Thirteen strange tales by well regarded American authors of the early twentieth century
The foundation of this anthology of supernatural and strange stories was a concept by American author Henry Mills Alden, who was for fifty years (1869-1919) editor of, ‘Harper’s Magazine’. His idea was to create anthologies by outstanding American authors of the day and eight volumes, on a variety of themes, known as the Harper’s Novelettes, were published in collaboration with highly regarded author William Dean Howells, editor of the ‘Atlantic Monthly’.
In its original form this anthology was first published in 1907, under the title ‘Shapes that Haunt the Dusk’, it included ten stories. This expanded, thirteen story Leonaur edition includes a work by William Dean Howells himself, ‘His Apparition’ and two extra works from one of the original contributors, Madeline Yale Wynne, ‘My Ghost of a Chance’ and the sequel to ‘The Little Room’ which was in the anthology when first published. Other authors of finely crafted stories in these pages include Hildegard Hawthorne, E.D Miller, Howard Pyle, Richard Rice and several others.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
Lighting all the candles at hand and stirring up the fire, we endeavoured to make the studio look cheerful, and neither of us being inclined to go to bed, we sat for a long time talking and smoking. But even the bright fire and the soothing tobacco smoke did not wholly dispel the gloom of the place, and when we finally carried the candles into the bedroom, I felt a vague sense of dismal anticipation and apprehension. We left both doors open, so that the light from our room streamed across the corner of the sitting-room, and threw a great square of strong reflection on the studio carpet. While undressing, I found that I had left my match-box on the studio table, and thought I would return for it. I remember now what a mental struggle I went through before I made up my mind to go without a candle.
I glanced at my friend’s face, partly to see if he noticed any indication of nervousness in my expression, and partly because I was conscious of a kind of psychological sympathy between us. But fear that he would laugh at me made me effectually conceal my feelings, and I went out of the room without speaking. As I walked across the non-resonant, carpeted stone floor I had the most curious set of sensations I have ever experienced. At nearly every step I took I came into a different stratum or perpendicular layer of air. First it was cool to my face, then warm, then chill again, and again warm. Thinking to calm my nervous excitement, I stood still and looked around me. The great window above my head dimly transmitted the sky reflection, but threw little light into the studio. The folds of the curtain over the open space above the sitting-room appeared to wave slightly in the uncertain light, and the easels and lay-figure stood gaunt and ghostly along the further wall.
I waited there and reasoned with myself, arguing that there was no possible cause for fear, that a strong man ought to control his nerves, that it was silly at my time of life to begin to be afraid of the dark, but I could not get rid of the sensation. As I went back to the bedroom, I experienced the same succession of physical shocks; but whether they followed each other in the same order or not I was unable to determine.
It was some time before I could get to sleep, and I opened my eyes once or twice before I lost consciousness. From the bedroom window there was a dim, very dim light on the lace curtains, but the window itself was visible as a square mass, and did not appear to illuminate the room in the least. Suddenly, after a dreamless sleep of some duration, I awoke as completely as if I had been startled by a loud noise. The lace curtains were now quite brilliantly lighted from somewhere, I could not tell where, but the window itself seemed to be as little luminous as when I went to sleep. Without moving my head, I turned my eyes in the direction of the studio, and could see the open door as a dark patch in the grey wall, but nothing more.
Then, as I was looking again at the curious illumination of the curtains, a moving mass came into the angle of my vision out of the corner of the room near the head of the bed, and passed slowly into full view between me and the curtain. It was unmistakably the figure of a man, not unlike that of the better type of Italian, and was dressed in the commonly worn soft hat and ample cloak. His profile came out clearly against the light background of the lace curtain, and showed him to be a man of considerable refinement of feature. He did not make an actually solid black silhouette against the light, neither was the figure translucent, but was rather like an object seen through a vapor or through a sheet of thin ground glass.
I tried to raise my head, but my nerve force seemed suddenly to fail me, and while I was wondering at my powerlessness, and reasoning at the same time that it must be a nightmare, the figure had moved slowly across in front of the window, and out through the open door into the studio.