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The Haunters and the Haunted edited by Ernest Rhys online
Ghost Stories And Tales Of The Supernatural
I. GHOST STORIES FROM LITERARY SOURCES
II. GHOST STORIES FROM LOCAL RECORDS, FOLK LORE, AND LEGEND
III. OMENS AND PHANTASMS
EDITED WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY ERNEST RHYS
PUBLISHED IN LONDON BY DANIEL O'CONNOR, 90 GREAT RUSSELL STREET, W.C.1. 1921
For permission to use copyright stories in this volume, the editor and publishers wish to make special acknowledgments to Messrs Allen & Unwin, Mr Arnold Bennett, Mr E.H. Blakeney, Sir George Douglas, Bart., Dr Greville MacDonald, Mr Arthur Machen, and Mr Thomas Hardy.
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In this Ghost Book, M. Larigot, himself a writer of supernatural tales, has collected a remarkable batch of documents, fictive or real, describing the one human experience that is hardest to make good. Perhaps the very difficulty of it has rendered it more tempting to the writers who have dealt with the subject. His collection, notably varied and artfully chosen as it is, yet by no means exhausts the literature, which fills a place apart with its own recognised classics, magic masters, and dealers in the occult. Their testimony serves to show that the forms by which men and women are haunted are far more diverse and subtle than we knew. So much so, that one begins to wonder at last if every person is not liable to be "possessed." For, lurking under the seeming identity of these visitations, the dramatic differences of their entrances and appearances, night and day, are so marked as to suggest that the experience is, given the fit temperament and occasion, inevitable.
One would even be disposed, accepting this idea, to bring into the account, as valid, stories and pieces of literature not usually accounted part of the ghostly canon. There are the novels and tales whose argument is the tragedy of a haunted mind. Such are Dickens' _Haunted Man_, in which the ghost is memory; Hawthorne's _Scarlet Letter_, in which the ghost is cruel conscience; and Balzac's _Quest of the Absolute_, in which the old Flemish house of Balthasar Claes, in the Rue de Paris at Douai, is haunted by a dæmon more potent than that of Canidia. One might add some of Balzac's shorter stories, among them "The Elixir"; and some of Hawthorne's _Twice-Told Tales_, including "Edward Randolph's Portrait." On the French side we might note too that terrible graveyard tale of Guy de Maupassant, _La Morte_, in which the lover who has lost his beloved keeps vigil at her grave by night in his despair, and sees--dreadful resurrection--"que toutes les tombes étaient ouvertes, et tous les cadavres en étaient sortis." And why? That they might efface the lying legends inscribed on their tombs, and replace them with the actual truth. Villiers de l'Isle Adam has in his _Contes Cruels_ given us the strange story of Véra, which may be read as a companion study to _La Morte_, with another recall from the dead to end a lover's obsession. Nature and supernature cross in de l'Isle Adam's mystical drama _Axël_ a play which will never hold the stage, masterly attempt as it is to dramatise the inexplainable mystery.
Among later tales ought to be reckoned Edith Wharton's _Tales of Men and Ghosts_, and Henry James's _The Two Magics_, whose "Turn of the Screw" gives us new instances of the evil genii that haunt mortals, in this case two innocent children. One remembers sundry folk-tales with the same motive--of children bewitched or forespoken--inspiring them. And an old charm in Orkney which used to run:
"Father, Son, Holy Ghost!
John Aubrey in his _Miscellanies_ has many naïve evidences of the twilight region of consciousness, like that between wake and sleep, which tends to fade when we are wideawake; so much so, that we call it visionary. Yet it is very real to the haunted folk, to Aubrey's correspondent, the Rector of Chedzoy, or to the false love of the Demon Lover, or that Mr Bourne of whom Glanvil tells in _The Iron Chest of Durley_, or the Bishop Evodius who was St Augustine's friend, or for that matter the son of Monica himself. The reality of these visitations may seem dim, but the most sceptical of us cannot doubt that, whether from some quickened fear of death or impending disaster, from evil conscience or swift intensification of vision; whether in the forms of beloved sons lost at sea or of other revenants who were held indispensably dear in life, the haunters have appeared, to the absolute belief of those who saw them or their simulacra.