The Collected Ghost Stories of M. R. James

The Sanguine Woods

loneanimatorArt by Loneanimator (Deviantart.com)

The Collected Ghost Stories of M. R. James

Montage Rhodes James

“M.R. James joins the brisk, the light, & the commonplace to the weird about as well as anyone could do it—but if another tried the same method, the chances would be ten to one against him. The most valuable element in him—as a model—is his way of weaving a horror into the every-day fabric of life & history—having it grow naturally out of the myriad conditions of an ordinary environment…”

– H. P. Lovecraft in a Letter to Emil Petaja, March 1935)


tumblr_mynba2N4q11syfoijo4_500From BBC edition of James’ story, “The Tractate Middoth”.

Table of Contents

Preface
Canon Alberic’s Scrap-book
Lost Hearts
The Mezzotint
The Ash-Tree
Number 13
Count Magnus
“Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad”
The Treasure of Abbot Thomas
A School Story
The Rose Garden
The Tractate Middoth

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All Soul’s Night, a Collection of Ghost Stories by Hugh Walpole, 1933

 

All Soul’s Night, a Collection of Ghost Stories

Hugh Walpole, 1933

 


Midnight has come, and the great Christ Church Bell,
And many a lesser bell, sound through the room;
And it is All Souls’ Night,
And two long glasses brimmed with muscatel
Bubble upon the table. A ghost may come;
For it is a ghost’s right. . . .

– W. B. Yeats


Table of Contents

The Whistle
The Silver Mask
The Staircase
A Carnation for an Old Man
Tarnhelm; or, The Death of my Uncle Robert
Mr. Oddy
Seashore Macabre. A Moment’s Experience
Lilac
The Oldest Talland
The Little Ghost
Mrs. Lunt
Sentimental but True
Portrait in Shadow
The Snow
The Ruby Glass
Spanish Dusk

Source: All Soul’s Night, a Collection of Ghost Stories by Hugh Walpole, 1933

“The Soul of Marse Ralph”—A Ghostly Tale by Mary A. P. Stansbury, 1890

The Sanguine Woods

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The Soul of Marse Ralph

Mary A. P. Stansbury, 1890


First published in The New England Magazine, November 1890.


Revisiting Black Point after an interval of several years, I found that  little seaside hamlet no longer an “undiscovered country.” The familiar path to the cliffs wound past a hotel of considerable architectural pretensions, a row of smart cottages overlooked the blue waters of the bay, and our own dear, old-fashioned boarding-house had thrust out sundry awkward additions, protruding like the arms of a growing boy from the sleeves of his last year’s jacket.

But the sea, — the sea was the same! The tide ran up the gray sands in the old shining ripples, the little white-breasted sandpipers alternately advancing and retreating before it, and beyond, along the surf-beach, the splendid breakers came racing in shore, tossing their white crests in defiance of human curbing.

A crowd of bathers, in…

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“Crawling Madness”, a Horror Novella by Arthur Leo Zagat, 1935

 

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Art by Michael Klimzak.

(First published in the March 1935 edition of ‘Terror Tales’ magazine.)

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The men who were to have helped Ann Travers and her injured, helpless husband had driven madly away, fear’s clutching fingers at their throats. Now Ann was alone on the desert—alone with him of the gaunt, Satanic features, and with the crawling horrors that slithered up from the grey moonlight to feed on human flesh!…


Table of Contents

I. Terror On The Highway
II. The Crawlers
III. The Whip
IV. Where Horror Fed
V. Despair Underground
VI. The Crawlers Close In


I

Terror on the Highway


 

Ann Travers awoke with a start. She lifted her head from the rough tweed of Bob’s overcoat shoulder and looked dazedly around. The roadster’s motor still thrummed the monotonous song that seldom had been out of her ears in the long week since they had left New York. Her husband’s blunt-fingered, capable hands still gripped the steering wheel, The desert still spread—bare, utterly lifeless—from horizon to horizon; and running interminably under the hood there were still the two faint ruts in the sand which the thin-lipped filling-station attendant in Axton had pointed out as the road to Deadhope. Yet Ann was uneasy, oppressed, aware of a creeping chill in her bones that matched the anomalous chill of the desert night.

“Awake, hon?” Bob broke the silence. “We’re almost there. Not much over a mile more.”

Ann’s lips smiled, but her weary eyes were humorless. “I don’t believe it. This trip is never going to end. We’re going on and on…”

“Wrong again. A mere five thousand feet from here, the gang I sent ahead to get things ready is waiting to greet their boss—Mrs. Travers.”

How Bob loved to mouth that title. She hadn’t gotten used to it yet—one doesn’t identify a new name with oneself in a week…

All at once now, Ann realized what change had occurred to weigh her down with vague fear since she had drifted off to sleep. The stars that had been close and friendly, their myriads a vast, coruscating splendor in the velvety black bowl of the heavens, now were pale, infinitely distant in a sky suffused with heatless, silvery radiance, forerunner of a not-yet-risen moon. The spectral luminance sifted down to paint the undulating, gaunt plain with weird mystery, and long flat shadows of mesquite bush and cactus barred the vibrant glow with a network strangely ominous.

Bob leaned forward, flicked a switch on the dashboard. The headlights boring the night dimmed. “Save battery,” he muttered, in explanation. Then, grinning, “Show my employer how economical her mine-superintendent can be.”

Ann twisted to him. “Bob! I don’t want to hear that sort of talk any longer. The silver mine Uncle Horvay left is as much yours as mine. More, because it’s just so much dirt except for your wonderful process. There hasn’t been anything taken out of it for years.”

The man threw an arm up in mock defense against her vehemence. “All right. All right. I’ll be good. Give me a kiss.”

Even while Bob’s lips clung warmly to hers, Ann’s eyes strayed past him. Ahead, the horizon was close, much too close, as if the road ended abruptly in a vast uncanny nothingness. It was just the crest of a rise, she told herself fiercely; but she could not rid herself of the eerie sensation that they were plunging on to a jumping-off place, a Land’s End over which the car would hurtle to fall eternally into some abysmal chasm.

Under the steady thrum of the roadster and the sough of its tires there was a hissing sound, like the breathing of some unseen monster. It was the whispering of countless grains of sand sifted along the desert by the wind, but it added to the spine-prickling certainty of impending disaster in Ann’s mind. This strange, grim land resented their intrusion, their intention to reopen the old wounds in its bosom that long ago had healed. Once before it had lured men with false promise into its deadly gullet, had spewed them out broken in pocket and health, grey with the patina of defeat. Now it was warning them to turn back—before it was too late.

Ann started at a new sound that filled her ears. It was a roaring from ahead, from the secret region beyond the ridge-crest. It was the thunder of an approaching engine, a ponderous engine plunging through moon-hazed night at breakneck speed.

The tremendous apparition on that too-close skyline was startling despite the trumpeted warning of its approach. The huge truck lurched over the ridge, careened down the road, hurtled straight at them. Bob’s horn blared raucous warning. Ann glimpsed his pallid, lined face, his blanched hands fighting the wheel. The truck blasted down upon them like a juggernaut, an avalanche of destruction. Ann screamed…

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Southern Spookery

bellNice!

It’s that time of year again, when we embrace all the cobwebs, adorn our homes with skeletons and decorative gourds, and channel our inner granny witches. That’s right, the spooky season is upon us, and in celebration we thought we’d tell you about some Halloween-appropriate Southern men, women and monsters. The South is known for its many storytelling traditions, as well as its inherent spookiness, so it’s no surprise that the two should combine into some scary folktales and stories. Scout’s been bookmarking spooky Southern tales for the past couple months (thanks, Lore!) just to bring them to you in this most ghoulish of holiday seasons. The four creatures that follow are all purported to be real by some party or another. We may be skeptical, but where’s the fun in that? So put on this playlist, paint the ceiling of your porch blue, turn down…

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The “Headless Horror”—The Mysterious Murder of Pearl Bryan, Fort Thomas, Kentucky, 1896


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pearl bryanTable of Contents

The Mysterious Murder of Pearl Bryan

The History of the Tragedy

Pearl Bryan’s headless remains buried at Greencastle

The Trial of Scott Jackson


 The Mysterious Murder of Pearl Bryan


fancyfort Thomas, Kentucky, is most beautifully located near the banks of the Ohio river, on the Highlands, just above and on the opposite side from Cincinnati, Ohio. Although a comparatively new U. S. Military Post, it has long been a historical point, and in the early days of the Corncracker State, and while yet a portion of the County of Kentucky in the State of Virginia, was the home of the red men. There are persons yet living whose parents fought bloody battles with the Indians on the ground now occupied as a U. S. Fort, and that adjacent thereto; a picturesque portion of which is the scene of this true narrative of one of the most terrible tragedies of the nineteenth Century.

The tragedy referred to was committed at the dead of night in a lonely spot near the Fort, January 31st, 1896.

By the manner in which it was committed, it re-called the days of old, when tyrants beheaded their victims, and the murderer at heart, who was yet too cowardly to commit the deed, hired some one to do it, requiring in evidence that the deed had been done, that the head should be severed from the body and returned to the employer.

To re-call such deeds of horror to the minds of the people of a highly civilized nation at the close of the nineteenth Century by the actual commission of a similar deed, struck horror to the hearts of the people, and they were worked up to a pitch that had never been witnessed in this country before. Telephones and telegraph were called into service, and the finding of the headless body of a young and doubtless beautiful woman in a sequestered spot near Fort Thomas, was flashed around the world. So shocked was the country over this ghastly find that the metropolitan papers from one end of this country to the other informed their representatives in the Queen City to wire full particulars of the horrible deed, without any limit to the words to be used.

It was the most diabolical cold-blooded premeditated outrage ever committed in a civilized community. The entire surrounding country, including the three cities, Cincinnati, OH, Covington and Newport, KY, were startled from center to circumference and aroused as it never had been before. The Sixth Regiment U. S. Infantry, commanded by Col. Cochran, which is stationed at Fort Thomas, was astounded that such an outrage should be committed almost within the guard lines of the Fort. Aged and battle-scarred veterans who had gone through the great civil war, only a generation before, when brother stood in battle array against brother, father against son, neighbor against neighbor, flocked to the spot where the headless body lay, and stood with blanched faces, struck dumb with amazement, at the boldness of the deed and horrible manner in which it had been committed.

In an old orchard in the confines proper of the Fort, about midway between the Highland and Alexandria pikes, on the farm of James Lock, and near the fence which acts as a boundary line for Mr. Lock’s farm, was found by James Hewling, a young man, on Saturday morning, Feb. 1., 1896, the decapitated body of a young woman of Venus-like form, the headless body lying with the neck in a pool of blood.

From the position of the body it was evident that the woman had been thrown down violently and then her head deliberately severed with a dull knife. The severance was made below the fifth vertebra. Judging by the pool of blood, life had been extinct from four to eight hours when the body was found.

The clothing of the woman was of poor quality. The dress was light blue and white, small pattern check, of cotton, worn tight across the back and loose in front. She also wore a dark blue skirt and a union suit of underwear. On her hands was a pair of tan kid gloves, well worn. The black, cloth-topped shoes were of fine quality, in contrast to the other clothing, and were marked within “Louis & Hays, Greencastle, Ind., 22-11. 62,458.” Her stockings were black and blue, new. The rubbers were old and worn at the heels. The corset had evidently been ripped open and torn from her body during a struggle which took place near where it was found. Close by was a piece of the dress, also with blood on it.

In an almost incredible short time after Hewling gave the alarm, the soldiers from the Fort, the citizens surrounding it, and hundreds from the city near-by gathered at the spot and were awe stricken by the sight which met their eyes.

Who was the murdered woman and who could have committed the horrible atrocity? These were questions which were on the lips of every one, and for the answer of which a most thorough and searching investigation was at once begun. The best detective talent was immediately put to work. The people were thoroughly aroused and determined upon having the headless body identified and the cruel, heartless murderer or murderers brought to swift justice.

Leaving the investigation of the deed, we will now go with the reader to a happy home of a happy family, ranking among the oldest and best connected families in the state of Indiana, and living on the father’s farm near Greencastle, Putnam County, Indiana. Alexander S. Bryan, and his wife who had lived to honorable old age, respected and loved by all who knew them, owned this happy home and were the parents of twelve children, of which at the time of this writing, seven were living, Pearl being the youngest, of a fine, voluptuous form, with a sweet, lovely disposition and manners, popular with all who were acquainted with her, cheerful and happy at all times and was first entering her twenty-second year. The Bryan family, taking all the relations into account, is the largest in the state of Indiana, and its standing of the very highest.

Pearl the baby of the family, petted and feted, had graduated from the Greencastle High School in 1892, with the highest honors and was the special favorite of her graduating class. Beautiful in form and features, highly accomplished, well educated, with a doting father and mother, well provided with this world’s goods, and with whom she was a favorite daughter, Pearl Bryan had much to live for.

From the time she left school, aye, even before her graduating year arrived, she had many admirers, and to look on her was to love, to love was to lose. She counted her admirers by the score, but to none did she give her heart, or encourage them in any serious intentions. She was liked by all, but while she was of a lovable, affectionate disposition, she allowed none to go beyond the line of admiration, and cupid’s swift and seldom erring shafts, fell harmless by her side.

Three long years had passed since Pearl had bade “good bye” to her studies in the Greencastle High School, and although a leader in society, a guest of honor where-ever she visited, none of her ardent admirers had made a deeper impression upon her, and her heart was still her own. Men of high moral character, well supplied with this world’s goods and standing well in business and social circles, would have eagerly jumped at the opportunity to claim her as their wife. Their protestations of love however seemed to have no affect upon the mind or heart of Miss Pearl Bryan.

Money and position did not have any effect upon her favors, the young man, struggling hard to make his way in life, was as graciously received and as well treated by her as the young swell, rolling in luxury and wealth.

Will Wood, a second cousin of Pearl Bryan, was one of her ardent admirers, but was treated as one of the family and in no sense as a lover. He was treated rather as a favorite brother by Miss Pearl, who made a confidant of him. Wood’s father who was a good old Minister lived only a half mile distant from the Bryan’s, and Will spent much of his time at Pearl’s home, and was in her company a great deal. Nothing was thought of this, at the time, although evil tongues wagged rapidly afterwards, and many were ready to lay at the door of Will Wood in less than a year thereafter, direct connection and complicity with a crime unparallelled in the criminal history of the Nineteenth Century.

Along in the latter part of 1894, Scott Jackson with his mother moved to Greencastle, Ind., from Jersey City, N. J. One of Mrs. Jackson’s daughters, the wife of Dr. Edwin Post, of Depauw University, had lived at Greencastle for many years, and Mrs. Jackson moved there to get near her daughter. Scott Jackson belonged to a good family, his father being Commodore Jackson, who commanded many vessels and who stood high in social circles in New Jersey. Scott cut quite a prominent figure in both the social and business world. He went to Jersey City with splendid recommendations. His career there was considerably checkered however, and he only escaped a long sentence to the penitentiary, which his partner Alexander Letts is now serving, by turning State’s evidence in a case of embezzlement in which Jackson and Letts had embezzled a large amount, said to have been $32,000 from the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

Jackson and Letts, it appears, obtained employment of the Pennsylvania Railroad company, in the Jersey City offices. One of Jackson’s duties was to receive and open the mails.

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