The night before Halloween I finished The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and thought that would be the only spooky reading I’d be able to fit in this year. Halloween night, however, I was in dire need of a hot bath after shifting books all day at the library in preparation to move the shelves for our library renovation, and I took that opportunity to read two short stories from The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories. The two stories I chose were Hand in Glove by Elizabeth Bowen and Mr Jones by Edith Wharton.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving was funny, scary and amazingly written. The character of Ichabod Crane is the classic depiction of a “nerd”. I loved Irving’s descriptions of the scenery of upstate, small town New York and the Dutch farmers who inhabit it. The only problem I had with the story was its length – it was much too short for my liking, I wanted more!
Hand in Glove is set in Ireland in 1904. Sisters Ethel and Elsie are orphans who live in a dilapidated house with their crazy aunt, Mrs. Varley de Grey. Their lack of money has spurred them to raid their aunt’s trunks for bits of fabric to fashion dresses out of, but they have no evening gloves. One last trunk remains to be opened and they’re convinced it holds the evening gloves, but something sinster lurks inside. It is not a very scary story, more macabre than creepy, but it has brilliant characterizations.
Mr Jones is the tale of a woman, Jane Lynke, who inherits a country house from a distant relative, moves in and finds that an elusive Mr Jones seems to supervise the servants, but they won’t let her see him. His bizarre pronouncements are handed down by the housekeeper to Jane until she finally breaks and breaches the boundaries he’s set for her and incites tragedy among the household. Ah, Edith Wharton. She could write the copy on the back of a cereal box and make it beautiful and tidy. This story is a concise and perfectly written ghost story.
My Halloween reading wasn’t extensive, but I did enjoy the ghost stories I read. Next year I’m looking forward to reading many more!
Did you read any short stories for Halloween? Do you have a favorite ghost story?