The Annual Halloween Horde of Horrible Happenings
October 29, 2013 8:34 PM   Subscribe

Mid-19th C. terrors, ca. 1840-1865: short fiction selected for the occasion by Miriam Burstein, a.k.a. The Little Professor, an expert on 19th C. British literature (especially including "lost" but formerly popular religious novels).

Previous years' selections: 2012; 2011; 2010; 2009; 2008; 2007; 2006; and 2005.

Incidentally, MeFi's own.
posted by Monsieur Caution (11 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian ghost stories used to be somewhat of a hobby of mine; I've read a prodigious amount, though it's disappointing how few I can remember from a quick scan of my shelves and seeing the titles. I might have to start reading them again. Here's is my own humble offering in this vein. Some of these are quite well known, others less so. Obviously, there are many, many other worthy stories.

In no particular order:

The Beckoning Fair One by Oliver Onions (classic, perhaps ur-classic novella of this type of haunting. Best iteration I've seen and quite progressive in a way. From Widdershins.)

The Three Strangers by Thomas Hardy (pace is certainly zippier than Tess of the D'Ubervilles, from The Thomas Hardy Collection)

The Gentleman from America by Michael Arlen.

Afterward by Edith Wharton (she really could have just written ghost stories, she's that good. From Tales of Men and Ghost)

How Love Came to Professor Guildea by Robert Hichens (a classic. Likely, everyone's read it. If you haven't, you should. From Tongues of Conscience.)

Lukundoo by Edward Lucas White (another "type", but very well-executed type. One of my favourites of the imperialism-gone-wrong genre. Kipling did some, but I like this more. It's weirder. From Lukundoo and Other Stories).

Nobody's House by A.M Burrage. (A really underrated writer, who put out a great many high quality ghost stories)

The Deluge at Nordeney by Isak Dineson (Karen Blixen, from Seven Gothic Tales - an excellent, underrated book. "The Monkey" is probably more appropriate, but I really enjoy the first story).

The Horse of The Invisible by William Hope Hodgson (from Carnacki the ghost-finder [great anthology, some of these are bloody scary, even if the haunting is resolved to be mundane]).

The Willows by Algernon Blackwood. Hard to pick just one Blackwood, but I think this is my favourite. The isolation really works for me.
posted by smoke at 9:52 PM on October 29, 2013 [9 favorites]

Oh man, do these have all the ex-Nun softcore porn stories the Victorians loved so much? Like that was a literal genre, breathless depictions of Catholic Depravity like a freaking Penthouse letter by someone who Got Out.
posted by The Whelk at 9:55 PM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

I might add that whilst M.R James gets all the hosannas, to my mind, J.S. Le Fanu was a better writer in most ways, and certainly more creative.
posted by smoke at 10:04 PM on October 29, 2013

oh and call out for one from an earlier list of The Little Professor's: The Upper Berth struck me as most enjoyable when I first read it in a collection of ghost stories edited by Roald Dahl, of all people, who put them together as possibilities for adaptation in a UK tv series.
posted by smoke at 10:14 PM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

The HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast is covering some of these, working from Lovecraft's Supernatural Horror and Literature. Sadly, most of them are part of the pay series, but you can try out some on the free feed.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:40 AM on October 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know. Le Fanu stories always seem so removed to me. I can never relate to his main characters, so I'm not caught up in their terror. M.R. James, though perhaps simpler, grabs you and just inserts you into the tale.

I, too, love 7 Gothic Tales, and A.M. Burrage. I've never understood why he is so overlooked, while E.F. Benson is just reprinted and reprinted.

Anyways, a few here I hadn't seen before, from a lifetime of tracking down old Victorian and Edwardian ghost stories. Thank you!
posted by Malla at 6:04 AM on October 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ash Tree Press is also slowly moving a lot of their out of print books to Kindle availability. This makes me so happy.
posted by Malla at 6:07 AM on October 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

This post and all the subsequent links to stories inspired by post has made my day. I feel like I accidentally bizarrely specialized in ghost stories/spooky fiction from this time period since I was a child. (I liked scary and in smaller libraries where we lived this was more appealing than, say, a Stephen King paperback.)
posted by Kitteh at 6:13 AM on October 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

*wakes up*
*checks blog stats*
*is momentarily bemused*
*has Sally Field moment*
posted by thomas j wise at 6:36 AM on October 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Thank you - I'm a fan of M.R. James and look forward to dipping into these!
posted by misterbee at 4:46 PM on October 30, 2013

Every man turned toward Singleton. Twombly was standing on hearthrug, his back to the grate, his legs spread out, with his habitual air of dominating the room. Singleton, as usual, was as much as possible effaced in a corner. But when Singleton spoke he said something. We faced him in that flattering spontaneity of expectant silence which invites utterance.

And there goes my morning
posted by misterbee at 4:52 PM on October 30, 2013

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