Classic Ghost Story

18 Apr

Does anybody read the classic ghost story anymore? I fell in love with this story format when I was about eight or nine, and my two older sisters gifted me with a couple of volumes of stories from the Golden Age of Ghost Stories in the late 19th–early 20th Century. I quickly learned to appreciate the work of authors such as M. R. James, F. Marion Crawford, August Derleth, Lady Cynthia Asquith, E. F. Benson, William Hope Hodgson, and H. Russel Wakefield. (Most of them were British, with a few Americans thrown in–although the Americans, like Ambrose Bierce and August Derleth, usually set their tales in the British Isles as well.)

I left those two books behind at my childhood home years ago, but some years back, I bought replacements for both from a used book site. I re-read them and enjoyed them even more as an adult–for one thing, I understood the somewhat archaic language, and some of the Britishisms, much better than I did at age nine.

I recently completed a short story in tribute to those old-fashioned ghost stories and I’m posting it here for my readers’ opinion (all five of you!). The story is a reworking of one of M. R. James’s most famous tales, Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad, except that it’s been transplanted from early 20th Century England to rural California in the 1970s, and it contains a grim little twist at the end that I think James would have appreciated.

The story is part of a collection featuring the same location and characters, and this is one of the later ones in the collection, so it does reference a few events from the earlier stories. However, if you ignore those small  references, it pretty much stands well enough on its own. It’s called Water Summons. I hope you enjoy it.

In addition, here’s a link to an excellent TV dramatization of Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad from the late 1960s:

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