Classic Ghost Stories – Review
By Sarah Morgan
It’s getting a bit nippy outside and the nights are drawing in.
The idea of getting home from work, sitting in front of a roaring fire and staying all toasty and warm is an appealing one, and there’s no better companion for such times than a good book.
With Christmas looming large on the horizon, there are some of us who feel the time is right to read a classic ghost story or two – such behaviour has become a British tradition thanks to Charles Dickens.
There are lots of anthologies on the market, but the latest is a beautiful tome featuring chilling tales from some of the best Victorian and early 20th century exponents of the genre. They may now be long gone, but they’re certainly not forgotten.
Charles Dickens is represented, but not by A Christmas Carol; instead, The Signalman gets the collection off to an impressive start and tells the tale of the titular character who believes he is being haunted by a visitor who is foretelling a disaster.
Some readers may be familiar with the TV adaptation from 1976, which was that year’s entry in the regular ‘Ghost Story For Christmas’ series. It starred Denholm Elliott and is much-loved by horror fans.
But as is often the case, the original story is far better, with an overwhelming sense of dread.
Another notable entry in the collection is MR James’ A Warning to the Curious, which was also adapted for TV in the same series; Peter Vaughan played an archaeologist haunted by a mysterious figure while searching for treasures in Norfolk.
The likes of J Sheridan LeFanu, HG Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle and E Nesbit feature too, as you might expect, but there are a handful of surprises, including The Face by EF Benson, one of his lesser-known tales; it’s worth getting the book to sample that alone.
Authors who were famous in other genres, such as Rudyard Kipling and Edith Wharton, pop up, and while it’s wonderful to have such a wide range at our fingertips, it seems rather odd that the venerable Montague Summers and Algernon Blackwood are missing. They are certainly masters of such tales.
But that’s a minor grumble – after all, it’s impossible to include everybody who ever wrote a ghost story.
The package as a whole is rather wonderful; large enough to feel substantial in the hand, it’s small enough to be a train journey companion. It also includes rather beautiful woodcuts as headers on each title page.
All-in-all, this is a delightful addition to any horror fan’s library, and a decent introduction to such stories for anybody hoping to scare themselves silly this festive season.
‘Classic Ghost Stories’ is published by Vintage Classics, £12.99