At the end of this post is a paragraph from a very very good ghost story that is 135 years old. But, first, I had to work out my thoughts about why I wanted to share it. And, it ties in with the premise for my ghost story anthology.
This is why I do what I do: I have been reading ghost stories and “mystery and suspense” stories and “uncanny” stories and “stories of the supernatural”—since the beginning of 2017, when I first began to narrow a list of hundreds of stories—maybe more—down to a growing longlist and then a shortlist for a 2-volume ghost story anthology—because, I thought, there is something about the stories written before 1920-ish, that were just better. They are better fiction, hands down, and I needed to explore this so I understood it better. After reading umpteen stories from 1780s-1915, give or take, I have come to the conclusion that, it is not about flowery language or “purple prose” or antiquated anachronistic plot structures, etc. etc. It is about being better-educated writers during a time when more was expected of our mind, our manners, our mores, our work ethic (even in writing), our reputation before “the world” (these periodicals made their way around and were widely read).
I had heard that a lot—the “overwrought prose of yesteryear” angle—and I was open to it being correct…and as I went along I compared some ghost stories from that time with some from the 1950s forward and all I could think was: ‘why does it seem that we have dumbed down fiction writing in the ghost story genre to a level of a Sport’s writeup in the Times?’ Nothing wrong with Sports writeups in the Times.
But, I don’t want to read fiction like that. I want depth, thoughtfulness, a sense from reading that the author is well-read, the characters, too; I want them drawn in 3D and not over-described.I want atmosphere. And, I want to feel like the entire story took time to build, like a cathedral, not a hut made out of hay bales.
I know some amazing writers today who are writing cathedrals. And I am so thrilled as a reader about it.
I remember reading a quote in college by Henry James, or maybe it was Joyce Carol Oates…about writing the “telling detail”…but I think we still struggle today, especially in genre or “pop” fiction, which can also be very high quality, (sometimes), with telling the “wrong” detail(s). Wrong is a subjective term. Maybe the better descriptor is the “unthoughtful” detail, the “rushed string of details” the ones that sound OK, but that when strung together fall short of showing something cohesive about the character (e.g., the red-head waltzed into the room wearing a black dress cut down to there and orange lipstick, emerald earrings that dangled like stars from her earlobes, a matching bracelet on her right wrist, bright-red patent-leather 10-inch pumps, black nylons like the ones you wore in the 1940s with a line up the back, and a purse made out of the skin of some animal, but oddly, with all of that bling, she wore not a single ring on any of her long graceful fingers, the nails of which were painted “hotlips red”).
I would argue that the only telling detail here, is that she wore no rings. Why? That detail interests me. The others don’t. They are part of a “formulaic” writing style, noir, Roger Rabbit meets Raymond Chandler, but isn’t written as well as Chandler, etc.
I don’t mean to be negative, just reflective about why some stories seem to inspire more awe in me; whereas others feel utilitarian, not unnecessary, just thin.
The writers of the 1800s weren’t writing “horror” or “weird” fiction. Because those weren’t genres yet. They were states of mind or emotion, or behavior. And they made their way into this high quality fiction. What I especially love in these stories, is the way the entire story is treated with such respect—from the pacing to the tension and from the atmosphere to the characters—these writers were grand writers, and they had been brought up not on “the milk of fiction” but on its “meat”. I fear today, we are if not back to the milk, then at least to some protein-shake-gluten-free, non-dairy, lactose-free milk substitute, with vegetable-product thickeners.
I am still on my longlist, because I thought I would find more stories and novellas, sooner. Last night I found two, that may skip the longlist and jump right to the shortlist. I’m so impressed. One is by Sir Walter Besant. I’d never heard of him until today. And, here is a paragraph from the second one, a longer story by “Mrs. Oliphant” (Margaret O. Wilson Oliphant)—and published in a two-part serialized format in a new periodical of the time, that went on actually to become very successful.
This story is 135 years old. You tell me if it doesn’t read like the best literature published today. Purple prose? Outdated style? I don’t think so. And this is just one paragraph. Imagine the whole story, about the solemn, wandering ghost of a woman, long-dead—Stay tuned for The Greatest Ghost Stories Ever Told, ed. Sanguine Woods, December 2017.
“They asked me to come at Ellermore when we parted, and, as I have nothing in the way of home warmer or more genial than chambers in the Temple, I accepted, as may be supposed, with enthusiasm. It was in the first week of June that we parted, and I was invited for the end of August. They had ‘plenty of grouse,’ Charley said, with a liberality of expression which was pleasant to hear.
Charlotte added, ‘But you must be prepared for homely life, Mr. Temple, and a very quiet one.’ I replied, of course, that if I had chosen what I liked best in the world it would have been this combination: at which she smiled with an amused little shake of her head. It did not seem to occur to her that she herself told for much in the matter. What they all insisted upon was the ‘plenty of grouse;’ and I do not pretend to say that I was indifferent to that.
Colin, the eldest son, was the one with whom I had been least familiar. He was what people call reserved. He did not talk of everything as the others did. I did not indeed find out till much later that he was constantly in London, coming and going, so that he and I might have seen much of each other. Yet he liked me well enough. He joined warmly in his brother’s invitation. When Charley said there was plenty of grouse, he added with the utmost friendliness, ‘And ye may get blaze at a stag.’ There was a flavour of the North in the speech—of all not disclosed by mere words, but also by an occasional diversity of idiom and change of pronunciation. They were conscious of this and rather proud of it. They did not say Scotch, but Scots; and their accent could not be represented by any of the travesties of the theatre, or what we conventionally accept as the national utterance. When I attempted to pronounce after them, my own ear informed me what a travesty it was.”
– Mrs. Oliphant, “The Lady’s Walk,” Part I, Longman’s Magazine, 1882
Table of Contents
7 • Introduction (The Supernatural Omnibus) • (1931) • essay by Montague Summers
35 • Narrative of the Ghost of a Hand (excerpt from The House by the Churchyard) • (1931) • short fiction by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (variant of The Ghost of a Hand 1863) [as by J. Sheridan de Fanu]
42 • An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street • (1853) • novelette by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu [as by J. Sheridan Le Fanu]
60 • Man-Size in Marble • (1887) • short story by E. Nesbit
72 • The Judge’s House • (1891) • short story by Bram Stoker
88 • Thurnley Abbey • (1907) • short story by Perceval Landon
101 • The Story of the Spaniards, Hammersmith • [Flaxman Low] • (1916) • short story by Kate Prichard and Hesketh Prichard [as by E. Heron and H. Heron]
113 • The Phantom Coach • (1864) • short story by Amelia B. Edwards
125 • Brickett Bottom • (1921) • short story by Amyas Northcote
134 • The Cold Embrace • (1862) • short story by Mary Elizabeth Braddon [as by Miss Braddon]
142 • How the Third Floor Knew the Potteries • (1863) • short story by Amelia B. Edwards
154 • Not to Be Taken at Bed-Time • (1865) • short story by Rosa Mulholland
166 • To Be Taken with a Grain of Salt • (1865) • short story by Charles Dickens
176 • The Signal-Man • (1866) • short story by Charles Dickens (variant of The Signalman)
187 • The Compensation House • (1866) • novelette by Charles Allston Collins [as by Charles Collins]
201 • The Engineer • (1866) • novelette by Amelia B. Edwards (variant of No 5 Branch Line. The Engineer)
217 • When I was Dead • (1896) • short story by Vincent O’Sullivan
221 • The Story of Yand Manor House • [Flaxman Low] • (1916) • short story by Hesketh Prichard and Kate Prichard [as by E. Heron and H. Heron]
233 • The Business of Madame Jahn • (1896) • short story by Vincent O’Sullivan
240 • Amour Dure • (1887) • novelette by Vernon Lee
268 • Oke of Okehurst • (1890) • novella by Vernon Lee (variant of A Phantom Lover 1886)
310 • Eveline’s Visitant • (1867) • short story by Mary Elizabeth Braddon [as by Miss Braddon]
319 • John Charrington’s Wedding • (1891) • short story by E. Nesbit
326 • De Profundis • (1923) • short story by Roger Pater
338 • The Dream Woman • (1930) • novelette by Wilkie Collins (variant of The Dream-Woman 1874)
361 • Singular Passage in the Life of the Late Henry Harris, Doctor in Divinity • [The Ingoldsby Legends] • (1931) • novelette by Richard Harris Barham (variant of Singular Passage in the Life of the Late Henry Harris 1831) [as by Richard Barham]
378 • The Spirit of Stonehenge • (1930) • short story by Rosalie Muspratt [as by Jasper John]
382 • The Seeker of Souls • (1930) • short story by Rosalie Muspratt [as by Jasper John]
390 • The Astrologer’s Legacy • (1914) • short story by Roger Pater
400 • My Brother’s Ghost Story • (1860) • short story by Amelia B. Edwards
411 • Sir Dominick’s Bargain • (1872) • short story by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu [as by J. Sheridan Le Fanu]
424 • The Bargain of Rupert Orange • (1896) • novelette by Vincent O’Sullivan
441 • Carmilla • [Martin Hesselius] • (1872) • novella by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu [as by J. Sheridan Le Fanu]
503 • The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains • (1839) • short story by Frederick Marryat (variant of The Werewolf (excerpt: chapter 39 of The Phantom Ship))
521 • A Porta Inferi • (1923) • short story by Roger Pater
532 • Jerry Jarvis’s Wig • [The Ingoldsby Legends] • (1931) • short story by Richard Harris Barham [as by Richard Barham]
547 • The Watcher of the Dead • (1929) • short story by John Guinan (variant of The Watcher o’ the Dead)
557 • The Story of Konnor Old House • [Flaxman Low] • (1931) • short story by Hesketh Prichard and Kate Prichard [as by E. Heron and H. Heron]
569 • Toussel’s Pale Bride • (1931) • short story by William B. Seabrook [as by W. B. Seabrook]
Table of Contents
ix • Preface (Great Tales of Horror) • essay by Marjorie Bowen
1 • The Grey Chamber • (1929) • short story by Anonymous
11 • The Murder Of Squire Langton • (1926) • short story by Marjorie Bowen
29 • Sir Dominick Sarsfield • short story by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (variant of Sir Dominick’s Bargain 1872) [as by J. Sheridan Le Fanu]
47 • The Queen of Spades • (1927) • novelette by Александр ПушкинQuestion mark (trans. of Пиковая дамаQuestion mark 1834) [as by Alexander Pushkin]
77 • The Two Sisters of Cologne • (1929) • novelette by uncredited
99 • The Witch • (1929) • short story by Николай ГогольQuestion mark (trans. of Вечер накануне Ивана КупалаQuestion mark 1830) [as by Nikolai Gogol]
119 • The Ghost of a Head • (1929) • short story by Anonymous
135 • The Great Keinplatz Experiment • (1929) • short story by Arthur Conan Doyle [as by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle]
155 • The Woman’s Ghost Story • (1907) • short story by Algernon Blackwood
167 • The Doppelganger • (1929) • short story by uncredited
183 • The Dead Bride • (1929) • novelette by Anonymous
225 • The Tapestried Chamber • (1828) • short story by Sir Walter Scott
243 • Almodoro’s Cupid • (1897) • short story by William Waldorf Astor
261 • The Skull • (1929) • short story by Anonymous
281 • The Magic Mirror • (1858) • short story by George MacDonald
305 • The Red Room • (1896) • short story by H. G. Wells
319 • In Letters of Fire • [L’homme qui a vu le diable] • (1908) • short story by Gaston Leroux (trans. of L’homme qui a vu le diable)
342 • The Legend of Dunblane • (1929) • short story by uncredited
371 • The Shining Pyramid • (1895) • novelette by Arthur Machen
399 • A Night in an Old Castle • (1929) • short story by G. P. R. James
Table of Contents
• 19 • Mad Monkton • (1859) • novella by Wilkie Collins [as by William Wilkie Collins]
• 97 • Mortmain • (1931) • novelette by John Metcalfe
• 141 • The Dead Bride • (1929) • novelette by Anonymous
• 187 • Carmilla • [Martin Hesselius] • (1872) • novella by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu [as by Sheridan Le Fanu]
• 317 • Tarnhelm • (1929) • short story by Hugh Walpole [as by Sir Hugh Walpole]
• 339 • A Watcher by the Dead • (1889) • short story by Ambrose Bierce
• 395 • The Most Maddening Story in the World • short story by Ralph Straus
• 419 • Change • (1936) • short story by Arthur Machen
• 439 • Keeping His Promise • (1906) • short story by Algernon Blackwood
• 457 • The Oak Saplings • (1931) • short story by A. M. Burrage [as by Ex-Private X]
• 479 • Mr. Humphreys and His Inheritance • (1911) • novelette by M. R. James
• 513 • The Beckoning Fair One • (1911) • novella by Oliver Onions
• 595 • The Horla • [Le Horla • 3] • (1903) • novelette by Guy de Maupassant (trans. of Le Horla 1887)
• 627 • The Upper Berth • (1885) • novelette by F. Marion Crawford
• 655 • The House in Half Moon Street • (1934) • novelette by Hector Bolitho
• 723 • The Crown Derby Plate • (1933) • short story by Marjorie Bowen
• 741 • The Turn of the Screw • [The Turn of the Screw] • (1898) • novel by Henry James
• 871 • Monsieur Seeks a Wife • (1934) • novelette by Margaret Irwin
• 911 • The Accident • (1936) • short story by Ann Bridge
• 943 • Mrs. Vaudrey’s Journey • (1934) • short story by Martin Armstrong
• 961 • Browdean Farm • (1927) • short story by A. M. Burrage
• 981 • Perchance to Dream • (1930) • short story by Michael Joyce
• 997 • The Drummer of Gordonmuir • (1916) • short story by Shane Leslie
• 1013 • Banquo’s Chair • short story by Rupert Croft-Cooke
Table of Contents
• The Albatross • (1931) • short story by Hector Bolitho
• Blood Will Out • short fiction by Hector Bolitho
• The Boy Who Was Mad • short fiction by Hector Bolitho
• Cracky Miss Judith • short fiction by Hector Bolitho
• The Crying Grate • short fiction by Hector Bolitho
• Dirge • short fiction by Hector Bolitho
• The Duke of Ethirdova • short fiction by Hector Bolitho
• Empty Clothes • short fiction by Hector Bolitho
• The House in Half Moon Street • (1934) • novelette by Hector Bolitho
• The Long Journey • short fiction by Hector Bolitho
• Mr. and Mrs. Perry • short fiction by Hector Bolitho
• Taureke’s Eyes • short story by Hector Bolitho
• The Yellow Glove • short fiction by Hector Bolitho
• The Young Canadian • short fiction by Hector Bolitho
Ghost Stories by Gay Male Authors
Fiction: Novels & Story Collections
Reading List #1 is organized chronologically and goes from around the mid-19th century up until about 2010. We will post another list bringing the information up to date in the future.
The current list reflects ghost stories and novels written by gay men and which include gay male characters, gay themes, and/or gay interpretations. This is not a fully comprehensive list, but, rather, a starting point of recommended stories for discussion and further research.
Black Spirits & White, A Book of Ghost Storiesby Ralph Adams Cram. (Forgotten Books, 2009). Cram (1863-1942) was an author, lecturer, and architect, and designed many ecclesiastical and collegiate buildings. Douglass Shand-Tucci’s two volume biography of Cram, Boston Bohemia, published in 1996, alleged that the architect and his circle were closeted homosexual men who demonstrated their sexuality through their designs. Cram was a well-traveled man, fascinated by the supernatural, and in 1885 published a collection of ghost stories, Black Spirits and White, and it is possible, with many of these stories constructed as “tales of two men agoing ghost-hunting,” to imbue a hidden sexuality to these tales in the same manner as Cram’s architecture is now regarded. Two particular favorites are “In Kropsfberg Keep” and “Sister Magdalena.”
The Complete Short Stories of Oscar Wilde(Dover, 2006). While film portrayals of Sir Simon de Canterville, the title spirit of Wilde’s popular and comic ghost story “The Canterville Ghost,” have depicted the spirit as theatrical, flamboyant, and effete, a hidden homosexuality to this character cannot be easily discerned in the story, but a more obvious gay subtext is evident in Wilde’s haunting and poignant fairy tale “The Happy Prince,” about the platonic friendship between a statue and a swallow. The spirit of the Prince, who died young and is now embodied in a statue that overlooks his kingdom, witnesses the suffering of his former subjects and enlists the help of the Swallow to rectify these social injustices. In the end, when the Swallow dies and the statue is melted down to make another, the Prince and the Swallow are reunited in Heaven. Fairy tales, like ghost stories, are links to cultural myths and folklore. Wilde (1854-1900) was also a pioneer of modern speculative fiction with The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Ghost Stories of Henry James (Wordsworth Editions Ltd, 2008). Volumes and volumes have been written on Henry James (1843-1916) and his sexuality and his literary output, and it’s possible to give gay interpretations to many of his psychological ghost stories. “The Jolly Corner” concerns a man witnessing his alter ego as he regards his vacant property, an allegory in which the ghost represents the narrator’s (and the author’s) repressed homosexuality and “how he might have led his life.” “The Real Right Thing” also crackles with sexual ambiguity. A friend and an author’s wife struggle over an author’s commemoration when the friend begins a biography and the spirit of the author hovers over the work. The biographer is overcome with the task, “waiting for the evening very much as one of a pair of lovers might wait for the hour of their appointment.” “Owen Wingrave” concerns the last scion of a military family who decides to abandon his calling and embrace pacifism. After fierce family opposition and disinheritance, Owen agrees to spend a night in a haunted room of the family mansion Paramore—a room in which an ancestor was found dead “without a wound” after accidentally killing his son while disciplining him. This volume also includes James’s novella, The Turn of the Screw, and the ambiguity over the sexuality and relationships of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel will be forever debated.
The Temple of Death: The Ghost Stories of A.C. and R.H. Benson (Dover, 2007). There has been no evidence that the Benson brothers Arthur Christopher (1862-1925), Edward Frederick (1867-1940), and Robert Hugh (1871-1914) were all gay, though each son of the Archbishop of Canterbury has been the subject of literary speculation. The literary output of each brother included ghost stories, many of whose themes relied on the conflict of Christianity with earlier pagan religions. In “The Blood-Eagle” by R.H. Benson, published in 1903, two youths stumble upon a ritual gone awry, and in “The Closed Window,” by A.C. Benson and published in 1903, two gentleman cousins are drawn to a room in a haunted tower. In “The Slype House,” by A.C. Benson and published in 1904, a frail young man, educated in the black arts, summons spirits in his lonely, elder years. “The Grey Cat” by A.C. Benson and published in 1903 can be read as a religious allegory of the fear of a young boy succumbing to homosexuality, and “The Traveller” by R.H. Benson and published in 1903, about a priest who hears the ghostly confession of Thomas Beckett’s murderer, can be imprinted with the hindsight of the Archbishop’s homosexuality. It is also possible to imbue a gay subtext to the gentlemanly relationships found in two stories by A.C. Benson published posthumously in 1926, “The Uttermost Farthing” and “Basil Netherby,” also published as “The House at Trehale.”
The Complete Saki by H.H. Munro (Penguin, 1988). It’s possible to give almost anything Hector Hugh Munro (1870-1916) wrote a gay interpretation. His witty and macabre stories satirized Edwardian society and culture. Munro never married and his biographers have hypothesized he was homosexual. His pen name “Saki” refers to a cupbearer or a beautiful boy. Included in his oeuvre are a few ghost stories with characters exhibiting stereotypical features of how gay men were depicted in the literature of the era. Framton, the frail gentleman caller of “The Open Window” (1911), after hearing the tragic tale of the missing hunting party, quickly informs his host of his own needs for “complete rest” and “avoidance of exercise.” And the ghost of a miser haunts a friend who borrowed money in “The Soul of Laploshka” (1910).
All Soul’s Night by Hugh Walpole (Macmillan, 1933). Walpole (1884-1941) was a prolific writer and a key member of the exclusive homosexual coterie in 1930s London, which included Noel Coward and Ivor Novello. Among his ghost stories are three classic ghost stories: “Mrs. Lunt,” “The Tarn,” and “A Little Ghost,” the latter which was first published in 1922 and collected in 1933. “A Little Ghost” is narrated by a man grieving over the sudden lost of his “greatest friend” and is visited by the spirit of a young girl in a house on the coast of Glebeshire.
The Collected Ghost Stories of E. F. Benson edited by Richard Dalby (Carroll & Graf; 3rd edition, 2002). Benson (1867-1940) was a prolific writer and the author of the popular author of Mapp & Lucia series featuring Emmeline “Lucia” Lucas and Elizabeth Mapp. H.P. Lovecraft spoke highly of Benson’s horror stories in his seminal essay on the genre—the first and still the best of its kind: “Supernatural Horror in Literature.” Benson never married and like his brothers his homosexuality is unproven and often disputed, but it is possible to find some gay subtext in his ghost stories, notably “Bagnell Terrace,” published in 1925, about two bachelors who live near each other in an enclave of London who are haunted by the spirit of an Egyptian.
The Life to Come: And Other Stories by E.M. Forster (W.W. Norton & Co, 1987). Forster was the noted British author of Howard’s End, A Room With a View, A Passage to India, and Where Angels Fear to Tread. Like his gay-themed novel Maurice, this collection of short stories was published after Forster’s death, and includes two superb ghost stories with gay subtext. “Dr. Woolacott,” written in 1927, finds a young invalid being seduced by a handsome ghost, and “The Classical Annex,” written in 1930-1931, revolves around a lusty supernatural entity, having survived since ancient Grecian days, wrecking havoc on the Bigglemouth Municipal Museum and seducing the curator’s son.
Creatures of Circumstance by Somerset Maugham (Heinemann, 1947). Maugham (1847-1965), author of Of Human Bondage and The Moon and Sixpence, had affairs with both men and women. Maugham’s collection of short stories, Creatures of Circumstance, published in 1947, contained the gem of a ghost story, “A Man from Glasgow,” wherein an olive grower recounts a haunting to another man and is set within a bar near Gibraltar.
The Delicate Prey and Other Stories by Paul Bowles (Random House, 1950). Included in Bowles collection was the story “The Circular Valley” about the Atlájala, a genderless spirit with the ability to slip into the body of humans and animals, including several friars, bandits, and an unhappy couple. Bowles (19101999), part of Gertrude Stein’s literary circle, was a composer and a writer, notably of the novel The Sheltering Sky, about an American couple drifting across North Africa who bore resemblances to the author and his wife, Jane Bowles.
Collected Stories by Tennessee Williams (New Directions, 1994) Williams (1911-1983) came to prominence with his memory play, The Glass Menagerie, and subtitled his play about Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Clothes for a Summer Hotel, “A Ghost Story.” Included in Williams’s Collected Stories is his short story “The Mysteries of the Joy Rio,” a haunted tale of a gay man’s lost youth set in the balcony of a dilapidated movie theater, written in 1941 and published in 1954.
The Gay Haunt by Victor J. Banis, writing as Victor Jay (The Borgo Press, 2007). A reprint of Banis’s erotic novel from 1970, about a gay man trying to “straighten” himself out by marrying his boss’s daughter and who is visited by the spirit of his dead lover.
The New York Years: Stories by Felice Picano (Alyson, 2000). Most of the stories in this collection comprised Picano’s 1983 collection Slashed to Ribbons in Defense of Love, including the short story “Hunter,” which first appeared in a 1980 issue of Drummer, about a writer who goes to an artists’ colony in the Hamptons and is visited by the phantom of a gay poet, who seduces him.
The Books of Blood Vols. 1-6 by Clive Barker (Berkley, 1998) may well be the starting point of modern queer horror. Though not every story in these six volumes is queer-themed, there are more than enough to qualify. The stories are grim, gruesome, and beautifully wrought. Barker isn’t coy, precious, or defensive with his queer-themed stories. They are incredible, sometimes brilliant, works that include emotionally real queer characters. Stand out stories include: “Pig Blood Blues,” “In the Hills, the Cities,” and “Human Remains.”
Cabal by Clive Barker (Poseidon Press, 1988). The prolific and popular Barker publicly came out as gay in 1995. In this novella, set in the wilds of Canada, a man encounters shape-shifters called “Nightbreed.” Readers, critics, and fans have embraced the book for its queer metaphors. Two of the heroes in Barker’s fantasy novel Imajica (Harper Collins, 1991) are gay as well; when one dies of AIDS, his soul takes refuge in his lover’s body.
A Visitation of Spirits by Randall Kenan (Grove Press, 1989). Kenan’s debut novel is narrated by the ghost of a young gay man and revolves around four generations of a black family in rural North Carolina. “Clarence and the Dead,” the opening story of Kenan’s short fiction collection, Let the Dead Bury the Dead (Harcourt, 1992), finds the spirit of a woman inhabiting a young boy with disturbing consequences.
Fidelities by Richard Hall (Viking, 1993). Included in the author’s collection was the short story “Country People,” which explores gay history and prejudices through the supernatural events in an adult-education classroom. Hall (1926 – 1992) focused almost exclusively on issues of gay identity and community in his short stories, plays and other writings.
Dancing on the Moon: Short Stories About AIDS by Jameson Currier (Viking, 1993). Included in the author’s debut collection of fiction was “Ghosts,” a tale of an exploration of a young man who summons up the ghost of his recently departed lover as a way to overcome the grief of losing him to AIDS. The story was also included in the author’s collected AIDS fiction, Still Dancing: New and Selected Stories (Lethe Press, 2008).
Unfinished by Jay B. Laws (Alyson, 1993). Laws wrote these stories as he was battling AIDS and they center around a hearing-impaired gay man who moves into a haunted San Francisco apartment. The stories unfold via visitations by three Dickensian ghosts offering accounts of their deaths. The final story, “Gravity,” is a heartbreaking account of the diminishing of the physical body of a patient.
A Quilted Heart by R.M. Vaughan (Insomniac Press, 2000). A mystery novel and a tale of “gay obsession, jealousy, and love” which begins when a police inspector finds a body in the empty swimming pool of an old house in Quebec’s Eastern townships. The house holds many secrets, including a hidden manuscript and the ghost of a gay love triangle.
Trysts: A Triskaide Collection of Queer and Weird Stories by Steve Berman (Lethe, 2001). Berman’s collection of thirteen stories includes the “Beach 2,” about a man dealing with his sexuality who consults an Ouija board and a ghost who spells out his desires. “Left Alone” finds a gay man yearning for the ghost of his lover. “His Paper Doll” is a voodoo doll story in which a gay boy pieces together his fantasy guy. Several stories take place in the “Fallen Area,” an urban land where strange creatures lurk in abandoned office buildings.
The Hour Before Dark by Douglas Clegg (Leisure Books, 2003). Clegg, one of a number of popular horror writers who are openly gay, tells the story of a man who returns to his New England home and joins his gay brother and sister in unraveling the mystery of their father’s death.
Black Shapes in a Darkened Room by Marshall Moore (Suspect Thoughts, 2004). Moore infuses his dark tales with a macabre sense of justice. In “Hurricane Season,” a gay man who believes his dead mother is trying to kill him by way of natural disaster communicates with his late sister via an Ouija board in order to escape death, and in “Simon Says” a gay man eulogizes his lover who had the ability to talk to ghosts on the telephone.
Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2005). The first of three novellas which comprise this novel by the author of The Hours is the subtle ghost story “In the Machine” set in the early 1900s in New York City. Revolving around a deformed twelve-year boy who works in a factory, gay themes are non-existent, save for the influence and cameo of poet Walt Whitman.
The Dust of Wonderland by Lee Thomas (Alyson, 2007). A late night call summons a father to New Orleans because his son has been beaten and is in a coma. Not long after arriving in the Big Easy, the father becomes haunted by the spirit of his gay lover, the former owner of a popular gay club called Wonderland.
Capote in Kansas: A Ghost Story by Kim Powers (Avalon, 2007). This novel focuses on the relationship between Truman Capote and Harper Lee during the time of writing In Cold Blood and To Kill a Mockingbird with Capote haunted by both the victims and the killers of the true-crime event in Holcomb, Kansas.
Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman (Lethe, 2008). A reprint edition of the author’s 2007 young adult novel about a lonely gay teen searching for love and a reason to live following a suicide attempt. Walking an empty stretch of New Jersey highway on an autumn night, he meets a strange and beautiful boy who looks like he stepped out of a dream. The novel was a finalist for the Andre Norton Award.
Second Thoughts: More Queer and Weird Stories by Steve Berman (Lethe, 2008). Berman’s second collection of weird tales includes the ghost story “A Rotten Obligation,” about a corpse haunting a hustler.
In the Closet, Under the Bed by Lee Thomas (Dark Scribe, 2009). Fifteen horror tales, many of which find gay male protagonists battling supernatural forces. Among the standouts are “An Apiary of White Bees,” about a man who discovers a hidden vault of prohibition alcohol and its haunted effects, and “I’m Your Violence,” about a detective investigating the gruesome murder of a pedophile who inherits a violent, revengeful spirit while searching for the murderer. A finalist for awards from the Lambda Literary Foundation and the Horror Writers Association.
The Haunted Heart and Other Tales by Jameson Currier (Lethe, 2009). Twelve modern ghost stories blending queer history and contemporary issues of the gay community with the unexpected of the supernatural. The collection includes the author’s stories “The Woman in the Window” and “The Bloomsbury Nudes.” The collection won the 2009 Black Quill Award from Dark Scribe magazine.
Pumpkin Teeth: Stories by Tom Cardamone (Lethe, 2009). An avid fan of weird and horror stories, Cardamone also includes “The Next Bardo,” a haunting tale set in a gay bar. This debut collection of stories was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award.
Martyrs & Monsters by Robert Dunbar (Dark Hart, 2009) A collection of terrifying tales which incorporates gay characters in its stories set in a haunted tenement. A finalist for the Bram Stoker award from the Horror Writers Association.
The Wolf at the Door by Jameson Currier (Lethe, 2010). The author’s novel about the haunting of a gay-owned guesthouse in New Orleans.
Several anthologies of gay horror and speculative fiction have been published since about the mid-1990s. One of the earliest was Embracing the Dark (Alyson, 1991), edited by Eric Garber, and includes the story “Manor” by Karl Henrich Ulrichs, a ghostly gay vampire tale that predates Dracula by more than a decade. Ulrichs (1825 – 1895) is credited as one of the founders of the modern gay activist movement when he proposed that some people are born with a “soul” or character of the opposite gender; He also popularized the term “Urning” which in Britain became known as “Uranian,” and was an early term for homosexuality.
Grave Passions: Tales of the Gay Supernatural (BadBoy, 1997), edited by William J. Mann, included fiction by M. Christian, Perry Brass, Thomas S. Roche, and Felice Picano.
The Ghost of Carmen Miranda and other Spooky Gay and Lesbian Tales (Alyson, 1998), edited by Julie K. Trevelyan and Scott Brasssart, includes several ghost stories including the title story by Don Sakers and “The Haunting of Room 110” by Michael Price Nelson.
Queer Fear (Arsenal Pulp, 2000), edited by Michael Rowe, helped define the genre of “queer horror” and includes stories by Douglas Clegg and Michael Thomas Ford. A sequel, Queer Fear II (Arsenal Pulp, 2002), also edited by Michael Rowe, included stories by Marshall Moore and Michael Thomas Ford.
Bending the Landscape: Horror (Overlook, 2001), edited by Nicola Griffith and Stephen Pagel, was a volume of gay and lesbian horror stories in the multi-volume series.
Shadows of the Night: Queer Tales of the Uncanny and Unusual (Southern Tier, 2004), edited by Greg Herren, included short stories by Richard Hall and Greg Wharton.
Wilde Stories 2008: Best of the Year’s Gay Speculative Fiction (Lethe, 2008), edited by Steve Berman, was the first edition of an annual series and included ghost stories by Lee Thomas and Jameson Currier. The 2009 edition also included stories by Thomas and Currier and the 2010 edition includes the ghost stories, “Death in Amsterdam” by Jameson Currier and “Tío Gilberto and the Twenty-Seven Ghosts” by Ben Francisco. (Note: There are collections since this paragraph was written for the years subsequent to 2008. See Amazon.com: Steve Berman.)
Unspeakable Horror: Shadows from the Closet (Dark Scribe, 2008), edited by Vince A. Liaguno and Chad Helder, cemented the queer horror genre by winning the Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association for Superior Achievement in an Anthology.
Also of interest is Queer Hauntings: True Tales of Gay and Lesbian Ghosts (Lethe 2009) by Ken Summers. Summers, who maintains a Web site at Moonspenders. com, has compiled a global reference work of historical gay and lesbian ghosts and locations haunted by queer spirits.
Source: This list is based in part on a list compiled in 2008 by Jameson Currier. Photos: Goodreads.
Click Below for a List of The Six Scariest Queer Horror Books Ever from Lambda.
Marjorie Bowen was one of several pen-names that were adopted by the writer Margaret Gabrielle Vere Campbell Long (1885 — 1952). This collection of her stories is 189 pages long and contains a dozen tales of the supernatural and macabre. The book also has an Introduction written by her son Hillary Long.
Below we provide a brief synopsis of the stories collected in The Bishop of Hell & Other Stories, and follow with some information on reading the book free; as well as a bio of the author.
The Fair Hair of Ambrosine
The first story, “The Fair Hair of Ambrosine”, is set in Paris, where the central character Claude Boucher is counting down the days to the 12th of December with an increasing dread. Claude works as a clerk in The Chamber of Deputies and has been entrusted with the delivery of some important documents on that date. This is a task that he had originally looked forward to because it gave him a sense of importance. But then Claude’s memories took him to the little house on the banks of the river, where his former love, Ambrosine, used to live. It is also where she died, or to be more precise it is where she was murdered. Claude will have to walk right past the house to deliver the documents and just the thought of doing so makes Claude feel uncomfortable. Then he be begins to have bad dreams, in which Ambrosine’s killer accompanies him on his journey.
The Crown Derby Plate
The central character in “The Crown Derby Plate” is an elderly lady named Martha Pym. Although Martha has never seen a ghost she would very much like to do so, and this is the subject of conversation between Martha and her two friends when the reader first joins them as they sit talking beside the fire. It is Christmas though, and ghost stories and Christmas go together like holly and ivy, or sage and onion. It is easy to talk of such matters when sitting in good company, but it is quite a different matter when you are alone, in dismal countryside, or a big, old house, miles away from the town, and where there is a distinctly odd smell and your company is odder still. And it is a house such as this that Martha soon finds herself in, when she goes looking for the missing Crown Derby plate that she needs to complete her set.
“The Housekeeper” is the story of a rather unpleasant gentleman named Robert Skeforde, who married his second wife for her money. Robert was fooled though, because the second Mrs. Skeforde misled him; she has no money at all. In fact, she only married him because she believed that he was the wealthy one. They are both nasty characters who deserve each other and they are not, as you might have guessed, happy in their marriage and one of the worst things for Robert is that his present wife is such a poor housekeeper; not at all like his first wife, who was a very good housekeeper indeed, and it appears that she has returned from beyond the grave to put her house in order.
“Florence Flannery” is the tale of a young lady who gets married and goes to live at her husband’s house in the country. As in the previous story the young lady has been slightly mislead about her husband’s wealth and the ‘fine manor’ has seen better days. Florence becomes intrigued, however, when she discovers her name scratched onto one of the tiny panes of one of the leaded windows: “Florence Flannery Borne 1500.” Florence, who is quite amused by this, uses the diamond in her ring to scratch the present year into the glass: “1800”. Although this was not her intention, the new mark looks odd and, as her husband remarks, it is almost as if it represents Florence’s year of death and all to soon the idea seems set to become reality.
The Lonely Afternoon
“The Lonely Afternoon” might better have been called Elsie’s Lonely Life because Elsie, who is just seven, has had many lonely afternoons and any number of lonely mornings and nights as well. Elsie lives in a big house, at Hampstead, with her ailing grandmother who forbids her to speak to the servants, to be honest, they don’t sound too nice a bunch anyway. Elsie’s grandmother is confined to bed so Elsie, whose parents are dead, has never had much company and her diet is simple, even though her grandmother is very rich and the pantry is filled with many good things to eat. It is a sad life for a little girl and this is a tragic story that paints a picture in the many colors of neglect. There is also, it would seem, a ghost in this story and it is a sad day indeed when Elsie and the ghost meet face to face, though poor little Elsie is blissfully unaware of the further blow that fate has just dealt her and is too busy worrying that someone will find out that she has borrowed the keys to a locked cupboard and stolen some jam.
The Bishop of Hell
“The Bishop of Hell” is a story about a nearly-clergyman turned bad. The narrator begins his tale by telling the reader: “Hector Greatrix was my friend, yet to say friend is to profane a noble word; rather was he my councilor, companion, and prop in all things evil.’ The reader learns that Hector’s excess, impiety and boldness terrified even those who were hardened in their own wicked ways. His father had at one point placed Hector in the church, but the young man’s wickedness soon saw him unfrocked and his friends from the clubs and gambling dens then nicknamed him the Bishop of Hell. No respectable person wanted to know Greatrix, the only notable exception being his cousin, Colonel Buckley, who often helped Hector by ‘his countenance and money.’ The strangest thing about this is that the colonel is an upright and decent man with a distinguished military career. The colonel is also very happily married. He is a family man who loves his wife and child. His wife is equally loving in return and the Buckleys appear to be the ideal family unit until Hector steps in, elopes with his benefactor’s wife, and turns her into a whore so that he can live off the income generated. Nice guy that Hector, but don’t worry, he gets what is coming to him even if a lot of innocent people do get hurt along the way.
The Grey Chamber
“The Grey Chamber” was written by an anonymous author, but the story is included in this collection because Bowen translated it from the original French text. The story is only a few pages long and to be honest it is very similar to a lot of other stories in its basic set up: a man goes to stay with a friend and is given a haunted room for the night. This is quite a creepy story, and very reminiscent of Sir Walter Scott’s “The Tapestried Chamber”. Personally though, when it comes to stories like this I much prefer H.G. Well’s “The Red Room”, but this is probably a lot older than the other two stories, and—who knows?—it may even have been the inspiration for them. The chamber in this story is haunted by the ghost of a fair young maiden, who killed herself in the room after being raped there, a terrible situation that was made even worse when she was no longer considered pure enough to pursue her ambition of becoming a nun.
The Extraordinary Adventure of Mr. John Proudie
In “The Extraordinary Adventure of Mr. John Proudie” a chemist receives a late night visitor. The man at the door has his face hidden behind a mask and, speaking with an Italian accent, he demands the services of the doctor who rents the room above Mr. Proudie’s shop. Mr. Proudie is no more happy about disturbing his lodger than he is about being disturbed himself, but the masked man is most insistent and the doctor, who spent some time living in Italy, seems happy to go; but later has second thoughts. Then the stranger shows him a curious-looking white enamel ring, and the sight of this object is enough to convince the doctor to step out into the night. When the doctor does not return though, Mr. Proudie begins to worry. Then he has a second visitor, a young lady this time. She too has an Italian accent and Mr. Proudie is soon following her out of the shop and going in search of his lodger.
The Scoured Silk
“The Scoured Silk” is a particularly nasty story, but you will have to read it yourself if you want to know how nasty. The two main characters are Mr. Orford and the young lady he is engaged to marry, Elisa Minden. Mr. Orford is a scholar whose life’s work seems to be the process of translating Ariosto’s romance into English couplets, and writing essays on recondite subjects connected with grammar and language. Orford is middle-aged and considerably older than his fiancé. He has also been married before. In fact, twenty years ago, when his first wife came to live with him at the house in Covent Garden, Elisa Minden was just a small child watching from the railings around her home. Nobody saw much of Flora Oxford after that and it was not long before she died. But that was twenty years ago and now the child is a lovely young woman. Though it must be said that it was Elisa’s father who arranged the marriage and not Elisa herself. When Mr. Orford takes her to see Flora Orford’s place of interment and tells her what a wicked woman she was, displaying a certain amount of delight about her death, Elisa begins to have second thoughts and who can blame her?
The Avenging of Ann Leete
The story “The Avenging of Ann Leete” centers on a painting of a young lady in a green silk dress. The story is set in 1845 and the narrator is telling the reader about how he became fascinated by the picture that was, at that time, already seventy years old and how, against all odds and quite by chance, he was fortunate enough to meet someone who knew Ann Leete. What became of her is the real story.
In “Keksies” two young men, Crediton and Bateup, both worse for drink, are caught out in the open countryside when the weather also takes a turn for the worse. One of the men owns a nearby farm though; so the two men feel at liberty to barge into the farmhouse and make themselves at home. This story is set in the days when horsepower and saddles were the only way to go, but a modern word best describes the two men: wasters. As it happens they are not the only guest at the farmhouse. Another guest lies stretched out on the table in the next room and his drinking days are over. Some of the man’s friends are also expected at the farm and many of them will want to pay their last respects. Crediton and Bateup have little in the way of respect though, and when circumstances leave them alone with the body they decide to have a little fun; this is one case though, when the last laugh is on them.
Ann Mellor’s Lover
The final story in the collection is called “Ann Mellor’s Lover”. It is about a man who runs a bookshop, who has, through his love of books, managed to develop clairvoyant abilities. His main skill seems to lie in the practice of psychometry;* and he often receives glimpses of the past just by touching things. This story is about what happens when he finds an old sketch, of a young woman. It is trapped between the pages of a book and he feels an immediate affinity to the picture and also knows, from past experience, that little by little he will receive the insights he needs to get the full picture of the girl’s identity. It is not long before he discovers her name was Ann Mellor and it appears that they were acquainted in a past life.
All of the stories in this collection share a supernatural theme, but the real horror in the stories comes from Bowen’s depiction of the darker side of human nature. Men like Hector Greatrix in “The Bishop of Hell”, for instance, who live their lives without any morals or conscience about what they are doing or who they hurt. Or the using and abusing Skefordes from “The Housekeeper”, who may not have been a match made in heaven, but were, in many ways, a perfect match because they were so alike.
In “The Crown Derby Plate”, Martha Pym is motivated by greed to visit a spooky house in the middle of nowhere. That Crown Derby plate is the final piece required to complete her set, and, when she has got it, she does not think twice about turning her back on what she perceives to be a lonely old woman. Martha is not a bad person and certainly not evil, but neither is she a saint and her greed is very apparent.
If you read “The Scoured Silk” I am sure you will find Mr. Oxford nothing short of a monster. He is just a well-spoken and well-presented monster, and those are often the worse kind of all. My favorite story in The Bishop of Hell has got to be “Elsie’s Lonely Afternoon”, Greed rears its ugly heard in this one too, and it is a very sad story, but it is the sort of story that sticks with you long after you have closed the book.
The Bishop of Hell & other Stories would make a good addition to any bookshelf. Some of the stories like “The Fair Hair of Ambrosine” and “The Crown Derby Plate” have somewhat predictable outcomes; but they are nonetheless well written and enjoyable—not just for their plots, but also for the strength of their prose style. The dialogue is believable and Bowen’s descriptive talent was second to none.
*Psychometry is a psychic ability in which a person can sense or “read” the history of an object by touching it. Such a person can receive impressions from an object by holding it in his/her hands or, perhaps, touching it to the forehead. Such impressions can be perceived as images, sounds, smells, tastes and even emotions.
The Bishop of Hell & Other Stories is available in the Public Domain, free to read and copy. Here is a link to the entire collection for your reading pleasure.