Some writers of speculative fiction become best remembered for one, maybe two, of the many works they wrote. With Mary Shelley, it’s Frankenstein. With Bram Stoker, it’s Dracula. M.R. James: Ghost Stories of an Antiquary. Shirley Jackson: “The Lottery” and The Haunting of Hill House.
To be honest, I wouldn’t have been able to name even a single title of something written by Clark Ashton Smith before discovering his 1910 tale “The Ghost of Mohammed Din.” I knew his name as one of those pulp writers from the heyday of Weird Tales and Amazing Stories. Though I’m curious about this wave of speculative fiction, my tastes keep dragging me back to the Victorian and fin de siècle stuff.
“I’ll go with you cheerfully; and let me tell you, my dear sir, that I never jump at conclusions. I’ve seen and heard too many wonderful things myself — things which I cannot pretend to explain by any other theory than that of supernatural agency — to doubt that you may have had a similar experience.”
With these words of encouragement and faith, the unnamed doctor/narrator/occult detective in an 1874 short story titled “A Needle in a Bottle” agrees to investigate the mystery of haunted Thornapple Cottage. In some ways, the story is an unremarkable work. After all, it features a haunted house, a hidden treasure, a run-of-the-mill love plot, and even the clandestine machinations of a Catholic cleric. This last staple of Gothic fiction even feels a bit outdated for 1874 — think Matthew Lewis’s The Monk from 1796 — though there’s a positive spin added here.
I spent some of my time off for the holidays organizing the ghost reports I’ve collected for the Spectral Edition project. I separated these authentic ghost reports from U.S. newspapers into folders with titles such as Haunted Roads or Haunted Buildings Other than Houses.
The folders will let me more easily pick and choose the most interesting ghost reports for corresponding chapters of a book. I did a count of the articles I currently have at hand. There are 346 — too many for a single book, I bet. I’m going to have to make some heartbreaking decisions about which ghosts make it into the book and which ghosts get left behind.
Very likely, this book will be my first to be self-published, so I can’t give an Estimated Time of Arrival for it. I have too much learning to do.
Meanwhile, I’ve also recorded the last of my Spectral Edition audios, in which I read selections from those 346 ghost reports (at times, hamming up my delivery so much that it’s, well, spooky). This leaves me with four series, each one comprised of thirteen short episodes. These audios have been spotlighted on the Big Séance Podcast, which features interviews with people exploring a wide variety of paranormal phenomena, and on the History Goes Bump podcast, which looks more specifically at ghosts and history. After each Spectral Edition audio is released as part of those podcasts, I post it here.
Completing the audio version of Spectral Edition should give me more time to focus on the book version it. Of course, I’ll continue to post individual ghost reports every Wednesday right here at the Merry Ghost Hunter.
11-year-old Annie Fisher from Millville, California, seems to have been the catalyst of poltergeist activity on her family’s farm. Stones and sticks were tossed from nowhere, doors locked and unlocked themselves, pictures moved, a clock and a potato were found with strings tied around them — and a lot more bizarre phenomena were observed by multiple witnesses.
Before reprinting the article from a local paper, the Sacramento Daily Record-Union secured confirmation from the local Post Master and a Justice of the Peace.
A mob gathered around a Chicago house, a throng of people so large and unruly that it had to be dispersed with the help and the hoses of the fire department.
The people wanted to see the ghost — or ghosts — that haunt the home of the Bacheldor family. Mrs. Baceldor explains that pictures fall, chairs make noises like pigeons, and the clocks stop at 7 o’clock in the evening.
7 o’clock is when old Mr. Citrke, the former resident of the house, is said to have died.
It was recently announced that a ghost story written by H.G. Wells — one never before published and virtually forgotten — was discovered at the University of Illinois. The story, “The Haunted Ceiling,” involves a man harassed by the vision of a woman with her throat slit, which appears on his ceiling. The creepy tale will finally be published in an upcoming issue of The Strand.
Now, when one thinks of H.G. Wells, one probably thinks next of science fiction (or “scientific romance,” as Wells himself was wont to call it). He also wrote a fair amount of what can be called supernatural fiction. Perhaps not surprisingly given Wells’ level of creativity, a lot of this branch of his writing is not at all traditional supernatural fiction. I only know of two other works that come within the range of what can be called ghost stories: “The Red Room” (1896) and “The Inexperienced Ghost” (1902).
That later story is a humorous one. The earlier one is very serious — and it features a protagonist who qualifies as a ghost hunter character. The same character also serves as narrator, and Wells only provides the bare bones of information about him. Perhaps tales of a skeptic hoping to debunk rumors of ghosts had become so routine by 1896 that the author didn’t feel the need to give much exposition.