An anthology of the best tales of ghosts and terror
Tales of ghosts and horror can be found in every age, country and culture on earth; they have been passed down orally for millennia and in written form have existed for almost as long as literature itself. Although there have been notable novels of spine chilling hauntings there can be little doubt that the ghost story is a form ideally suited to short stories or novellas. The story that frightens can be explicitly so, with screaming phantoms, a morality tale or humorous, it can be subtly menacing with creeping horror, and can be set almost anywhere. Such stories have never waned in their popularity with the reading public and it is for this reason that so many authors have applied their talents to creating them. Essentially we love to be thrilled and chilled simultaneously. Some of the finest exponents of the ghost story have been specialists who became masters of the genre, while others wrote scary stories to the same high standard as all their work. In the middle of the 19th century the appetite for tales of terror burgeoned and a golden age was born that lasted until the outbreak of Great War. It is probably fair to say that the finest works of the genre were created during this period and it is principally from those that the twenty-seven stories in this substantial anthology have been drawn. This bumper collection of some of the best stories of the ghostly and horrific has been gathered together by Eunice Hetherington.
Included in ‘The First Leonaur Book of Great Ghost and Horror Stories’ are ‘The Were-Wolf’ by H.B. Marryat, ‘The Withered Arm’ by Thomas Hardy,’ ‘Clarimonde’ by Theophile Gautier, ‘The Rival Ghosts’ by Brander Mathew, ‘The Silent Woman’ by Leopold Kompert and many more wonderful tales of the macabre.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
That abominable Rap had completely stupefied me. I could do nothing but silhouettes, and my sole desire was to have some money to rid myself of his odious presence. But on this night a singular change came over my mind. I awoke about one o’clock—I lit my lamp, and, enveloping myself in my grey gabardine, I drew upon the paper a rapid sketch after the Dutch school—something strange and bizarre, which had not the slightest resemblance to my ordinary conceptions.<br>
Imagine a dreary courtyard enclosed by high dilapidated walls. These walls are furnished with hooks, seven or eight feet from the ground. You see, at a glance, that it is a butchery.<br>
On the left, there extends a lattice structure; you perceive through it a quartered beef suspended from the roof by enormous pulleys. Great pools of blood run over the flagstones and unite in a ditch full of refuse.<br>
The light falls from above, between the chimneys where the weathercocks stand out from a bit of the sky the size of your hand, and the roofs of the neighbouring houses throw bold shadows from story to story.<br>
At the back of this place is a shed, beneath the shed a pile of wood, and upon the pile of wood some ladders, a few bundles of straw, some coils of rope, a chicken-coop, and an old dilapidated rabbit-hutch.<br>
How did these heterogeneous details suggest themselves to my imagination? I don’t know; I had no reminiscences, and yet every stroke of the pencil seemed the result of observation, and strange because it was all so true. Nothing was lacking.<br>
But on the right, one corner of the sketch remained a blank. I did not know what to put there. . . . Something suddenly seemed to writhe there, to move! Then I saw a foot, the sole of a foot. Notwithstanding this improbable position, I followed my inspiration without reference to my own criticism. This foot was joined to a leg—over this leg, stretched out with effort, there soon floated the skirt of a dress. In short, there appeared by degrees an old woman, pale, dishevelled, and wasted, thrown down at the side of a well, and struggling to free herself from a hand that clutched her throat.<br>
It was a murder scene that I was drawing. The pencil fell from my hand.<br>
This woman, in the boldest attitude, with her thighs bent on the curb of the well, her face contracted by terror, and her two hands grasping the murderer’s arm, frightened me. I could not look at her. But the man—he, the person to whom that arm belonged—I could not see him. It was impossible for me to finish the sketch.<br>
“I am tired,” I said, my forehead dripping with perspiration; “there is only this figure to do; I will finish it tomorrow. It will be easy then.”
And again I went to bed, thoroughly frightened by my vision.<br>
The next morning, I got up very early. I was dressing in order to resume my interrupted work, when two little knocks were heard on my door.<br>