This month I wanted to take a look at a few more horror tales by one of my all time favorite writers, E.F. Benson. I previously covered Benson’s background and some other of his stories back in July of 2014. You can read that article here: https://horrordelve.com/2014/07/03/13-haunting-tales-by-e-f-benson/
1. “How Fear Departed from the Long Gallery” (1912) – Church-Peveril is a large manor house so full of spectral emanations the family and staff have become accustom to them. There is one manifestation they must take steps to avoid, however. Long ago, an evil man strangled two young twins who were the rightful successors to the estate and cast them into the vast fireplace in the gallery hall. Since then, anyone remaining in the hall after sunset encounter the pitiable twins and suffer a horrible death soon afterward. Benson masterfully relates the terror of being caught after sunset in the dreaded gallery, and the scene where a woman experiences a nightmare on a green couch is so weird and unsettling, it will stay with me always. This is a fantastic ghost story.
2. “The Cat” (1912) – When a young artist faces the heartache of losing the woman he loves to another man, something snaps inside him, deadening his emotions toward her and propelling him to achieve previously unattained artistic skill. Later, the woman asks him to complete a painting of her that he promised her long ago, and since he no longer has feelings for her, he agrees. He then starts noticing a gray cat, something he has a phobia of, lingering around with dark intentions.
3. “And The Dead Spake –” (1923) – A man’s neurosurgeon friend believes he can invent a method that would allow him to “play” the thoughts of a recently deceased person by running a special needle over the indentations of their brain if done quickly enough after their death. The protagonist ends up assisting the neurosurgeon with some of his experiments which has frightening results.
4. “At the Farmhouse” (1923) – A man decides to kill his wife after they fall out of love with each other. Even after they’ve stopped living together, she refuses to grant him a divorce. She’s from a family reputed to possess dark powers in this eerie ghost story.
5. “The Face” (1928) – A woman has a reoccurring nightmare about a man with a hideous face near a churchyard by the ocean. Many years pass without the terrible dream during which she enjoys a wonderful life, but when the nightmare eventually returns, everything in it has aged and the man with the hideous face says he’s coming for her soon.
6. “The Step” (1934) – A shrewd businessman mercilessly evicts tenants who owe him money without a second thought to their plight or the fact that Christmas is so near. Things go from bad to worse for the family he tossed out onto the street. He begins to hear footsteps following him afterward but can’t see anyone. The protagonist of this story is similar to Ebenezer Scrooge, but I found the horrors he encounters at its conclusion far more disturbing.
7. “The Hanging of Alfred Wadham” (1928) – A priest recounts a story from a time when his hands were tied by the covenant of confession, and he’s brought into contact with an evil entity. This story was adapted to an episode of a TV series called Rendezvous in 1961.
8. “Monkeys” by E.F. Benson (1933) – A workaholic surgeon, with no qualms about experimenting on animals, incurs the wrath of an ancient Egyptian curse with enraged, spectral monkeys at its core.
Article by Matt Cowan