaret Irwin The Earlier Service is a tale of what happens in a remote English church late at night. A Listener suggested I record The Earlier Service by Margaret Irwin. I hunted it down via the internet and found it in an anthology called Bloodstock, published in 1978 by Ian Henry Publications in 1978. I believe the collection was initially published in 1953. Bloodstock is split into three sections: Stories From Ireland (five stories here); Uncanny Stories (four stories) and two ungrouped stories: Mrs Oliver Cromwell and Where Beauty Lies. Margaret Irwin doesn?t include any biographical information in this book so I had to go looking elsewhere. As usual, Wikipedia came up trumps and I gave them $2 for their great work.  Margaret Irwin was born in Highgate, London in 1889, and she died in 1967 in London also.  Her father was an Australian from Perth and her mother was English and her mother?s father was a colonel in the 16th Lancers, a British Cavalry regiment. She was brought up by her uncle in Bristol after her father died. She started writing professionally in the 1920s and specialised in historical fiction, particularly the Elizabeth and early Stuart periods. As well as historical novels she did ghost stories and two fantasy novels, one about a time slip and the other about a wizard?s daughter. She married a book illustrator who did the covers for some of her books.   The Earlier Service The story seems to hark back to a different England: a rural England of evensong and churchgoing that no longer exists. We have examples from the work of R H Malden and M R James of country vicars going about their business in rural parishes where they and the doctor and the solicitor are the only educated and literary people but where they service and minister to the illiterate throng. Most country churches now in England are dead or dying and this therefore is a picture of a world that once was and is no longer. The story begins with the rector?s family going to church. It?s dad?s job so it is the daughters? duty to go to each service. The younger daughter Jane has developed an irrational fear of the church, though at the beginning, neither she nor we know why. There is some hint that that gargoyles on the church spire are stretching out their necks to get into her room, but that is not what?s happening and is just a little spooky detail thrown in to create atmosphere rather than foreshadowing proper. In the same way the bits of dried black stuff on the church door is said to be the skin of flayed heathens. Imagine torturing people just because they don?t think the same things you do. How awful. I?m glad we?re not like that now. When I was young, I used to collect plastic figures of crusaders. In films they were great heroes, but apparently they are the bad guys now. In any case, the crusader is a great defender in this story. I?ve been to lots of churches with tombs in them with knights and ladies in relief. There was a chapel near Chilingham Castle that I used to take my ghost tours to, usually in the middle of the night. It was always so cold and it was easy to believe in that quiet, chill atmosphere, that they might come back to life.  But of course this is a witchcraft/satanism story. In the old days the two were thought to be the same thing. Of course this is what happened to the old pagan gods?they became demons. Jane sees the little dark man with the sharp object in his hand. Of course this is the old Giraldus atte Welle who was defrocked for demonism back in the day. It seems her mother gets a hint of it, but doesn?t see it as clearly as Jane. This is probably because she is not the next victim. It reminded me of The Blood on Satan?s Claw (1971), that folk horror classic film. This story was written long before that so perhaps it was cribbed by writer Robert Wynne-Simmons and director Piers... Support this podcast
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S0301 The Fair Family by Tony Walker

A timid man and his worried wife take a trip through Wales. The weather is awful and they worry they will be late for a Christening. That is the least of their worries. A story of the fairy folk and the Welsh gods and the Welsh weather. One of my own. In the afterword I reveal that this whole podcast was a trojan horse to get you to buy my stories. But hang on.... this one's free. My plan failed! Never mind. Support this podcast
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S02E64 The Pleasure Pilgrims by Ella D'Arcy

The Pleasure Pilgrims by Ella D?Arcy The Pleasure Pilgrims can be seen as a love story, a murder tale or a sort of Christmas Story (though it?s not set at Christmas). But most of it all it is a story that lays bare the differences between British and Americans. They speak the same language, but they mean different things and seem incapable of understanding what the other really means. We?ve done another of Ella D?Arcy?s stories on The Classic Ghost Stories Podcast: The Villa Lucienne. That too deals with the wealthy elite who skipped around Europe staying in grand houses. There is a ghost in that story, there is one in this too?ultimately. Observations as we go along are that the hosts, the Ritterhausens, and Germans in general don?t make much of an appearance in The Pleasure Pilgrims. They add a little local colour. The setting of a grand old German castle near Hamelin with its pied piper is delightful set-dressing.  Ella D?Arcy really brings this out with the snowy train journey, the old bridge choked with ice floes, the German servant in the horse-drawn carriage in his second-best livery.  The main character, Campbell is a successful novelist. However, he is a bit of an innocent. He has some funny ideas about the purity of love and we wonder whether he has ever kissed a girl. D?Arch makes two remarks on the British character, one at the beginning when Campbell is forced to share the carriage with the two American girls. They only ride with him out of kindness to the German servant to stop the man making two trips. Campbell is, like most British people, shy, D?Arcy says.  Then at the end, when the deed is done, she refers to the ?cold, complacent British unresponsiveness?. I don?t think this pairing at the beginning and the end is accidental. In fact, the whole story is a study of British versus American character, and the British don?t come out of it so well.  Campbell has his cynical second Maynes, who won?t believe a single good thing about Lulie and when Campbell himself starts to relent, Maynes is always there to convince him she?s putting it all on. Campbell comes over was a cold-hearted, vain, prig, and Maynes as simply a monster. D?Arcy gives us a short passage where she explains that Maynes really did think Lulie was putting it on and that he wasn?t just an evil pig. At the end, she also explains that Lulie has led the loveless, homeless life of a poor little rich girl. Rich people are people too, you know in case you are ready to dismiss her suffering as not being as valuable as the suffering of a poor person.   Lulie also has her second, Nannie Dodge who appears to be complicit in Lulie?s shameless seduction. If we believe Maynes?s version of the story. Throughout, Lulie?s ostentation and lack of reserve are emphasised, from her flamboyant and luxurious clothes to her persistent warmth and affection. I was reminded of the case of the English nanny Louise Woodward. There is a great article here (Here and There | The New Yorker) Woodward was never seen to cry. In court she sat, hunched, deferential, submissive, lowered eyes and voice. This was seen apparently by American eyes as indicating her guilt. However, this deference and submission in an English court is exactly what would show her innocence. The writer makes the point that in America if you are telling the truth, you meet your questioners eyes, you throw your shoulders back, you have nothing to hide. The the British Woodward was appropriately modest and self-effacing as she should be in court being judged by a judge, who might well be a lord. In America, she was shifty and with her eyes down, must have something to hide. Two nations divided by a common language. I remember going to the States for the first time and thinking how amazing it was we really did speak the same language. Small, homely words such... Support this podcast
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S02E61 The Piano by Tony Walker

A short Christmas Ghost story. A couple move into an old house, a house whose foundations go back centuries. Once in there they begin to suspect it's haunted. A short, sweet ghost story for Christmas where a couple get an opportunity to remember things that have been forgotten. If You Appreciate The Work I?ve Put In Here If You Appreciate The Work I?ve Put In Here You could buy me a coffee ( Become a Patron ( And you can join my mailing list and get a free audiobook: ( Music By The Heartwood Institute*** (***) Support this podcast
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S02E60 Surprise View by Tony Walker

A man who has lost everything goes to a remote part of the country for Christmas. In that beautiful landscape it seems the air is full of spirits: both of nature and of those long gone. A heart-warming ghost story for Christmas. If You Appreciate The Work I?ve Put In Here If You Appreciate The Work I?ve Put In Here You could buy me a coffee ( Become a Patron ( And you can join my mailing list and get a free audiobook: ( Music By The Heartwood Institute*** (***) Support this podcast
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S02E63 Thrawn Janet by Robert Louis Stevenson

Thrawn or Twisted Janet is a tale of devilish possession written in broad Scots. A chilling tale, if you can understand it. My commentary at the end has very little to do with Thrawn Janet, but does go on at length about the sound 'r'. Fascinating. If You Appreciate The Work I?ve Put In Here If You Appreciate The Work I?ve Put In Here You could buy me a coffee ( Become a Patron ( And you can join my mailing list and get a free audiobook: ( Music By The Heartwood Institute*** (***) Support this podcast
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S02E62 Sir Gawain & The Green Knight

Sir Gawain & The Green Knight Sir Gawain and The Green Knight is the original Christmas Ghost Story. Or technically a supernatural story set at Christmas in the kingdom of Logres ruled by King Arthur. It's pretty gothic. This is a prose translation of a Middle English poem called Sir Gawain and The Green Knight. The translation by Jessie Weston was published in 1898 and though it is certainly not Middle English she has left enough archaic words in to keep that flavour. Jessie Weston herself was born in 1850 in Surrey, England, the daughter of a tea merchant. When she was young the family moved to Bournemouth off England?s south coast and she began writing there. She studied in Hildesheim in Germany and in Paris and at the Crystal Palace School of Art in South London.   She was most famous for her studies of Arthurian romances and the Grail legend where she put forth the ideas that the material was actually pre-Christian and pagan in origin. T S Eliot?s The Wasteland was influenced by Weston?s Arthurian studies.  The Green Knight as it stands was composed no later than the end of the 14th Century (the date of the manuscript) and may be much older. The language is Mercian influenced Middle English, probably from Lancashire. The boundary between Mercian and Northumbrian Old English runs through Lancashire and its dialect is influenced by both, but South Lancashire and Cheshire have Midlands? such as pronouncing the ?g? in ?king? and ?thing?. If you?re interested in Old English dialects, check out Simon Roper?s Youtube Channel for a real treat.  The poem shows signs of oral storytelling with the rich, detailed descriptions that run in sequences and would probably delight an audience as they were elaborated.  The themes are of honour and courage, as befitted the courtly audience, but also of love and fashion, which traditionally interest ladies. Tricky subject these days, but that was the established view for centuries. Things change. I for one embrace change, while I mourn what it lost. I?m a bit like the VoiceOver by Galadriel at the start of the Fellowship of The Ring movie. There are folkloric features which Weston perhaps emphasis because she was interested in them: He bears a holly bough to symbolise life and rebirth. He pole vaults over water as fairies can?t normally cross running water. The bargain is for a year and a day which is in all good fairy tales.  The motif of the talking head appears again and again in Celtic stories: Bran the Blessed, and Bricriu?s Feast from the Ulster Cycle where the beheading challenge is seen. Of course the severed head is seen on a platter in the Perceval/Parsifal/Peredur Stories. The old lady in the castle is the famous with Morgana La Fee. ?I trow? is ?I think? or ?I believe? ?In sooth? is ?truly?, ?really? ?fo sho? ?Wit, wot, witen? are ?to know? . So ? I wit? is cognate with the German ?Ich weiss? or the Dutch ?ek weet? ?List? is ?like? or ?please? ?As he may list?  ?As he pleases? ?Welkin? is sky. ?Hearken? is ?hear, or listen to? Going through the recording as I edit, it strikes me that perhaps the green lace on the axe is the one that Gawain later gets from the lady and transpires to have been the knight?s. It was the magic of this lace that allowed him to survive the blow. Not sure why I didn?t figure that before. This is just what a modern author would be: place an item and bury it in detail so its significance isn?t grasped until much later. It?s mainly showing not telling too. We get some insight into Gawain?s thinking, but mostly the situations are simply described and we infer internal motivations and ruminations from what we hear. Described. I also think it?s unfair of the Green Knight to chide Gawain for cowardice, comparing his fearlessness when faced with the axe. The Green Knight knew he had a magic item that would protect him, so of course he wasn?t scared. Unfair, I say. Unfair. You will note... Support this podcast
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S02E59 Harry by Rosemary Timperley

Harry by Rosemary TimperleyThank you to Steve Cuff for suggesting I read this story. Rosemary Timperley was born in 1920 in North London and died in November 1988. Her father was an architect and her mother a teacher. Timperley went to her local girls school and became a teacher herself. She taught English and History in a state school. Her pupils said she was a very dramatic figure (she ran the drama club) and wore long swirling black dresses with long drop or hoop earrings. While she was a teacher she began to submit her stories to magazine and they began to be accepted. She became a staff writer and agony aunt on the magazine Reveille. She lived in Richmond, Surrey (a well-heeled suburb of London now) for many years. Many of her stories are set in London. During the Second World War she worked at the Citizens? Advice Bureau in Kensington, London. She got married to a. Physics teacher in 1952 and they lived in Essex just outside London. They separated in the early 1960s according to some sources, but they appear to have been officially married until his death in 1968. In 1961 she mentions she is living in an old-fashioned flat and living on coffee, pink-gin and cigarettes. In 1964 she became seriously ill and had a long spell in hospital. I?m not surprised hearing about her diet. She was very prolific and was the author of 66 novels as well as radio plays and short stories. She was also editor of the 5th to the 9th Ghost Books. Harry has been filmed several times. She described herself as a recluse If You Appreciate The Work I?ve Put In HereYou could buy me a coffee ( Become a Patron ( And you can join my mailing list and get a free audiobook: ( Music By The Heartwood Institute ( Support this podcast
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S02E58 Taig O'Kane and The Corpse by Douglas Hyde

An Irish story told by Douglas Hyde, first president of Ireland and the craoibhinn aobhinn himself. I thought it was about time we did an Irish story and this is hits all the targets. A wastrel boy compromises the reputation of a local girl and when he goes out on the road to think, he meets a party of the fairy folk and they give him something to carry, and something to bury. Support this podcast
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S02E57 Whatever Happened to Corporal Cuckoo? by Gerald Kersh

Gerald Kersh Firstly, I need to thank Gavin Critchley who commissioned me to record this for his birthday in August and then very generously allowed me to broadcast it to you all on the podcast. Gerald Kersh was born in Teddington (just outside Central London) in 1912. He was born into a poor Jewish family and during his life had to turn his hand to many jobs to survive. These included being a cinema manager, body guard, cook in a fish and chip shop, French teacher, travelling salesman, night club bouncer and professional wrestler.  It is said he began to write when he was only eight and did all the other jobs to keep him going while he tried to make a living as a writer. His first book was autobiographical and a family member sued him for libel so he withdrew it. His third novel was his most famous one. This was Night And The City which was published in 1938 and made into a film twice. Robert de Niro played the main role in the 1992 film. Kersh joined the British Army during the Second World War and went into the Coldstream Guards but ended up working for the army film unit. He was discharged from the Army in 1943 after having both his legs broken in a bombing raid. While in France, after the liberation that many of his Jewish relatives had died in the Nazi concentration camps. Kersh wrote in a variety of genres after the war and he moved to the USA because he disliked the British tax system which he felt took too much money.  He became an American citizen in 1958. He died in New York in 1968. His biography on the Villancourt Books site states: Kersh was a larger than life figure, a big, heavy-set man with piercing black eyes and a fierce black beard, which led him to describe himself proudly as ?villainous-looking.? His obituary recounts some of his eccentricities, such as tearing telephone books in two, uncapping beer bottles with his fingernails, bending dimes with his teeth, and ordering strange meals, like ?anchovies and figs doused in brandy? for breakfast. Kersh lived the last several years of his life in the mountain community of Cragsmoor, in New York, and died at age 57 in 1968 of cancer of the throat. Whatever Happened to Corporal Cuckoo? This is a story of immortality. If we think of the alchemists who spent their lives, their fortunes, their reputation and their health to find the Elixir of Life and historical figures such as Emperor Rudolf II who, in Prague, funded lots of alchemists to produce such a tincture, then in Whatever Happened To Corporal Cuckoo, we see all of this is turned upon its head. Cuckoo gets the Elixir of Life by accident, it is invented by accident by the French surgeon who treats him. Ambroise Pare was a real military surgeon from this time. After becoming immortal, Cuckoo then spends the rest of eternity looking for get rich quick schemes in order to fund his buying what sounds like a low rent clip joint with girls and booze for low rent customers. He squanders every gift that eternity could have given him, not least by saving a little of his pay (and putting into attacker account as Warren Buffet would have you do). His answer when asked, is that he can?t be anything other than he is. He will do what his character makes him do. This is his dharma. This Indian term means duty but has come in some circles in the West to mean that what you do and can do no other. I often reflect on this these days. Could I be anything other than I am? I think within a limited circle of actions I can change the way I am, but like Cuckoo that is severely limited by my circumstances and my physical, mental and temperamental make up. I ramble about this and more in the audio notes to this episode.  If You Appreciate The Work I?ve Put In Here Hate watching me? Listen to audio only versions of my podcast: ( Get my audiobooks at an insane deal. London... Support this podcast
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S02E56 The Beast of Blanchland by Rowan Bowman

A man driving home on a winter's night thinks he sees a big cat stalking the moor. He crashes his car and then the weirdness really begins. An original story by Northumberland author Rowan Bowman. #audiobook #horror #northumberland #blanchland Further notes sent me by Rowan after our discussion: Influences in my writing:Raymond Chandler. He writes as a film director, intent on the reader seeing the view clearly in front of them. Daphne du Maurier. Partly because of her sense of place, but also because of the subtlety of the ghosts in some of her stories, Rebecca in particular, the writing is haunted by the melancholy of the nameless narrator, and the actual haunting, the influence that Rebecca has from beyond the grave, is superbly handled. Mandalay was based on du Maurier's own house. I often set books in or around houses I have known intimately. Shirley Jackson. The best writer of mad protagonists and unreliable witnesses in my opinion. Favourite authorsThe first proper ghost story I ever read was A Christmas Carol, I think that's where a lot of people start. As a teenager I suffered from terrible nightmares and took solace in Poe and Lovecraft and progressed to Ray Bradbury (Something Wicked This Way Comes still gives me the shudders). Then I went on to James Herbert, Shirley Jackson and lots of crime stories and thrillers, anything that confirmed it's normal to be scared and okay not to be okay.  Life sorted itself out and I was busy raising my children. The nightmares eased and I read anything I could reach while doing something else. Danielewski's The House of Leaves was the first book in years to actually scare me. I still enjoy Robert Harris thrillers and the Cormoran Strike novels, but I'm back in this stage of my life to seeking out the weird and scary. Dan Simmons is always a good read, I recommend Drood. The atmosphere is intense and like most of his stories the landscapes suck you in. I enjoyed Michelle Paver's Thin Air, but prefer Dark Matter as a supernatural horror, again the landscape is one of the characters, the real horror in Thin Air comes from mundane self-interested cruelty which rather overshadows the supernatural element for me. The landscape in The Loney is brilliantly evoked. There have been several novels since set around the area, but none capture it in the same way. My favourite China Meiville novel is The City and The City, its fantastical landscape is so well drawn that it seems more real than room you are sitting in. The best book I've read since the start of Lockdown has been Piranesi. I loved Johnathon Strange and Mr Norrell; this is very different, but equally good. The reader understands what is going on just before it is revealed, set in a fantasy world that is so well drawn that it's utterly convincing.  If you've ever been asked, 'What is wrong with you?' when admitting to a love of the macabre or frightening, then I recommend Noel Carroll's accessible The Philosophy of Horror (1990) and Lovecraft's collection of essays Supernatural Horror in Literature.  Hope this may be of some interest. Thank you for reading The Beast of Blanchland.  All the best, Rowan Support this podcast
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S02E55 The Haunting of Unit 409 by Tony Walker

The Haunting of Unit 409 is an original horror story by me, Tony Walker and will be part of my forthcoming More Cumbrian Ghost Stories collection. This is a taster, a teaser, an early release. I hope you like it and enjoy your Halloween listening! If You Appreciate The Work I?ve Put In Here Hate watching me? Listen to audio only versions of my podcast: ( Get my audiobooks at an insane deal. London Horror Stories ( If you want to say thank you for all the stories please don?t buy me a coffee (I?m wired enough), buy a book!  Get an ebook here: ( Get a paperback here: ( Join my mailing list and get a download: ( Music By The Heartwood Institute ( ???????? Support this podcast
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S02E54 The Girl With The Hungry Eyes by Fritz Leiber

The story of a female vampire, a femme fatale, a girl who just one day walks into a photographer's studio and wants to do some modelling. Get my audiobooks at an insane deal. London Horror Stories ( If you want to say thank you for all the stories please don?t buy me a coffee (I?m wired enough), buy a book!  Get an ebook here: ( Get a paperback here: ( Join my mailing list and get a download: ( Music By The Heartwood Institute ( Fritz Leiber Fritz Reuter Leiber Jr was born in 1910 in Chicago, Illinois and died in San Francisco, California in 1992 when he was 81. His parents were actors and when he was a child he toured with them when they were acting. He got his degree in 1932 in psychology and then after graduating went to be a minister in the Episcopal Church. But didn?t finish and went back to do postgraduate studies in philosophy. He is best known for his fantasy, horror and science fiction stories but he was also a chess master. He was one of he fathers of the Sword & Sorcery genre along with Robert E Howard and Michael Moorcock and it was Leiber who coined the term. His early career was as an actor, following in his parents? footsteps. But he did write some stories. His literary career seems to have been spurred on when he entered into correspondence with H P Lovecraft in 1936 (Lovecraft died in 1937) and he published his first Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser sword and sorcery story in 1939 in a pulp magazine.  He had been a pacifist but when the Second World War broke out he was convinced that the struggle against fascism was worth fighting and he went to work for Douglas Aircraft corporation but still wrote fiction. He married Jonquil Stephens in 1936 and she died in 1969.  Leiber had a life-long battle with alcoholism and long period of addiction to barbiturates was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. Despite the success of his novels he was extremely poor and lived in a down at heel hotel surrounded by bookshelves with a manual typewriter.  Things looked up towards the end of his life when he began to get royalty checks from TSR who were the publishers of the successful Dungeons & Dragons games and who had licensed his work. Leiber died in 1992 of a stroke but he married Margo Skinner in the last year of his life The Girl With The Hungry Eyes Lieber published this story in 1949 and it was made into an episode of The Night Gallery in 1972 and has been made into a film twice, once in 1967 and then in 1995. It was also the title of a. Son by Jefferson Starship in 1979 on their album Freedom at Point Zero. Our protagonist is a down at heel commercial photographer when The Girl seeks him out. Is this an act of philanthropy ? In fact as deadly as she is to all other men who covet her she seems to have a soft spot for our photographer and let?s him live, repeatedly rebuffing his attempts to engage in fatal lovemaking.  This seems a very male story. It is uncomfortable to read after the #MeToo revelations because it suggests that slapping the chops off The Girl would be an appropriate and even positive thing to do and that making a pass at a girl in an empty office is exactly what all men would and should do. She is the only female in the story, and she is an archetype. She is a vampire and she punishes these men for their covetous lust but all the same they seem like poor saps driven to lust after her by their impulses. Again the suggestion is Support this podcast
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S02E53 Laura Silver Bell by J Sheridan Le Fanu

A dark fairytale set in the wild moors of the North of England. A foolish girl falls in love with a tall, dark handsome stranger who stepped out of the woods these days. He says he's a fine lord, and she sees his golden sash and his silver sword and his black velvet jacket. An old wise woman warns her not to take a gift from him, nor eat a morsel of his food, nor yet cross running water to stand beside him. But will she listen? Get a great discount on my Horror Stories For Halloween audiobook & ebook bundle #audiobook #horrorpodcast #shortstories #literature *** Merchandise ( Get my audiobooks at an insane deal. London Horror Stories Buy me a coffee to show appreciation: ( ) You can get a free ebook and audiobook: ( Listen to audio only versions of my podcast: ( It is all greatly appreciated. #classicghoststories #classicstories #horrorpodcast Support this podcast
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SO2E52 The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

In the Backwoods, they do Bad Things. or "Be A Sport, Tessie!"My reading and analysis of The Lottery by Shirley Jackson Jackson's 1948 masterpiece of naturalistic horror gone bad. Small town America shows its horrific side. Folk Horror before there was folk horror. The Purge before there was The Purge. Listen, enjoy, understand and come along with me on the journey. Meet Jack too. If you want to download my own audiobooks at an insanely discounted price that ensure no cut goes to the big boys (you know who they are) and you support my work, then check out Horror Stories For Halloween by Tony Walker: By the by, if you want to sign up as a Patreon, that would be good. If you want to just buy me a coffee to keep me awake (though these days I don't need much help to do that) then hit here: Get a free audiobook and ebook here: Support this podcast
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S02E51 The Pomegranate Seed by Edith Wharton

Get a great discount on my Horror Stories For Halloween audiobook & ebook bundle ( The Pomegranate Seed The pomegranate seed is a reference to the myth of Persephone and Demeter. Winter and Spring and the Lord of the Underworld. In a sense Mother and daughter are the same, and one aspect of the woman spends time in the world of the dead, while the other walks the world of the living. Kenneth disappears to see about ?their passages.? It is clear that it is his passage over the river Styx to the underworld that he finally arranges. He has been so attached to the ghost of his late wife, that he cannot escape her as she dominated him in life. He wants to escape, he wants to live with his new wife and have new experiences, but he is simply not strong enough to make it so. Charlotte represents the living, mortal world while Elise Ashby represents death. In that sense it is a story about a choice that all of us have to make: to live in this world and be of it and do what work it sets before us or spend our time dreaming of the underworld whence we came and to which we shall return. Deep for a Monday morning, I feel. However, Wharton?s skill as an observer of human behaviour also shines in this story, and for most of the time it is the skilful chronicle of that commonplace (sadly) or married life?the suspicion that our lover?s heart is tethered elsewhere. Trivial, but profoundly upsetting. Charlotte spends a lot of time arguing this when then that way that her husband is having an affair, trying to convince herself in a way that rings very true. Old Mrs Ashby plays the role of the mother goddess who loses her son in this case to the Underworld. This doesn?t totally fit. But she is on the side of life, despite her age, and she supports Charlotte and regrets her son?s attachment to his late wife. In construction there are four parts. We begin with a scene of Charlotte?s unsettledness, standing at the door. What had been her haven now disquiets her and she finds no comfort in modern New York or inside in her home that she once loved.  She coveted the house when it was Elise?s and of course it has always remained Elises and again this is the story of the second wife who is dutiful and loving but is reminded by the possessions and moments and indeed children that she can never really supplant the first. Iff the first wife had been unfaithful then it would be easier, but by dying while he still loved her this has made the second wife?s job impossible. She can never win. Wharton raises questions throughout: what are the letters? Who are they from? Did he love this other woman? But she lays hints as the tension builds that these are not normal letters, they are grey, the handwriting is androgynous (perhaps because Elise is not a woman but a spirit? And therefore neither male nor female in that vague gray underworld?) But its a slow burn and the tension is that of a story about adultery, until it is revealed at the end to be a story about death?s hold on the living. Depressed now? She uses a lot of Britishisms: holiday for vacation, fortnight for two weeks ?I don?t think Edith Wharton played Fortnite. The ending is ambiguous. Wharton prefers subtle hints rather than clear resolutions in her ghost stories, listen to Bewitched or Mr Jones on this channel for that. But it seems to me that both the Old Mrs Ashby and Charlotte are creatures of the daylight world and so they pretend that Kenneth?s disappearance is a daylight occurrence when they know that he has gone down into the night world. Still, they act as is their natures, and call the everyday police. If You Appreciate The Work I?ve Put In Here (Become A Patreon) For Bonus Stories Or (buy me a coffee) , if you?d like to keep me working. Support this podcast
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S0250 Dragoon by DeWayne Hayes

Towards the end of the American Civil War in north west Arkansas, an old woman is faced with a dilemma. Her son is dead after falling in battle, and her son's wife went missing in the woods on hearing the news. Something happened to her in the woods, something that means the old woman's precious grandson is sick. He's sick, and something is coming over the hill. This story is followed by an interview with the author of the story Dragoon. Get a great discount on my Horror Stories For Halloween audiobook & ebook bundle ( Support this podcast
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S02E49 The Night Wire by H F Arnold

Well after midnight in a newsroom high up above the city, a strange story comes tip-tapping in down the night wire. John Morgan, the night wire expert, turns the morse code into words and the words reveal a mystery. A town no one has heard of is brought to a standstill by a weird fog. This weird fog rolls right out of the graveyard and in it are seen twisted wailing forms. But this tale is stranger even that that. But you'll have to listen to find out why. This pulp story from 1926 was a favourite of HP Lovecraft. Even its author is an enigma. Or is he? The story inspired Stephen King to write The Mist in 1981 which was made into the 2007 movie of the same name. "H. F. Arnold was an American pulp-era writer who wrote only three published stories. Despite this low output, ?The Night Wire? (1926), first published in Weird Tales, is considered the most popular story from the first golden age of that magazine. Lovecraft is said to have loved this story. " Arnold?s only other published stories were The City of Iron Cubes in the March/April 1926 edition of Weird Tales, and When Atlantis Was in the October and December 1937 issues of Amazing Stories.  Who is who is an enigma. The content of The Night Wire suggests he was a newspaper man in a big city in the USA. We have dates for his life as 1902 until 1963, making him 61 at the time of his death, and 24 when The Night Wire was published. How we know  his dates, I?m not certain. If you read most anthologies, we don?t even know if he was really called H F Arnold.  But then someone called William Russo did some research and found out a lot about him. Here?s a link to the full story ( It turns out that he was Henry Ferris Arnold who graduated from the Mid-West and went to work in Hollywood working in publicity (we?d call it marketing now) for movies. He started at Goldwyn Studies and became Sam Goldwyn?s Director of Publicity.  There?s something about that night radio DJ thing. Play Misty for me. Other associations are being on night shift.  Film noir.  The Weird Anthology ( The Night Wire read by by E F French (YouTube) William Russo?s review on Good Reads (The Night Wire by H.F. Arnold) Story suggestions by email please [email protected] If You Appreciate The Work I?ve Put In Here (Become A Patreon) For Bonus Stories Or (buy me a coffee) , if you?d like to keep me working. (Music)  by The Heartwood Institute Support this podcast
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The First Sheaf by H R Wakefield

The First Sheaf is a folk horror story set in the backwaters of rural England. A new vicar goes to a rural parish that has suffered a terrible drought. The local folk shun him and want nothing of his god. He fears they have other gods of their own. Then a young girl goes missing, and the vicar's son must search out the mystery of the round field and pay a terrible price for the knowledge he gains. Think The Wicker Man meets John Barleycorn. Folk horror before they invented the term 'folk horror' Download a my free audiobook ( (Become A Patreon) For Bonus Stories Or (buy me a coffee) , if you?d like to keep me working. (Music) by The Heartwood Institute Support this podcast
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S02E48 The Reluctant Bride by Iqbal Hussain

In rural Pakistan, a rickshaw driver stops by a Peepal Tree and a beautiful bride steps out from the shadows. Of course, at first he thinks she must be a churail, but despite his mother's warnings, he knows he must help this distressed woman. How will his kindness be rewarded? A story by modern British author Iqbal Hussain. After the story I had the great pleasure of interviewing Iqbal and talking about this story and his writing in general. Iqbal HussainIqbal is one of seven writers chosen for the 2021/22 Megaphone scheme for YA/children?s writers. He is one of fifteen emerging writers to feature in the Mainstream anthology by Inkandescent, with his short story ?The Reluctant Bride?, publication date mid-2021. His short story ?A Home from Home? won gold prize in the Creative Future Writers? Awards 2019. He is a recipient of the inaugural London Writers? Awards 2018 and was shortlisted for the Penguin Random House WriteNow scheme 2017. Iqbal is working on his first novel, Northern Boy, about being a ?butterfly among the bricks?. Iqbal's Twitter @ihussainwriter  Mainstream by Ikandescent This collection brings thirty authors in from the margins to occupy centre-page. Queer storytellers. Working class wordsmiths. Chroniclers of colour. Writers whose life experiences give unique perspectives on universal challenges, whose voices must be heard. And read. Mainstream by Inkandescent is here: ( (my affiliate link) If You Appreciate The Work I?ve Put In Here (Become A Patreon) For Bonus Stories Or (buy me a coffee) , if you?d like to keep me working. (Music)  by The Heartwood Institute Support this podcast
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The Shining Pyramid by Arthur Machen

Over in the Wild West of Wales, (despite him calling it England, the village is Croes y Ceiliog after all), strange signs appear, a girl disappears and it takes a man from London to work out the evil truth. This is the audio extracted from the edited version of my live reading of the Shining Pyramid by Arthur Machen. All the audio is there (some of the live cut out) and it is as polished as well as I can do. There are two microphones in this: the streamed version which is compressed and a little fuzzy and the camera microphone which is tinny. With those warnings, listen if you dare.  PS. An end of summer bargain for you:You can still get my London Horror Stories Full Audiobook plus the Ebook at the insanely discounted price of £2.99, which is not much dollar, and if you buy from my directly, then we don?t give the non-tax paying giants (you know who I mean) their fat cut. ( Support this podcast
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S02E47 W S By L P Hartley

In which a writer starts to receive mysterious and increasingly menacing postcards from an apparent stranger. He asks his friends what to do. He goes to the police. And then it all becomes clear. L P Hartley Leslie Poles Harltey was born in Cambridgeshire in England in 1895 and died aged 76 in London England. L P was  educated first at  home and then a Preparatory School before going to  Harrow School?? a private school in North London, where he had won a scholarship.  His father was not particularly high class, he was a solicitor and owned a brickyard.  After Harrow, L P went to Oxford to study (or ?read?) as they say at Oxbridge, Modern History. This was in 1915. In 1917 he joined the army. I think he was conscripted. He was commissioned as an officer in the Norfolk Regiment but never saw active service due to having a weak heart. He was a famous hypochondriac in fact and had what we would call these days a health anxiety.  In 1922 he suffered a nervous breakdown and soon after this started spending long periods in Venice in Italy where he owned his own gondola. He had a particular male friend David Cecil. And this was in a time when being gay was illegal and punishable by time in prison so gay people did not come out. It was believed that he was gay.  After the war he returned to complete his degree Oxford, and even at that time he had an ambition to be a writer.   His first published work was in Oxford Poetry.  And he became editor of Oxford Outlook. He was a lifelong friend of Cynthia Asquith who, as we know, was a famous author of ghost stories and editor of the Pan Horror series for a while.  He mixed in aristocratic circles after graduation and worked as a book reviewer, but his own work did not initially find success and he was depressed.  In 1924, his first volume Night Fears was published and it was well received critically and his work was supported by many influential writers including Cynthia Asquith. He had moderate to good success with later novels, but his major success was with The Go-Between. He was named after Virginia Woolf?s father. Hartley as a youngster was a fan of Edgar Allen Poe.  He named his influences as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James and Emily Bronte, but I find his straightforward style different from all of these.  His most famous quote is possibly: The Past Is Another Country. They do things differently there. W S This is a cracking little story and very simple in structure. We have a writer, and like all writers, he is neurotic about his work. He has had some success, but still harbours doubts.  Then he starts getting postcards from someone with the same initials as himself, though he doesn?t notice the initials as being significant at first. The story uses the ticking clock technique of modern thrillers.  Danger is approaching step by step getting closer and closer: think Die Hard. Though if you didn?t know British geography you might not know that Forfar is distant and Coventry close to the West Country town where Walter Streeter lives.  Nevertheless, each postcard brings the doom closer. There is some nice foreshadowing.  The postcard writer keeps promising a hearty handshake and it is only at the end we are told the character William Stainsforth has only one hand.  The comment that the author doesn?t give any depth to his characters is also a piece of foreshadowing. We are told near the end that the character is a policeman in the story.  This is after the policeman has arrived outside to keep guard. The twist is in the phone call from the real police who apologise for not sending an officer. Who then is the policeman outside?  I wonder if it would not have been more effective if we had known that the character was a policeman but it might be hard to include that snippet without giving the game away too early. The secret with a twist is to place the information in Support this podcast
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S02E46 The Lodgers by Joan Aiken

Joan Aiken Joan Delano Aiken was the daughter of Conrad Aiken, whose story Mr Arcularis we read out on The Classic Ghost Stories Podcast. Her elder sister Jane was a writer and her brother John was a chemist. Her father, being a poet presumably appreciated the para-rhyming of their names. Joan was born while her father was domiciled in England,  on Mermaid Street in Rye in East Sussex in 1924. She died in Petworth West Sussex in 2004. She went to a private school in Oxford but did not go to University. Instead she wrote stories. Her first story appeared on the BBC Children?s Hour in 1941 when she was seventeen.  After the death of her first husband she went to work as an editor on magazines. She is most famous for her children?s fiction, notably The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and Black Hearts in Battersea. Her stories have almost a magical realism feel (a term which of course really belongs to South American literature) in that she uses what appear to be genuine historical settings subtly twisted to become fantasy.  Many of her novels have supernatural themes, such as the Shadow Guests and the Haunting of Lamb House. She won many awards for her fiction during her lifetime.  The Lodgers is in her collection of short supernatural stories A Touch of Chill.    Not knowing what to make of it, I went on Good Reads and found it got an average of three stars out of five with most reviewers not being clear about what the story is about. The best I can do is to suggest that this is a mid-20th Century story where small town life is subverted into the weird as people like Robert Aickman were doing. I wonder whether the deliberate cultivation of the irrational is taking place here where the weird is not meant to be understood rationally, but there to create atmosphere. The weird slovenly, drunken Colegates come from the Middle East. They have odd paraphernalia such as the 'collecting jar' which seems to be vaguely occult. The reference to the Egyptians and the black and white pillars put me in mid of the ritual magic of the Order of the Golden Dawn. It seems that the Colegates collect the souls of children. In the end, I think young Bob's soul flies out of the window and Desmond Colegate pursues it like a butterfly hunter into the graveyard where the exertion gives him a stroke of a heart attack. But I may be wrong. The boy, and the vet's boy who the Colegate also taught games of cards to (the cards seem important -- Tarot???) both die of natural causes. Are the Colegates then a drunken version of the Grim Reaper? They don't cause the death, they are just around to harvest the souls? If you know, tell me! If You Appreciate The Work I?ve Put In Here [Become A Patreon]( ( For Bonus Stories Or [buy me a coffee]( ( , if you?d like to keep me working. [Music]( ( by The Heartwood Institute Support this podcast
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S02E45 The Amorous Ghost by Enid Bagnold

Edith Bagnold Edith Bagnold, later Lady Jones was born in 1889 in Rochester, Kent and died in 1981 in London . She was most famous for her novel *National Velvet* published in 1935, which was made into a famous film that starred Elizabeth Taylor.   Her father was a Colonel in the  British Army, and she was mainly brought up in Jamaica.  She loved riding horses when she was in Jamaica and that inspired National Velvet.  She went to art school in London and worked for Frank Harris, an Irish-American novelist and had an affair with him. She was very Bohemian and mixed with artists and free-thinkers. During the First World War she became a nurse but was critical of the way the hospitals were won and got sacked. She became a driver for the army in France and wrote a memoir of her time dung that. In 1920 she became the wife of Sir Roderick Jones and therefore became Lady Jones.  they lived on the south coast of England near Brighton. They had a house in London and were neighbours of Winston Churchill and Jacob Epstein. Her great-grand-daughter was Samantha, wife of the recent British Prime Minister, David Cameron.   Virginia Woolf called her ?a scallywag who married a very rich man.? Woolf thought that Bagnold had begun as a rebel and Bohemian but ended up being conventionally rich with a butler.  Read this article about Bagnold. (Upstairs, downstairs | Margaret Drabble | The Guardian) If You Appreciate The Work I?ve Put In Here (Become A Patreon) For Bonus Stories Or (buy me a coffee) , if you?d like to keep me working. (Music)  by The Heartwood Institute Support this podcast
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S02E44 The Door In The Wall by H. G. Wells

H G Wells Herbert George Wells was born in 1866 in Bromley, Kent just outside London. He Died aged 79 at his grand house in Regent?s Park in London. He was a scientist by training having got his degree at Imperial College London (the Royal College of Science).  He was a biologist with a strong interest in Darwin and Natural Selection.  His early adult life was one of financial insecurity and job after job teaching and he earned his Bachelor of Science in 1890 through the University of London?s external teaching scheme.  In 1893 while teaching A A Milne (author of Winnie the Pooh) at a school in London, he published a biology text book. By 1895 he was contributing stories and articles to different periodicals.  Politically, he was a Socialist. His mother was a domestic servant and his father had been a servant gardener though later became a professional cricketer for the Kent county team and who had a sports shop which didn?t do very well.   Because his family struggled financially, they put him out as an apprentice as a draper. He worked a thirteen hour day and slept in a dormitory and his later novels Kipps and The History of Mr Polly describe this lower middle class or tradesmen?s life. He suffered from Diabetes and founded the Diabetic Association in 1934. He was a progressive futurist who foresaw many modern developments such as tanks, space travel, nuclear weapons and satellite TV. His books deal with time travel (The Time Machine) and alien invasion (The War of the Worlds). The Door in The Wall by H G Wells The Door in the Wall was first published in The Daily Chronicle in 1906, when he was forty, and reprinted in Wells?s collection The Door In The Wall And Other Stories published in 1911. It is one of Wells?s most well-known stories, and he wrote at least a hundred short stories, mostly in the early part of his career. The story is told to Redmond, and this device of having a story introduced to an otherwise blank hearer, who then learns of the ending of the story and makes his own conclusion, is well known. In fact more Victorian and Edwardian supernatural stories than not begin in this style (e.g. The Turn of The Screw, many stories of M R James) and it was copied by Ray Russell in the 1960s in his Sardonicus series when he wanted to write as if the story were Victorian. The way Wallace recounts the story to Redmond is set out from the beginning as questioning whether Redmond should believe him. He says early on that he does, and at the end confirms this again. On balance, as fabulous as the story is, he chooses to believe Wallace. The hero of the story, is Lionel Wallace a successful politician. And it is this success that is the central theme to the story, which to me is about putting off spiritual contentment in favour of worldly obligations time after time, until in the end, he makes the right, and final choice. Every time he passes by the door and chooses a worldly goal rather that trying the door he is sure in his heart the door is unlocked and only waiting for him to step inside.  The first time he goes in, he is a child. The second time he is a busy schoolboy intent on not being late for school. The third time he is on his way to his Oxford entry exam, the fourth time he is on his way to an important appointment, which seemed to be to be with a lover. There is a long gap and he is finally a successful politician, overworked with a tarnish beginning to spread on this world and he becomes more receptive to the message. He sees the door three times just when he is finding this world burdensome. He is determined that he would go in through the door.  Wallace at this time is around forty years old, which was Wells?s age at the time he wrote the story.  He passes the door on an urgent vote in the House  of Commons which he can?t miss. The next time he was rushing to say goodbye to his father who was dying. The third time was only a week before Wallace... Support this podcast
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S02E43 The Grey Woman by Elizabeth Gaskell Part Three.

The Grey Woman Part 3In which Anna and Amante go on the run, meet some good souls, some bad ones and accomplish miracles with corks and home-made walnut dye, thus saving their lives. Will it all go right in the end? You will have to listen, won't you? Random Notes For Part 3Disguises. Victorians loved disguises. Think of Sherlock Holmes The beautiful Ann breaks one of her front teeth! No one later remarks on this. Amante has corks in her cheeks to alter the shape of her face. A great idea, but did she keep them in all the time? It might make talking tricky. I think Mrs Gaskell got too carried away with the fun of disguises to think about its sustainability In the blacksmith?s smithy, when M. De La Tourelle turns up, he describes his wife as having run off with a base profligate woman from Paris. It?s a good job he didn?t say she was Norman as that would have been more likely to give the game away. Phew. The Countess de Roeder (for it is she) shies away from the common room ?full of evil smells and promiscuous company?. I?ve been in pubs like that. We are set up for this by the description of her being a fair-haired young woman speaking German French who had hair that Amante reminds Anna is the same colour as hers used to be before they cut it off and burned it in the stove. The Murder of the Countess De Roeder sets up the fate of M. De La Tourelle as we ultimately find out. However, in a modern novel, or film, it would be urged that the protagonist confronted and brought about the doom of the villain, not some minor character never seen (the Baron de Roeder). We get word of the crooked jeweller a few times just dropped in. I think the subtle hinting at this is very well done ?Ainsi le Chauffeurs se vengent? means ?Number 1: Thus the Bandits Revenge Themselves? Amante?s father was a tailor in Rouen, but earlier, Mrs Gaskell told us that Amante?s father was a Norman father. And then her complexion goes from roses and lilies to ashen grey. It?s a nice touch that M. De La Tourelle looks up and doesn?t recognise her. This emphasises her unfair transformation into The Grey Woman. I guess the daughter can?t marry Maurice de Poissy because her natural father killed his father? She slips this in at the end as an additional, but arguably unneccesarry other than for the sheer joy readers take in twists. But it also allowed me to finish in true thriller style with a revelatory sentence with a duh-duh-duh rhythm. The way this is written made me narrate it in short rhythmic bursts. I think this is due to her sentence structure. I?ve only been to Heidelberg once, but I liked it immensely and would like to go back. Next week we are reading another listener request. If You Appreciate The Work I?ve Put In Here... (Become A Patreon) For Bonus Stories Or (buy me a coffee) , if you?d like to keep me working. (Music)  by The Heartwood Institute Support this podcast
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S02E42 The Grey Woman by Mrs Gaskell Part Two

Brief NotesTrusty Amanate is someone she can talk to. The expedition by candlelight through the castle passages The withheld letters She is a prisoner Anna bites out a chunk of her hand to keep her fear from overcoming her while she?s under the table. She later breaks one of her front teeth. She?s rough. The spying servants The Chauffeurs are not drivers but robbers. The gendarmes are gendarmes though. A rollicking boys own story, but for girls because it includes love. Amante is fearless, she can beard Lefebvre, but she is scared of the servants as she knows about them. Her husband buys her gifts and makes her a flower garden. So, he must love her in his own way. I think he probably does, or why entertain her? We find the reason for M. De La Tourelle?s frequent absences. He is not away at some distant estate at all. If You Appreciate The Work I?ve Put In Here (Become A Patreon) For Bonus Stories Or (buy me a coffee) , if you?d like to keep me working. (Music)  by The Heartwood Institute Support this podcast
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S02E41 The Grey Woman by Elizabeth Gaskell Part One

The Grey Woman by Mrs Elizabeth GaskellElizabeth GaskellElizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell was born in London in 1810 and died in the country in Hampshire in 1865. She was one of the most famous women novelists of the Victorian period. As well as being a novelist, she was a biographer and wrote a biography of Charlotte Bronte which was published in 1857. Apparently she did a bit of editing and only put in the nice things in Charlotte Bronte?s biography, judging herself that certain aspects should be left out. Her most famous novels are Cranford, published between 1851 and 1857, North and South between 1854 and 1855, and Wives and Daughters published in 1865?the year of her death. Her father was Keeper of the Treasury Records and she was born in Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, London which is now a billionaires row and was probably for the well-to-do even in 1810. Her mother was from the North of England which may have prompted her interest in the division between the North of England dominated by the Industrial Revolution and the south of England which did not have the heavy industries of coal and iron extraction. She spent much of her childhood in Cheshire in the North. She also spent time in Newcastle upon Tyne. When she was married she lived in Manchester. She visited Edinburgh and Whitby and then when she visited a house she had both in Hampshire, died suddenly of a heart attack. Unlike some women of her class, she did attend school and was educated privately at Stratford Upon Avon. She read the classics and travelogues sent to her from her brother in the navy. The Grey WomanThis story was published by Mrs Gaskell in 1865 in London in a collection known as *The Grey Woman & Other Tales*. By this time, Mrs Gaskell was a the very famous author of a number of blockbuster novels. This was also the year in which she suddenly died. She was influenced by German literature and travelled in Germany in 1841. A number of her short stories, not just her ghost stories, have a German theme or setting. One of the themes of the story is the difference between the sophisticated and effete French and the simple straightforward Germans and the rivalry and mistrust between them. The first thing that strikes our ear (or our eye) is the vivid descriptions of the mill, the gardens, the scoured dishes, the red-tiled floor and the river Neckar murmuring outside the mill. Gaskell is a great writer of descriptions and talented at the ancient rhetorical art of *enargia*?which is the skill of drawing the listener into a scene by activating each of their senses through well-written description. This description of the rain in the garden of the mill turned cafe strikes me that it might have been lifted from a real incident that happened to Gaskell while she was in Germany and borrowed into her writing. Again we see the distance device. To quote M R James (again) ? ghost stories should be distanced from the reader through placing them at a pint in the past far enough away so we can believe things we wouldn?t accept if they were set in our modern world but close enough so that we can still identify with the situations in it ?so this story written in the late 1840s say at the earliest has its incident in 1789. Early on we get a little foreshadowing: we are told that the portrait of Anna Scherer shows she was very beautiful, which is important later in the story as explaining how she married the French nobleman, even though only from a miller?s family, and also that in the portrait she is full of colour, but lost that colour due to fright. The details of this fright are not available when they are mentioned. That sets us up for a ghost story. The next mystery is when she returns to the mill and sees her brother Fritz and his evil wife Babette again. They thought her dead. Why? Another little open loop for us. And then Anna begins the story of her early life and it sounds like a German version of The Waltons at the Old Mill. Contrast... Support this podcast
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S02E40 The Lost Tragedy by Denis Mackail

A comic ghost story from Edwardian London?perfect to relax to and not scary at all. The Lost Tragedy by Denis Mackail Denis Mackail was born in 1892  in London. His mother was the daughter of the famous pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones.  His father was Scottish, born on the Isle of Bute, and later Professor of Poetry at Oxford University and a specialist in Latin Literature and also President of the British Academy.  His sister was also a novelist. He was more distantly related to Rudyard Kipling and Stanley Baldwin, a British prime minister. Denis Mackail was born into some privilege. His most famous novel Greenery Street deals with social manners in the upper-middle class London he knew. As such, this story is interesting as it deals with the doings of lower middle class tradesmen such as book-dealers.  Mackail must have known something of the trade to paint it so well. Mackail suffered from ill-health when he was a young man and though he worked as a stage-set designer in the theatre in London, he was not fit enough to fight in the First World War.  I am not clear what his physical health problems were but he suffered from anxiety himself and had what is called a ?nervous breakdown.? Despite his comfortable early start he had some financial troubles and had to write to supplement his income. He published a novel every year from 1920 until 1938. He moved in literary circles and was a friend of A A Milne and P G Wodehouse, both famous for their light-hearted and comic writing.  He wrote the official biography of J M Barrie (the author of Peter Pan) and but after the death of his wife in 1949 he never wrote another thing. Despite that he lived another twenty-two years, dying in London in 1971 at the age of seventy-nine. Genre expectations. Writers can expect to get excoriated if they defy genre expectations. If you write a Romance be that clean or mucky (I don?t really read either to be honest)  or Space Opera that is not huge in scale, or Heaven Forbid ?LitRPG? that doesn?t have enough stats in it, then the hard-core genre reader will cut you down to size with a one-star review. I say this because this may be a ghost story, but it is a comic ghost story and that genre has its own tropes and conventions, not least the wise cracking spectre as in the Ben and William show in this story.  I hope listeners were not too disappointed. The Lost Tragedy is a well constructed tale. We have the set up of Shakespeare as someone they recognise but whose name they can?t place, who speaks with a ?west-country? accent, which might relate to the Warwickshire accent of Stratford Upon Avon. It is very common for ghost stories to be related as ?frame stories? where the events are told to an unconnected person by someone who has first-hand, but now long previous association with the events. It is also in keeping with M R James?s dictum that ghost stories should be removed from the every day by placing them remotely in distance or time in that it happened when Mr Bunstable was a young man. There is a tradition of the comic ghost story. This story reminded me somewhat of the Ghost Ship by Richard Middleton. This humorous tale of a ghostly pirate ship was published in 1912 but as Middleton killed himself in 1911, was written before that. I only mention the date because it was part of a trend of ghost stories with jokey spectres which perhaps began with Oscar Wilde?s The Canterville Ghost  published in 1887 and have a noble tradition through Casper The Friendly Ghost who first appeared in 1945 and  the film Bedknobs and Broomsticks 1971. I also liked the description of the bookshop. It reminded me both of Black Books on the TV, the old Foyles I used to know on Charing Cross Road and in a way of Cynthia Asquith?s The Corner Shop (which is another London shop that you dip into out of the London fog).  There is a shop like this in Victoria Walker?s The Winter of Enchantment... Support this podcast
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S02E39 Oke of Oakhurst by Vernon Lee (Part 3)

Oke of Oakhurst Part 3 How awful Alice Oke is. Though the narrator praises her as a wonderful woman she seems wholly unpleasant to me, and though William Oke is painted as a bore, he seems a thoroughly decent and mistreated man driven to madness by his wife?s caprices. William is so driven to distraction by his love for this teasing woman that when he begins to imagine he sees Lovelock, and then tries to not to show his reaction, she asks him whether he has seen Lovelock ? his ghostly rival Was the ghost of Lovelock real? Was Alice Oke really the reincarnation of the former Alice Oke? We can read it both ways.  Alice alludes to Lovelock being with her, but I was never sure whether this was just to tease her husband and she didn?t mean literally, even as a spirt, but is essence as an idea.  The issue of Oke thinking there would be no hops that year, when he previously has said it would be a bumper year and hops are there to be seen, is perhaps meant to indicate that he is losing his grip on reality. I cannot see any other reason for this incident to be reported to us. But I may be missing something. On the walk with the painter, Oke talks about having to save his wife from dishonouring herself ?one way or another?. Perhaps the idea of killing her is already in his mind at this point, though I didn?t guess that at the time.  When he shoots her, the gun isn?t mentioned right there and then, but we remember we were clearly told how he had been cleaning and preparing the guns around the house, so that was neatly set up. Alice Oke appears to have a Mixed Personalty Disorder with Histrionic and Narcissistic traits while William Oke seems to have sunk into a depression with psychotic features. Poor bloke, old William Oke. The story was originally called The Phantom Lover but Vernon Lee later renamed it, Oke of Oakhurst and I think that William Oke crazed murderer that he became is really the hero. Our painter/narrator is merely a camera lens though which we see the tragedy. If You Appreciate The Work I?ve Put In Here (Become A Patreon) For Bonus Stories Or (buy me a coffee) , if you?d like to keep me working. (Music) by The Heartwood Institute Support this podcast
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S02E38 Oke of Oakhurst Part 2

Oke of Oakhurst by Vernon Lee Part 2 So the story develops. It begins by our painter narrator noting the strange fascination Alice Oke has for her namesake from 1626. I wonder whether that precise date is important? Later on, he discovers that not only is she wearing a dress copied from the 1626 Alice Oke?s portrait, but it is the very dress. She moons over the poetry of Lovelock and he notices that it is as if the poems were written to her. She seems to know the very words they spoke. She lingers in the Yellow Room, a room in which no Oke, except her could bear sit. William Oke notes the fact he hates the room, and all the Okes do, but says nothing has happened there. Then Vernon Lee drops the comment that perhaps something will happen there. I think the oak symbolism must mean something. So far I am just thinking it is to represent the solid, earthiness of William Oke of Oakhurst and his family.  Also she mentions the cries of lambs separated from their mothers for at least the second if not the third time. So she either didn?t edit her draft very well, or this too is meant to be in and therefore symbolic. The 1626 Alice Oke killed her lover the poet Lovelock. She comes over as a bit of a psycho. I think 1880 Alice Oke is a different kind of weird. She is fey and withdrawn from reality where 1626 Alice seems a bit of a firebrand and a wicked woman. As 1880 drives madly through the countryside, to take our narrator to the murder spot, she seems possessed by this wicked highway-woman ancestress.  In the yellow room, our man gets the idea that Alice 1880 does not seem to be another woman from Alice 1626 but the very same. I also note that the cavalier poet Lovelock (the cavaliers were the foppish ones who fought for the side of the king in the English civil war) was a dab band with a sword. Poets aren?t as cool these days. If You Appreciate The Work I?ve Put In Here (Become A Patreon) For Bonus Stories Or (buy me a coffee) , if you?d like to keep me working. (Music) by The Heartwood Institute Support this podcast
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S02E37 Oke of Oakhurst by Vernon Lee

Oke of Oakhurst by Vernon Lee Vernon Lee Despite sounding so masculine, Vernon Lee was actually a woman called Violet Paget, born in France in 1856 and died in Italy in 1935. Despite these location she identified as English. Her biographer Vineta Colby says that Lee was English by nationality, French by an accident of birth and Italian by choice. As well as the ghost stories for which she is most famous, Vernon Lee, was an essayist who wrote about travel and art and especially aesthetics.  Her parents were globe-trotting, or at least Europe-trotting intellectuals and in 1873, when Vernon or Violet was 17, they settled in Florence Italy. She stayed living in the vicinity of Florence until her death in 1935. Violet published her first collection of essays when she was 24. These dealt with Italian writers and dramatists and she later wrote on William Shakespeare and Renaissance Italy.  She made fun of English artists, particularly the Pre-Raphaelites in her 1884 novel Mrs Brown. Politically, she was a convinced pacificst. She published under a masculine name because she feared that as a woman her writing would not be taken seriously. She was a feminist and mostly dressed as a man. Though she didn?t come out, she did have crushes on women and was probably Lesbian. She suffered from health anxiety. She also fell out with other writers by making fun of them in her work; notably Henry James and Edith Wharton. Henry James wrote to his equally talented brother William warning him about Vernon Lee: the most able mind in Florence, ?as dangerous and uncanny as she is intelligent.? Oke of Oakhurst In Part 1, the story begins with our narrator, the artist, talking to an unknown interlocutor about a painting assignment he had. He begins to talk about the wonderful and strange Mrs Alice Oke of Oakhurst, Kent. We learn that the stay with the Okes left an indelible impression on the painter, whose name I have not yet learned. We get the impression that the Okes are gone, possibly dead. Certainly, he will never be able to paint her. Some disaster has fallen. The painter painted the husband and the wife and he has no idea who know owns the portrait of Mr Oke. This suggests their home has been broken up as if in some terrible fate has befallen them. He didn?t even finish the portrait of Mrs Oke. Vernon Lee withholds information to whet our appetite. She creates suspense. ?I suppose the newspapers were full of it at the time.? So it was a scandal.  ?It really was stranger than anyone could have guessed.?  Alice Oke is dead and her end was strange, but fitting. Lee tantalises us all the way.  She was sent to our painter from heaven, ?or the other place.? Who is this woman!?? I want to know. The narrator doesn?t normally retell the story, but luckily for us, he chooses to on this occasion. Lee paints a very sympathetic picture of Mr Oke, very much in awe of his wife, but a decent sort and not without feelings and sensitivities. But she sets him up through the painter?s eyes as the very antithesis of what the London Bohemian painter would admire. The painter sets off presuming Oke is the dullest of the dull, the very pinnacle of boring Tory county life. He had been a lieutenant in the Blues which is a nickname of the Royal Horseguards, a prestigious cavalry regiment in the British Army who had been, as its name suggests a royal bodyguard. In part 2 we get the background to Mr Oke. The painter is very disparaging. He portrays Oke as a dull young Kentish Tory with no imagination and no style. He refers to him as a ?squireen? (which my spellcheck prefers to render as ?squirrel?) I guess this is a pejorative diminutive of ?squire? with the Irish -een added. She comments on Mr Oke?s frown: ?A Maniac Frown?. Vernon Lee mentions this twice.  We learn at the beginning that Mrs Oke is extremely desirous of having her portrait painted by this particular painter Support this podcast
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S02E36 Minuke by Nigel Kneale

Minuke by Nigel Kneale Nigel Kneale Nigel Kneale was born in Barrow in Furness in 1922, which was then part of Lancashire ?North of the Sands?, and since 1974 part of the modern county of Cumbria. He died in 2006 in London.  Neale?s family came from the Isle of Man, which is clearly visible from the coast of Cumbria. I saw it yesterday but not today as it was too rainy. The family went back to the Isle of Man when he was six (finding Barrow too rich for their blood no doubt) and was educated in Douglas, the island?s capital. His father was editor of the local newspaper. Kneale went to study law but got bored with the legal profession. Apparently he tried to join the British army at the start of the Second World War but was declared medically unfit due to photophobia.  He wrote short stories and read out his own story Tomato Cain on the BBC in 1946. Inspired by the reception his story got, he went to London to study acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.   He then got involved in a voice acting and writing melange of a career on the broadcast media, writing his first script in 1950. His most famous work was the Quatermass Series, a horror science fiction drama series on the BBC which was a massive success. You can find this and his later great success The Stone Tape on Youtube. He did an adaptation of Susan Hill?s The Woman in Black in 1989. He adapted some of the Sharpe novels in the 1990s which were also a great success. He was invited to write for the X-Files but declined that job. So, Neale was a big cheese up until recent times. His work, particularly Quatermass and The Stone Tape are canons of British hauntology these days. Minuke Or, if I hadn?t done it northern ?my nook?. But ?nook? it is to us.  This story is from the collection Tomato Cain and Other Stories published by Collins in 1949. The book is out of print and second-hand copies are going for nearly £400. I didn?t buy one. It was requested by a listener and I was only too happy to oblige. The story is told as a frame story. It begins in media res where a man has gone to an estate agent (a realtor) interested in a property. By the end we learn that not only is the property cursed and haunted an on an old Norse burial site, but it is demolished and its site occupied by a scrap metal yard, so why would the guy be interested in it? He clearly doesn?t know it?s a scrap metal yard because the estate agent has to tell him. This does seem to a plot hole, but we shall forgive Nigel Kneale this. It is also possibly that someone cleverer than me will point out how I have misunderstood this point. It seems like a poltergeist story. We remember the Enfield Poltergeist from the 1970s which received a lot of publicity, but this story pre-dates that case, so couldn?t be influenced by it. There was a recent long documentary on BBC Sounds about the Battersea Poltergeist, but that dates from the 1950s, so again can?t have influenced Neale. The other hint is the old Norse (or even older) burial ground that underlies Minuke. This idea was picked up and used in several Hollywood horror movies. It features in The Shining where the Overlook Hotel is built on an old Native American burial ground. But this came out in 1980, so again cannot be an influence on Neale. We see this idea of archaeology creating apparitions and other supernatural events in Neale?s classic TV programme The Stone Tape which I recently watched. This came out in 1972, but the idea of archaeology holding records of strongly emotional events and replaying it, is hinted at in Neale?s story ?You Must Listen? about a haunted telephone line. There is a haunted telephone line in this story, as well as a haunted radio that plays monster noises rather than dance music. I recently wrote an article on Medium about Phone Calls From The Dead (Unexplained... Support this podcast
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A Dog in Dürer?s Etching ?The Knight, Death and the Devil? by Marco Nevi

A Dog in Dürer?s Etching ?The Knight, Death and the Devil? Albrecht Dürer Albrecht Dürer was born in Nuremberg, a Free Imperial City of the Holy Roman Empire in 1471. He died aged 58, also in Nuremberg. He was a famous printmaker in his time and travelled across Europe. His work mainly consists of engravings and woodcuts. The Knight, Death & The Devil was printed in 1513, though apparently Durer called it simply ?The Knight?. The engraving shows an armoured knight on a horse, leading another horse. The knight is flanked by a rotting corpse holding an hourglass and the Devil. Behind him on a hill is a fortress and beside the horse is a dog.  The knight looks straight forward, undistracted by the corpse, the devil or even the dog.  The elements in the picture represent a Medieval European morality. The knight is not tempted or swayed by the Devil or cowed by his inevitable death. He continues on his journey. The critic Gary Shapiro said the knight signified resolute determination in the absence of hope. Marco Denevi Marco Denevi was born in 1922 in the town of Sáenz Peña a suburb of Buenos Aires in Argentina. He died in Buenos Aires in 1998. He studied law but went to work in an insurance office where he wrote his first novel in snatched hours. His writing bought him enough success that by 1968 when he was 46, he gave up the insurance trade and became a full time author and essayist. Denevi was the author of novels and short stories, some of which were made into films. He won several prizes for his work.   Alberto Manguel Alberto Manguel is the translator of this piece by Denevi. He was born in Buenos Aires in Argentina, but moved to Canada. He is an award winning author of both fiction and non-fiction as well as a translator, editor and essayist. When he was young he worked in a bookshop in Buenos Aires and there met Jorge Luis Borges.  A Dog in Dürer?s Etching ?The Knight, Death and the Devil? This is a wonderfully Gothic story. It mainly concerns a knight returning home from a nameless war (as Denevi says: all wars are basically the same war), coarsened and wizened looking forward to days of peace with his wife, his salmon and his lute in his castle, apparently under the pleasant illusion that all will be waiting for him much as it was before he left. We have a nice interlude where the band of soldiers are travelling through a gothic forest where the trees are all bearing the terrible, but appealing to some, fruits of war. The minstrel imagines that the knight?s suit of armour its empty and that the knight whom the soldiers had trusted to save them from death is not really there. But then we return to the main point. Wars are games of chess played by little kings, popes and emperors to advance their petty ambitions. The knight will be forgotten by history, we are told. Then we are given access to the knight?s musings that perhaps his otherwise pointless efforts in the war in which he has spent his life will be remembered and honoured with land and titles by the little kings.  As he thinks of this, the dog approaches. The knight, or Denevi, considers that peasants and dogs do not even really know there was a war, much less what it was about, and in fact it was about nothing other the game of chess played by little kings and popes. The knight considers how he may have, by his actions, have spun a web to snare the fly kings to make them help him. He ponders that God may be pretty similar to the dog, in that he does not even know there was a war and is oblivious to the aims and ambitions of the popes and kings. The theme of the story seems to be about perspective and how those who are considered lowly, like the dog, may know the important stuff like how the knight is infected with the plague and not only is he not going to enjoy the fruits of his life?s work at war, but he will probably bring the plague home to kill everyone at home. A cheery tale, but... Support this podcast
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S02E35 Green Tea by J Sheridan Le Fanu

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu Le Fanu was an Irish writer born in Dublin in 1814 and who died in Dublin in 1873. In his time he was the leading writer of ghost stories and macabre tales.  On the podcast, we have read out his masterwork, Carmilla, but Green Tea is an equally well-known story. He was judged by the master ghost story writer of a later generation, M R James as being absolutely first rank.  His family were of French protestant (who fled France because of persecution) and English descent. His family were writers, and his grandmother Alice Sheridan Le Fanu and his great-uncle Richard Brinsley Sheridan were famous playwrights. His mother was a writer of biographies. Le Fanu?s father was a protestant clergyman in the Church of Ireland. He was a rector of a protestant church in Ireland and the family were disturbed by the 1830s Tithe War where the majority Catholic population objected to paying tithes to the Protestant minority church.  Le Fanu studied law at Trinity but as early as 1839 (when he was twenty-four) he wrote ghost stories for the Dublin newspapers.  In 1847 Le Fanu was active in the campaign against the cruel indifference of the British government which did little to relieve the suffering during the Irish famine.  Le Fanu?s wife had significant mental health problems and his married life was less than happy. He wrote ghost stories set in Ireland, but due to the influence of his publisher, began to write stories with an English setting because they felt they would sell better.  He died of a heart attack in Dublin aged only 58. Green Tea Le Fanu produced a collection of supernatural stories called In A Glass Darkly which was published in 1872. This was ostensibly the collected papers of the occult German medical-philosopher Dr Hesselius. Think of Sherlock Holmes cases ostensibly recorded by Dr Watson.  There is little doubt that no publisher would look at Green Tea now. It is full of ?telling? rather than showing. Most of the action happens at third hard. There are frames to the story: it is edited by the editor who got the papers at the death of a professor and much concerns Hesselius?s reports of things he has heard. There are philosophical ramblings about Swedenborg?s metaphysics which are of very little interest to the modern reader. However, we know these things were of intense interest to Le Fanu and possibly to his contemporaries.  It does introduce Swedenborg?s idea that a man can be conjoined with an evil spirit, however. Sometimes these evil spirits, or even two evil spirits, take animal form. Hint. hint.  Le Fanu does dialogue well and the dialogue was smooth to narrate and quite naturalistic.  It is quite unclear whether the story reports an actual haunting by a devil monkey or a psychosis.  Hesselius diagnoses the end as a hereditary suicidal mania. I?m not sure we believe such things are heritable, though suicide can run in families, though more likely through a nurture rather than nature cause. But who knows? The story that asks: was it madness or was it a monster? Has a strong pedigree. On The Classic Ghost Stories Podcast we have read The Horla by Guy de Maupassant and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins-Gilman both of which can be interpreted either way. I was recently reading the critic Mark Fisher?s book (The Weird and The Eerie) in which he draws a distinction between weird and eerie elements (and also uncanny components) of a story. The ?weird? Fisher says is about the juxtaposition of the normal with things that should not be there. The devil monkey is therefore distinctly weird. He talks about how this juxtaposition, as beloved by the surrealists later, can lead to an unsettling of sanity.  My own view of this would be that the unknown provokes anxiety and the inability to map the new element into an existing world view can produce so much anxiety that it can trip Support this podcast
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Chimes At Midnight by Paula Readman

A gothic story of a wronged bride who returns from beyond the grave to right the injustice visited upon her. Written by Paula Readman an award-winning living writer from England. The story reading is followed by an interview with Paula Readman Author of Seeking The Dark Stone Angels, The Funeral Birds Days Pass Like a Shadow Blog: Facebook: Twitter: Paula R C [email protected] If you want to support the channel to keep me going, become a Patreon for bonus stories For a one time thank you, you can buy me a coffee Music is by The Heartwood Institute Support this podcast
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S01E34 The Sandwalker by Fergus Hume

Fergus Hume Fergus Hume was born in Powick, Worcestershire in England in 1865. He died in Essex in 1932.  His given first name was Ferguson, which was his mother Mary?s maiden name. His Glaswegian father Dr John Hume , was the doctor at the County Pauper and Lunatic Asylum there. Hume was only three when his father emigrated to Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand, where he set up a lunatic asylum, Ashburn Hall. Hume went to Otago boy?s school and then studied law at the University of Otago in Dunedin. (Otago is the name of the region). He became a barrister in 1885 but then moved to Melbourne in Australia where he became a barrister?s clerk. All the while , he had literary ambitions, primarily as a playwright, but was repeatedly rejected. The first time he came to public notice was when a play he had written was put on by someone else under their name. He turned then to writing mystery novels, and his first and most famous novel was The Mystery of a Hansom Cab which was set in Melbourne, in the poor areas that Hume himself lived in around Little Bourke Street. Because he couldn?t get a publisher to look at it, he printed five thousand copies at his own expense. This first edition sold out in three weeks. Even though the book was very popular he made no money from it because he sold the rights before it became the best -selling mystery novel of the Victorian era. It was this novel that inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to create Sherlock Holmes. However, Doyle was not complimentary about The Mystery of A Hansom Cab.  Hume went back to England in 1888. He lived in Thundersley in Essex and wrote over a hundred and fifty novels.  Hume never married and avoided publicity. He was said to be very religious. Despite his prolific output, he lived very modestly. The Sandwalker (Link) to the ebook on Project Gutenberg  The Sandwalker is the last story in Hume?s collection The Dancer in Red. It?s a bit of a yarn. In theme it is a fairly straightforward revenge ghost story. Those who do wrong are punished by the dead.  There is a nice twist at the end which delivers a satisfying ending. Young Lottie was not disgraced by Amber and therefore it was in no sense just that Mrs Jarzil killed him in revenge. The twist is that she is a very religious woman with the emphasis on Old Testament style justice where sinners are punished and cast into the pit and it is always an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Despite her protestations, she does not leave vengeance to the Lord but takes it into her own hands. I am guessing it is set in either Norfolk or Lincolnshire though I used the narrator?s job working for a Yorkshire woollen firm to allow me to be slightly more northern in accent than Norfolk certainly.  It was nice that the hero was a plain man working for a living: a commercial traveller or ?bagman?. We had a bagman appear in one of M R James?s stories that we read recently. So his preoccupations are pleasantly down to earth. He does not have weekends in the country or houses in London, he has to work for a living. The characters are caricatures. The writing is clearly accomplished. It is easy to read and unambiguous with clever rhetorical use of repetition (anaphora and epistrophe) so Hume was clearly a smart man.  I presume then that the one-eyed wicked schoolmaster Abrams and the Lurch-like Mrs Jarzil are drawn so boldly on purpose. They are almost comic, but we must remember that this is exactly what Dickens did too so there was public taste for it. All in all a fun yarn. I hadn?t read any of Humes? work before. He reminded me a little of R H Malden, though Malden was more subtle and less Dickensian. East Anglia is a focal point for haunted stories of mist and marshland and the classic ghost story writers keep returning to it. As I listen to Lottie talking to her mother about her... Support this podcast
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S01E33 Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne Hawthorne was born in 1804 in Salem, Massachussetts. He died in Plymouth New Hampshire. One of his ancestors was John Hathorne who was the only judge in the witch trials who never repented his involvement. His ancestors who came from England in 1630 were Puritans. It is thought that Hathorne added the -w- to his name to make it Hawthorne in his twenties in order to distance himself from these fervent ancestors. He published his first work in 1828 when he was twenty-four. He published a series of short stories.  He was a Transcendentalist, a Romantic philosophy which believes in the goodness of human nature and a reliance on intuition and other promptings of the spiritual or natural person rather than relying on reason. Despite his puritan ancestors, Hawthorne liked to take pot shots at puritanism. He is a Romantic and technically what is known as a dark Romantic.  He is most famous for his novel The Scarlet Letter which was published in 1859. Also famous is the House of the Seven Gables. His books often feature themes of sin and the inherent evil of humanity. Young Goodman Brown Unless I?ve missed it, we are not told what is special about this night that Goodman Brown is going out to have his tryst with the Devil. His wife, Faith, wants him to be there with her on this night ?of all nights in the year?, but he has to go out on this night of all nights in the year.  He is clearly expecting to meet the Devil and has some business with him, but it?s not clear to me what that business is. It turns out that all the people he thought pious, including his father and grandfather as well as various deacons and goodies and goodmen of the town and state are wicked to the core. But what was his own mission exactly? I?m not clear. He clearly needs to do his dirty deed on this particular night and afterwards He discusses meeting the Devil and then a man appears who has the look of his grandfather, it transpires. This man was in Boston only fifteen minutes previously and that seems pretty fast travel for the Seventeenth Century. The Devil says that Brown is late, and Brown answers that, ?Faith kept me back a while.? Ah, yes indeed. Faith has two meanings here, I think. We hear from Good Cloyse that a young man is to be taken into communion with the witches that night, and we hear from Deacon Gookin that a young woman is to be inducted. We realise that this is Faith of course as Hawthorne intends us to, but of which poor Goodman Brown is ignorant. This is called Dramatic Irony according to Robert McKee, where the audience knows more than the character. However, the story is well done. We are led step by step as our Goodman falls deeper into temptation and then, the scales are removed from his eyes and the Devil tells him that evil is the basic currency of human nature. He believes it and henceforth mistrusts the virtue of his own dear wife and his own pastor.  This is foreshadowed by Hawthorne at the outset of the journey when, after Faith has failed to convince him to stay home, she hopes that he finds all well on his return, to which he replies: ?Amen?.  But when he returns has changed all due to his change in attitude, because as Hamlet says,  ?there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. Goodman Brown is a lukewarm Satanist at the best. He begins by telling Old Nick that he has scruples in the matter that ?thou wots?t of?. (You know of. English used to have two verbs for to know, like French and German an Welsh and Irish and other languages I know. One was ?to wit? which was to know a thing, and the other ?to ken? which is to be familiar with or know a person or place. German keeps the same two words. Ich weiss, and Ich kenn. There you go. Salem Puritan Salem is a favourite topic for writers from the movie (The Witch), where the simple puritans are discombobulated by Black... Support this podcast
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The Owl by Anatole Le Braz

This is the cleaned up audio of a Youtube Video I did. The audio isn't as good as when I do the podcast purely as an audio project. The video of me reading this is to be seen on my Youtube Channel If You Appreciate The Work I?ve Put In Here (Become A Patreon) For Bonus Stories Or (buy me a coffee) , if you?d like to keep me working. (Music) by The Heartwood Institute Support this podcast
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S02E32 Pickman's Model by H P Lovecraft

Pickman's Model by H P LovecraftThis story was written in September 1926 and first published in the October 1927 edition of Weird Tales.  The narrator opens by disclosing that he is frightened to go underground, into the subway or even into a cellar. Then he explains why. It's to do with Pickman, an artist with an unsavoury reputation. There are hints that Pickman, whose ancestor was a witch, is related in some sense to the ghouls. Pickman's ancestor was a Salem witch and in the painting where the changeling is being read to by the Puritan, the narrator suggests that the changeling's ghoulish features are reminiscent of Pickman's own.  This suggestion of cursed ancestry is also found in other Lovecraft stories like the case of Charles Dexter Ward. Lovecraft's ghouls appear in other stories as well. The ghouls honeycomb the hills of Boston are like the Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath. In this story, which was written later, we find Pickman the artist now a fully-fledged ghoul. These ghouls come up through wells and into cellars and basements. Ghouls in Arabic folklore haunt the graveyards and feed on the newly dead. In The Music of Erich Zann, an artist can summon the creatures of this devilish world that underlies our reality. There is something about the super-sensitive artist who can see into more rarefied worlds than ours. Erich Zann was trying to drive out the evil things from other worlds while Pickman welcomes them, or at least tolerates them. He feels himself superior to them I think because he takes his pistol to one of them at least.  In the Music of Erich Zann the narrator cannot find the house again, and this is so in this story. These strange parts of modern cities lurk like shadows, over a river, or in a little-visited and hazardous neighbourhood. Boston's North End is like Brooklyn's Red Hook. These neighbourhoods are populated with foreigners and honeycombed with tunnels. These edge places are clearly manifestations of Lovecraft's Shadow. These monsters come from places that are liminal and other. The narrator suggests that Pickman is a relentless enemy of all mankind to take such pleasure in the torture of others as depicted in his art, yet he is a true artist because his art was the art that convinced.  Like Lovecraft himself, Pickman is no sentimental friend of mankind and sees no kindness or joy amongst his fellow humans, only torture and disgust. Lovecraft appreciates that others shun people with this vision, though he depicts them as small-minded and unappreciative of great art and thought. It's a little bit Nietzschean, the superman or Uber-mensch. The narrator Thurber says that as well as being monstrous, Pickman was a great artist because he painted the truth. The implication is that the truth is that our daylight world lives on a foundation of terrible evil. That is of course a very Lovecraftian view. It's the opposite view of the Romantics like Wordsworth and Thoreau and Voltaire, and if fact the Green movement, who believed that our technological world is the aberration and that the natural world is the source of purity and joy.  Of course for most of human history, survival has been a battle against the horrors of the natural world and in a sense then Lovecraft is a traditionalist and anti-Romantic. Lovecraft's escape is not through nature but through imagination and at times, though not here, his fantasies have a great beauty to them. The story form is a classic short story with a twist. We, the readers, realise ahead of the narrator (who only twigs when he looks at the photo) that Pickman's monstrous images were not imagination but reality. He presumed that the ghoul was painted from imagination when in fact it is drawn from life. I have just been reading Robert McKee's book Story. He says in a story where the characters know more than the audience, that is a mystery story, where the characters know more than the audience that is Support this podcast
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S02E31 The Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allen PoePoe was an American writer born in 1809 in Boston who died aged only forty in Baltimore in 1849. He is one of the best-known American writers of his generation and famed all over the world for his Gothic and macabre tales.  This is the third of his stories we've done on The Classic Ghost Stories Podcast. Others are (The Tell-Tale Heart) and (The Fall of the House of Usher) The Black Cat by Edgar Allen PoePoe sets up his character as a mild, animal-loving child and I guess this is to show how out of character his later muderous rage is.  When he talks of an animal as a brute it is not a derogatory term and merely equivalent to the word animal. Beast is the same though in the intervening years both beast and brute have become tainted by usage connecting them with the vilest of human beings rather than dumb animals. Did you see what I did there? Near the beginning he mentions his wife's joking belief that all black cats are witches in disguise. This is a little foreshadowing the for the supernatural powers of the black cat that are revealed towards the end of the story. We aren't far into the story before the narrator reveals the cause of his change of character: it is through intemperance with drink. Remember the Temperance Movement (of which my grandmother was a proud supporter). Poe himself had a problem with alcohol. His death was very likely related to his alcohol abuse. In 1849, he was due to catch a ferry from Richmond, Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland. He visited a doctor in Richmond the night before he was due to travel, complaining of a fever. He arrived in Baltimore and is next seen in a tavern three days later when he was found in an alcoholic stupor wearing someone else's clothes: a cheap suit and a straw hat, not his usual black wool suit. Perhaps he had sold his own clothes for money for drink? He was admitted to hospital and died four days later. He was drifting in and out of consciousness, hallucinating and talking nonsense. This sounds to me like Delirium Tremens from alcohol withdrawal. For people who drink heavily over a long period they can develop Wernicke-Korsakoff's syndrome which is a neurological condition caused by deficiencies of B vitamins, particularly Thiamine. It is also known as Korsakoff's Dementia. At the time of his death Poe had recently joined a temperance society. The doctor who saw him in the tavern thought he had been on a bender and was intoxicated, but the doctor in the hospital stated Poe had not been drinking. Of course, that is what causes the withdrawal: heavy drinking with a sudden stop.  The most common causes of sudden death in people who abuse alcohol are through a seizure induced by the withdrawal, or by the bursting of blood vessels in the throat leading to catastrophic loss of blood.  There is no report of a seizure, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen.  Other theories are that Poe was assaulted and had a head injury in the tavern or that he was in late stage syphilis. This late stage syphilis filled mental institutions in the days before antibiotics and was very common?known as General Paralysis of The Insane. The doctors would have recognised this condition easily. Getting back to the story. He mentions that Pluto was becoming old, "And consequently peevish". On the eve of my sixtieth birthday I know exactly how Pluto felt.  He is very nasty to the old cat though, and like others of Poe's protagonists, but not all (I quite like the protagonist from the House of Usher) he loses our sympathy. We are quite pleased with his ultimate destruction and getting what he deserves. Yet, we stick with him. Writers are urged to have characters that the public can root for: we don't have to approve of them, or like them, though we might (consider Dexter or... Support this podcast
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S02E30 His Beautiful Hands by Oscar Cook

His Beautiful Hands by Oscar CookThis will be the second of Oscar Cook's stories we have read, the first being Boomerang.  Boomerang is (here) It was danged hard to find a copy of His Beautiful Hands, but I succeeded. HBH is rated as one of the best horror stories in those inevitable lists that pop up on the Internet, almost certainly compiled by people who never read it because print copies of the anthologies it was in are either out of print or cost hundreds of cash units (dollars, pounds, euros, roubles, take your pick).  Cook's work, I realise now, is characterised by graphic body horror rather than the supernatural so it is a horror story rather than a ghost story.  He deliberately sets out to shock us, but shocks modern listeners most probably by accident. What I mean is that we have become inured to graphic horror, after all we have had The Saw and The Human Caterpillar (neither of which I've seen) and the horrid bit in Midsommer when the old folks jump off the cliff and are then finished off... but let's not go into that.  Then he throws in a bit of incest. That's never nice and I think even modern listeners find that shocking. As an aside, I actually deplore the race for shock that you see in detective series on TV. Once theft was enough (if you go back far enough), then murder became a staple, then we had serial killers, serial rapists and now we have a regrettably frequent addition of paedophilia sometimes with incest thrown in. I prefer Miss Marple personally, and I'd say to the TV companies: don't pander after these most base shock-jock tactics, you're better than that. I saw the Dig on Netflix recently with Ralph Fiennes. How brilliant that was. And I like the Detectorists also. But back to Oscar Cook. Oscar Cook BiographyRichard Martin Oscar Cook was born in London in 1888 and died also in London in 1952. His father owned an athletic goods company and they were fairly well-off. He seems to have been brought up in Broxbourne just outside London and his first job was a clerk there but very shortly afterwards he went to make his fortune in a rubber planation in Borneo. Unfortunately he did not get on well and was sacked, but remained in Borneo and got another job in the British Colonial Service. He was an administrator of the British Empire and worked in North Borneo from 1911 until 1918 and then had District Officer posts. This was a position in the British Colonial Service and these administrators and often magistrate was at the heart of colonial administration in the British colonies. He was married in 1924 to Christine Campbell Thomson but got divorced in 1938. When he returned to England he wrote an autobiography of his time in Borneo and thereafter wrote supernatural stories, many of which appeared in various anthologies. This story appeared in the 2nd Pan Book of Horror. I used to read those books when I was a kid, which may explain a lot. Cook bought a controlling interest in a publishing company which produced a series of horror anthologies called Not at Night which ran to twelve books. His Beautiful HandsStarts like Boomerang I think with the device of the urbane Englishman in his club in the Far East. This fellow has few adventures and relies on his unsteady journalist friend Warwick to tell him the ghastly tales.  He even warns us it is going to be horrible. And it is. As the story goes structurally, it's pretty neat. It has at least two twists, probably three: that the manicurist poisoned him so his fingers drop off (ideal revenge on a violinist); that she is his daughter; and that the child is his.  It is ghastly and shocking and if you like that kind of thing, then it's good. I'm amazed it was published in 1931. I like the conversational style at the beginning that allows a lot of expression when reading. I also quite liked the fact that Paulina throws the rotted finger... Support this podcast
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S02E29 Lady Ferry by Sarah Orne Jewett

Sarah Orne JewettThis episode is a real treat for me for a number of reasons. One is that this was my first commission! Susan Foust very kindly introduced me to this story and even paid me to read it out. Win-win-win. If you would like a commission, it would be remiss of me not to point out, you can get me to read any story under 10,000 words here. (Order A Story!) So back to Sarah Orne Jewett. She lived her life on the southern coast of Maine in New England. She was born in 1849 in South Berwick and died in 1909 aged only 59 in the same year. She wrote a few collections of short stories, the most famous of which is The Country of Pointed Firs and you can get all of her work for free via the marvellous Project Gutenburg.  Her family were Mainers going a long way back. The family home was built in 1774. Her father was a doctor who specialised in obstetrics and gynaecology. Her mother suffered from rheumatoid arthritis so the young Sarah spent many hours walking in the local countryside. She often visited Boston but her stories feature the small towns she was familiar with, even when she disguises their names. She had an interested in the Swedish mystic Swedenborg and she believed, apparently in Divine immanence: that god is in all things, though she was a firm believer in individual responsibility, which I always imagine as being a big thing in New England. I am struck by how different her New England is to that of Lovecraft of even of Russell Kirk whose Behind The Stumps we read out ages ago. I must do more of his stuff. I must do more of lots of people's stuff: there are outstanding calls for more Poe, which I will get to. Sarah Orne Jewett published her first story aged only 19 and her reputation grew in the 1870s and 1890s. People commented that her stories were driven by a focus on local colour more than plot, but I think Lady Ferry has an interesting, if gentle plot. She never married a man but had a close friendship with a married woman and the woman's husband and when the husband, a publisher died, the two women moved in together. Of course this was a time when certain types of love were not allowed to speak their name.  They travelled together through America and Europe until in 1902 she had a carriage accident which ended her writing career. This was compounded when she had a stroke in March 1909 and she died soon after.  Lady FerryThis is a delightful story and I am grateful to Susan Foust for bringing it to my attention. We see everything through the eyes of a young girl and the mystery is framed by her youth and her maturity as later she comes back to satisfy her curiosity. It appears to be a supernatural story but is very subtle. Lady Ferry haunts the garden as a ghost, but she is corporeal though no one knows her origin. It is hinted that she cannot die and that she is ancient. For example from the dresses she wears taken from the original builder of the house's chest at least a century or more earlier, by the fact she claims to have known Marie Antoinette and the grandfather of Mr McAllister. This puts her origin well back into the 18th Century. And she must have been born at least in 1750 if not earlier. She also references The Spanish Main, which might even suggest memories of the 17th Century. But this is explained away by her wandering mind. These are just fancies, surely? But there are a number of gothic touches which throw doubt on this. Firstly the visitors who come for the ball in the middle of the night. Though this is just a dream, surely? But then the boats are missing. I loved the funeral arrangement and I loved the descriptions of meeting Lady Ferry in the garden when the glowers glow in the gloom. Fantastic stuff. The book that might have solved the mystery is tantalisingly lost as it falls through the floorboards, only to be found again many years later.  Our heroine returns to find the house desolate and Lady Ferry Support this podcast
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S02E28 The Cold Embrace by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Mary Elizabeth BraddonAnother accomplished woman novelist of the Victorian period. Mary Elizabeth Braddon was born in 1835 in London and died in Richmond, Surrey (now part of London) in 1915. She wrote more than eighty novels, one of which, Lady Audley's Secret, was a great success.  A number of her stories have supernatural themes, and she lived in the heyday of the ghost story so that is not surprising. When she was 25 she moved in with a publisher whose wife was locked away in an Irish mental asylum. She lived with the man and was stepmother to his existing children, marrying him finally in 1874, fourteen years after she first moved in, now allowable because his wife had passed away. She had six children by him. Her husband was also a property developer and a number of the streets in Richmond are named after characters from her novels. The Cold Embrace The Cold Embrace was published in is a very accomplished story both in form and in prosody. It has the feel of a folk-tale and its theme surely is that promises made in love should be kept and that the flighty and arrogant will be punished for breaking them. It was a delight to read because of the use of formal rhetorical forms like the repeated use on anaphora where the beginning of a sentence is repeated, usually three times to create a tricolon. Often an ascending tricolon where each phrase is longer building towards a climax. It almost reminded me of Tim Burton's Corpse Bride in its atmosphere. The final masked ball with the young lady on his arm who fades slowly into the corpse bride. We the readers are aware that the boisterous gaiety he feels at the ball, which he mistakes for his old light-heartedness is a return of the fever that will, this time, kill him. And the picture of stage coaches (the diligence) and hordes of labourers walking across Germany with their meerschaum pipes and dogs was like scenes out of Goethe, or William Wordsworth's account of his traipsing across Europe at a similar time.  Braddon herself was born later than this, so this is historical fiction and we have the device that M R James endorses too: set the ghost story in the past, not too distant past, but enough that there is a mist of history which allows us to suspend our disbelief (although that phrase belongs to Tolkein).  Music by (The Heartwood Institute) The last track with the lovely violin is Under The Rose by (The Hare & The Moon,) whose lead performer is Grey Malkin We also feature music by Michael Romeo of (Dvoynik) Support the Podcast Any Way You Can! (Buy the thirsty, hyperactive podcaster a cup of Java) Sign up For Exclusive Stuff and Early Bird Exposures on (Patreon) Get the (Substack Newsletter) with Exclusives My Ghost StoriesGet my free audiobook download, The Dalston Vampire (here), and you may consider purchasing my (Horror Stories For Halloween), which is now long past. Support this podcast
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S02E27 The Spider by Basil Copper

The Spider by Basil [email protected] on Twitter put me onto Basil Copper. He had recommended the Janissaries of Emilion. I'd never heard of Basil so I got a Kindle Edition of The Collected Macabre Tales of Basil Copper which includes that story. However, it is long. I may do it another time, but for this week I selected a shorter story. But it's a good one. Basil Copper was born in 1924 and lived until 2013 when he died aged 89! He was born in London, England. His first story was published in March 1938, the Magazine of the Tonbridge Senior Boys School. Tonbridge is in Kent, and when I was a boy we went on an exchange visit to Kent. Most schools in England went to foreign countries but the trip from Cumberland to Kent, England's most northwesterly county to England most southeasterly county, was enough of a culture shock for us. He is most famous for his stories featuring the character Solar Pons. This character was created by August Derleth, H P Lovecraft's protege, and is very much in the Lovecraftian tradition of authors sharing worlds and characters between their stories. Copper was published by the Arkham House publishing house, run by August Derleth. Many of Copper's stories feature the Cthulhu Mythos.  Despite his links with the Cthulhu Mythos, Copper admitted that his influences were M R James and Edgar Allan Poe and he was interested in Gothic literature.  The Spider is a phobia story. It's very cleverly written, neat and effective. In that it reminds me of Marghatina Laski's The Tower where the phobia is vertigo. Here it is arachnophobia. Turns out that the landlord of the wayside auberge just south of Paris has a skin for picking up on a visitor's fears and killing the visitor via heart attack by inducing the phobia. The insect horror theme is of course featured in Boomerang by Oscar Cook. This story appears in the 1964 Pan Book of Horror Stories. He was paid £10 for the story.  Copper lived at Sevenoaks in Kent and founded the Tunbridge Wells Vintage Film Society. He was a movie buff and a member of several societies related to films.  His wife was French and he is clearly familiar with the county in which The Spider is set. Apparently the story idea came from a spider that was in a room in a hotel he and his wife stayed in while on holiday in Paris. He met his wife and married in her in 1960 when she was in England learning English. His first novel was actually a detective story Copper was very prolific and in addition to his weird tales and novels he wrote 58 detective novels set in LA. When he wrote the first novels, he had never visited the city and used maps and films to provide background.  He worked as a journalist, running a county paper at the age of 17. He served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War and took part in the D-Day landings.  Music by (The Heartwood Institute) The final tune is by Michael Romeo of (Dvoynik) Support the Podcast Any Way You Can! (Buy the thirsty, hyperactive podcaster a cup of Java) Sign up For Exclusive Stuff and Early Bird Exposures on (Patreon) Get the (Substack Newsletter) with Exclusives My Ghost StoriesGet my free audiobook download, The Dalston Vampire (here), and you may consider purchasing my (Horror Stories For Halloween), which is now long past. Support this podcast
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S02E26 Music Hath Charms by L T C Rolt

Music Hath Charms by LTC RoltLionel Thomas Caswall Rolt, was an English writer born in 1910 and who died in 1974, therefore for us, he's a recent writer! He was a prolific writer who had an interest in engineering and that shows in this story in his description of the tunnels and the knowledge of ventilation shafts which are integral to the plot of the story.  In keeping with this love of engineering, he wrote biographies of major engineers such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Thomas Telford. He had a major enthusiasm for vintage cars, heritage railways and was a pioneer of the canal cruising industry.  From 1936, Rolt decided he wanted a life afloat and he converted his uncle's old boat Cressy into a boat he could live in and spent his time mooching up and down the canals of England. During the Second World War, he went to work for Rolls Royce and made Spitfire engines, the Royal Airforce's legendary fighter plan.  After the war, Rolt teamed up with Robert Aickman, another major ghost story writer to form the Inland Waterways Association to promote the use of the canals and restore them.  L T C or Tom Rolt was an accomplished author and an inland waterway enthusiast, and together with the another famous ghost story writer, Robert Aickman, and their wives, formed the Canal Restoration Trust which was responsible for bringing back the industrial waterway network of England and Wales back into service for leisure travel. When we know Rolt's love of machinery we understand the detailed description of how the musical box works in Music Hath Charms. I now know all about them. He also gives more detail than many would to about bus timetables. The story is set in wild Cornwall, which because of its remoteness and its Celtic past is a suitably remote setting for a ghost story. Cornwall has a history of smugglers and wreckers and this is the background to this story. We also see that another author who set her work in Cornwall, Daphne Du Maurier often used smugglers and indeed Frenchmen in her stories.  La Pucelle means a maiden or a girl.  This is of course a Faustian story. The smuggler, the Count Pierre Henneze de Hou. There is a French name Hennezel, and a De Hou, but no Henneze that I could find, so Tom Rolt may have miscopied the name. I suspect the title 'count' is a self-styling. I have often fancied called myself Count Tony Walker, but don't have the brass neck to get away with it. Carn Zawn doesn't exist, though the name is good Cornish. Carn is a heap of stones and Cornish 'sawan' means 'throat' and is used for a narrow inlet of the sea. Trevarthan is a real Cornish surname as well, arising from two separate places in West Cornwall. The only mistake Tom Rolt makes with his Celtic nomenclature is to have his housekeeper called Penrice. It sounds Cornish, but is in fact a Cumbrian surname arising from the place-name Penrith. Of course Cumbric and Cornish were closely related languages, so we can excuse him. Of course, it's also possible that the Penrices were Cumbrian immigrants to Cornwall. In fact, there were many Cornish who came to Cumbria to work in the mines, but not so-much the other way. This is proved by the fact there are two Cornish pasty shops in Keswick alone, but not a single Cumberland sausage shop in Truro, or Penzance. But back to the Devil. We presume that the shadowy creature in the engraving is Old Nick, gamboling and pranking. The Music Box conjures him. Count Pierre is presumed to have traded something, likely his soul as the De'il is found of those, for a life of opulence and the lusty company of La Pucelle, our Jeanne. She has a husky voice after all, surely a euphemism, or at least a sign. Then when the box is found again, James Heneage seems to be possessed by the spirit of Henneze ? Heneage/Henneze, a similar name, but is this a coincidence or meant? Is it suggested that James is a descendent Support this podcast
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S02E25 The Story of Salome by Amelia B Edwards

The Story of Salome by Amelia B EdwardsWe did (The Phantom Coach )by Amelia B Edwards as Episode 8, which seems a long time ago now. That was a splendidly written story too. To remind ourselves: Amelia Edwards was born in 1831 in London, England. As such she is one of the oldest writers we?ve read so far in this podcast. She died aged only 60 in Weston Supermare, a seaside resort in the west of England. She came from a wealthy background and didn?t have to work, but she was a very successful writer based on her own talents. She was born in London to an Irish mother and a father who had been a British army officer before becoming a banker. She was in fact a very talented woman and had the potential to be a professional artist though her father, a banker, frowned on that as a career. She also made home with a woman, long before such things were accepted by polite British society. She was also an Egyptologist and after a cruise down the Nile and a long stay among the monuments, she devoted all of her efforts to saving the Egyptian monuments and took a lecture tour over several years in the United States to promote the cause. I found this Story of Salome in the (Virago Book of Ghost Stories) Edited by Richard Dalby. Richard Dalby had great taste in stories and there are lots of good ones in this anthology. You may, or may not, know that I have a fondness for Venice. I have read this Story of Salome, on the podcast as well as Ray Russell?s (Vendetta) and Vernon Lee?s (A Wicked Voice). I have also written my own Christmas ghost story set in Venice which is available in my More Christmas Ghost Stories, soon to be out as an audiobook once Audible get their finger out. If you can?t wait for Audible, Audiobookstore has it (here) The subject of the story is Salome, daughter of Isaac. She is Jewish and inevitably this throws up attitudes that make me uncomfortable. I do not think this is an anti Semitic story though it does have the theme of converting Salome to Christianity. It is of its period but better than many in its attitudes. I think it very well written and was easy to narrate without the tripping syntax of James or the excitable lists and adjectives of Dickens. Edwards performs the trick of portraying a main character who is reasonably convinced that the grave belongs to Salome?s aged father Isaac, rather that to her. In the end, when the truth is almost impossible to ignore she had a nice little run of him convincing himself that there must be another Salome, that his Salome can?t be dead. We?ve all been there, trying to kid ourselves that something isn?t true when we know fine well it must be. And the description of his flighty friend, Coventy Turnour, loving Salome followed by a disinterested account by our main character only to slowly reveal that he himself is infatuated with her. This is the same trick as him believing the grave is Salome?s fathers. We the readers and listeners know before he admits it to himself both that he loves Salome and that she is dead. And he finds her more beautiful as a ghost, though he doesn?t know it. He talks about her more spiritual beauty. One mystery is why Turnour left Venice. He lost hope in winning Salome quite suddenly, and left. She in her turn converted secretly to Christianity. It?s not explained why, but I wonder whether it was something to do with Turnour? Did she convert for Turnour?s sake and then he grew bored of her and abandoned her? His copying of the inscription on the tomb is the key to understanding the fate of Salome. Tantalisingly, he has the secret in his hands but can?t read it. He sends it to a laggardly professor... Support this podcast
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SE02E24 Rosalind by Richmal Crompton

Richmal Crompton Richmal Crompton was born in Bury, Lancashire in 1890 and died in Bromley, Kent in 1969, aged 78. She was the daughter of a clergyman who though he was ordained worked as a teacher of Greek and Latin at Bury Grammar School. She was not born into the aristocratic world portrayed in this story. She was educated at a private school for the daughters of clergymen in Lancashire. She trained as a schoolteacher like her father and got a BA in Classics from the Royal Holloway College in 1914. She was a supporter of Women's Suffrage. She worked as a teacher until 1923 when she became a full-time writer. She never married and had no children. She contracted polio and had to use a wheelchair for the rest of her life. She had moved to Bromley in Kent, just outside London when she was twenty-seven to teach at the school there. She never left the area and her writing was so successful she had a house built for herself on the Common. She was a successful novelist and published forty one novels. Her most famous series of novels was for children and featured the comic figure of William, a rather feckless schoolboy. The first of these Just William was published in 1922. The stories are hilarious and were a great favourite of mine when I was a small boy. She wrote several ghost stories and these were published in 1928 as Mist and Other Stories. Rosalind by Richmal CromptonIn Rosalind, we are plunged once more into that Edwardian world of the leisured rich of England such as we see in the stories of E F Benson. However, the story is also about an artist and his model, such as we heard in The Yellow Sign. It's quite a different story to the Yellow Sign for all that. I think this is one of the best ghost stories we have ever read. The characterisation is very poignant. Our unnam med narrator paints such a picture of Heath as the bored, but talented rich boy to whom everything comes to easily and for whom everything is therefore shallow. He takes Helen, our man's beloved, with no thought. He doesn't even consider our narrator at all. It's not selfishness, it's blindness to the existence of other people.  He falls in love with Rosalind but there is no question that an artist's model will every be a life match for the future Viscount of Evesham. It would have been easy for Crompton to suggest Rosalind wished this but she is subtle enough to have Rosalind accept it too. I guess that Rosalind is willing to accept being his mistress and mother of his illegitimate child. Heath is the selfish narcissist that he sees the pregnancy only as an interruption to his idyll. He is bad tempered about this, and we see him pleased that his child and Rosalind have died so as to put an end to the possibility that it will ruin his well-planned marriage to Helen. But Heath is sentimental too. Once he realises he's lost Helen, and is unfulfilled by his planned marriage, he starts to mope and goes over the top bringing down armfuls of orchids and roses in a sentimental but ironically cheap gesture. He is so sentimental that Rosalind gestures him to his death. We can look at this in several ways. First that this is Rosalind's revenge from beyond the grave and that her ghost has connived at this and timed it perfectly just before his wedding. We remember Rosalind's vow that se won't let Helen have him. Or, it might be seen as the workings of a greater Fate, in that Heath's marriage to Helen was untenable because it was in bad faith, and that it could not be allowed to go ahead. Presumably, Helen is going into this marriage with her eyes open. She knows what it will entail and is willing to take it on as a job in order to obtain the position that will suit her as Lady Evesham. But she's from the aristocracy anyway, so it isn't that much of a leap up.  In fact, I thought Helen came out of this very well?dignified and mature. Others say she is colourless, but our narrator's comment shows that these... Support this podcast
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S02E23 The Story of A Disappearance and An Appearance by M R James

THE STORY OF A DISAPPEARANCE AND AN APPEARANCE by M R JamesThe Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance is one of the few M R James stories actually set at Christmas. He was well-known for reading out his stories at Christmas, but few of them are actually set over the festive period. It was first published the June 4, 1913 issue of the Cambridge Review. It then appeared in his anthology A Thin Ghost and Others in 1919.  First of all some explanations of words which may be strange to some listeners. Bands are a kind of white tie worn by Anglican clergymen. A bagman is a commercial traveller, a salesman or pedlar. Clearly he'll be late home if he's still on the road on Christmas Eve.  So what happened? It appears that Uncle Henry got murdered, his head bashed in and his corpse buried in the sandpit. My reading was that the two Punch & Judy men killed him. These two who were masquerading as Italians but who were English rogues really. The bagman told W R that he had not seen any suspicious characters on the road: no gipsies, tramps or wandering sailors. This all happened not long after the Napoleonic wars and out of work sailors and soldiers had to wander the countryside looking for a living. No Help for Heroes for them. The bagman did see a most wonderful Punch and Judy show. These travelling showmen or 'carnies' as such folk would later be called in the USA are inherently dubious, so it's no wonder that they would murder an innocent clergyman.  It is heresy to say anything against the great M R James, but I would only observe that he throws a few 'portents' and 'omens' into the story that seem to have no real bearing on the narrative. They aren't clues or anything, unless I'm missing some subtlety. I mean the owl that wakes our man W R from sleep, the Toby Dog running off and howling, the organ wolving during the funeral and the odd ringing of the bell. These are all signs that something unnatural and eerie is afoot. There is also mention of the bier being put out by mistake and the moth-eaten pall taken out and having to be folded on Christmas Day. Most inappropriate, but they seem more what we would have called 'dungeon dressing' in my D&D days?something to create atmosphere that is not essential to the plot. But again, I may be missing something. The mention of the Toby Dog reminds me of Cole Hawkins and the Toby Dog in John Masefield's Box of Delights that I will be re-reading, or at least watching the 1980s BBC version this Christmas.  Punch and Judy is a ghastly tale of murder played out for children and so it has its own horror lurking not far below the surface. It seems that the dead Uncle Henry came as visitation to the two murderous Punch & Judy chaps, like a proper vengeful ghost and cause the first to die of fright inside the Punch and Judy set-up, while the other runs to the sandpit, breaks his neck and reveals the resting place of Uncle Henry, up until now hidden.  Mr Bowman the inn keeper seems only there for comic effects, and to show that Uncle Henry was rather serious and straight-laced.  I think that M R James has put in the comic inn-keeper and the portents and omens to entertain the audience rather than to drive the narrative. W R also at one point alludes to a vague reason why he's writing everything out in longhand, but this is well before anything supernatural or even out of the ordinary occurs. Again, I can't help but suspect that this is just to gee-up the reader because it comes to not much. James has a way or inserting the jarringly weird into his stories, and it is this weirdness that really unsettles the reader. We have it in the flapping shirt and advancing figure in Whistle And I'll Come To You, and the crawling figure in The Mezzotint. E F Benson does it a bit too. Up until these late Victorian/Edwardian writers, the ghost story is naturalistic. Supernatural elements intrude cleanly into an otherwise normal (if at... Support this podcast
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