One anthology has sat on my various bookshelves longer than any other. Simply titled, FAMOUS GHOST STORIES: A WATERMILL CLASSIC, it’s a thin, pocket-sized book published in 1980. Although my memories have faded over the years, I believe I purchased it from either the Scholastic or Troll order forms passed out on a semi-regular basis by my grade school. From the full color pages of those wispy catalogs, I ordered numerous volumes of ALFRED HITCHCOCK AND THE THREE INVESTIGATORS.
No editor is listed for FAMOUS GHOST STORIES, nor is there any forward, only the unabridged stories and bios of the respective authors. The publishing dates of the stories range from 1706 (the earliest ever featured here at Horror Delve) to 1910. This is a really nice, if rather brief, set of tales. I particularly love “The Phantom Coach”, “The Empty House”, and “Afterward” with “The Apparition of Mrs. Veal” being the weakest.
1, “The Phantom Coach” by Amelia B. Edwards (1864) – A headstrong soldier, anxious to return home to see his wife, takes a ride inside an old stagecoach filled with disturbing passengers. The beginning of this tale meanders a bit, but the chilling end is well worth the wait.
2. “The Tapestried Chamber” by Sir Walter Scott (1829) – A general, spending the night at friend’s estate, is visited by the specter of an evil woman. He was not told in advance that the room he was staying in was rumored to be haunted. “Thurnley Abbey” (1908) by Perceval Landon is very similar.
3. “The Apparition of Mrs. Veal” by Daniel Defoe (1706) – The writer of ROBINSON CURSOE penned this supernatural tale of an elderly woman who receives an unexpected visit from an old, infirmed friend she hasn’t seen in a long time.
4. “The Empty House” by Algernon Blackwood (1906) – A man goes to his elderly aunt’s house because she asked him to help her explore a nearby haunted house. Realizing her mind is set on the task, he agrees. The build up of nervous excitement and intimidating atmosphere of the place is palpable in Blackwood’s narrative as they approach and enter the dark, vacant place.
5. “Afterward” by Edith Wharton (1910) – An American couple comes into money after the husband pulls off big business deal. They move to England and find an old, secluded house. They are told the house is haunted, but in a way you wouldn’t realize until long afterward. Things proceed leisurely until the wife learns of a lawsuit being brought against her husband involving the business transaction that brought them their newfound wealth. Soon afterward a man comes to visit her husband. After the meeting, she learns that her husband unexpectedly and without explanation left the house with the man. The rest of the story revolves around the search for her husband, the mysteries surrounding his business, and what involvement the previously mentioned ghost has to play in everything.
Article by Matt Cowan