Edith Nesbit, who often published under the pseudonym E. Nesbit, was born in England in 1858. She went on to become a prolific writer known for her children’s books, poetry and horror stories. Her personal life had its ups and downs — helping to create The Fabian Society with her husband Hubert Bland and dealing with issues brought forth from his infidelity, but here we’re going to focus on some of her excellent horror stories.
1. “Man-Size in Marble” (1887) – A newlywed couple find the perfect house from which to start their lives together. Trouble arises when the maid they hire says she must leave before All Saints Eve. When pressed as to why, she claims that the pair of life-sized marble statues inside the nearby church animate and go to the house that couple now live in. This is a classic tale of the genre.
2. “John Charrington’s Wedding” (1891) – A man finally wins the hand of the most beautiful woman in town after countless refusals. He swears he’ll be back to marry her when he leaves for a trip shortly beforehand.
3. “The Ebony Frame” (1891) – After a man inherits a house following the passing of an aunt, he becomes curious about an ebony frame he finds inside. A servant tells him that it used tonhold a horrible painting that was “black and ugly”. He finds the painting stored away and discovers a picture of what appears to be himself, present day, hidden face-to-face with that of a beautiful woman’s behind it. He becomes instantly infatuated with the image of the woman and wishes her there with him, which brings her out of the painting. She claims that they are not strangers, leading him to ask how long it has been since he lost her. “How can I tell how long? There is no time in hell,” she answers. This is an eerie tale with some fantastic lines in it.
4. “Hurst of Hurstcote” (1893) – After Hurst, a man hated by his male peers but adored by girls, marries his love, he invites his lone childhood friend to come visit them in the big house he recently inherited called Hurstcote. Once there, the friend learns of Hurst’s experiments with hypnotism and of how he’s used his young wife as a subject from time-to-time. When she falls deathly ill, Hurst comes up with terrible plan to cheat death.
5. “The Mystery of The Semi-Detached” (1893) -When a man passes the house of his girlfriend and finds the front door ajar, he goes in to find her lying on her bed with her throat slit. When he returns there later with the police, he finds her unharmed. Did he have a premonition of the future, or was it something else?
6. “The Haunted Inheritance” (1900) – A young man learns he and his cousin Selwyn, who he’s never met, are to split the inheritance of a relative. The two must decided who will inherit the manor house, which is reputed to be haunted, and who will inherit a large amount of money instead. The young man desperately wants the house and devises a plan to discourage his cousin’s interest in it. He ends up meeting a beautiful woman inside the house’s extravagant gardens with whom he becomes instantly infatuated. This tale tends more toward the romantic rather than horror.
7. “The Violet Car” (1910) – A nurse is hired to live with and help a couple. The husband claims to have seen and heard a phantom car everyday since witnessing his daughter’s death after being struck by it. This is an excellent, unique ghost story.
8. “In The Dark” (1910) – A man reconnects with a close friend named Haldane, whom he hadn’t seen in a while. Haldane admits that he murdered a man they each had hated. This man seemed to have possessed psychic intuitions. He also claims that a year after he’d successfully gotten away with the murder, he began to periodically see the body of his victim again in different places when it was dark. This is a fantastic creepy, little tale with a neat twist at the end. Recommended!
9. “The Shadow” (1910) – During the wee hours of a Christmas party, three young ladies coax a shy housekeeper into telling them of her encounter with a ghost that took the form of an amorphous, deadly shadow.
10. “The Pavilion” (1915) – Amelia is a plain girl, whose best friend Ernestine is a stunning beauty who enchants all the young men she meets. Two such men under her spell, who are staying at the same house as the girls, challenge each other to split the night sleeping in the creeper vine covered pavilion with a dreadful history. Supposedly, anyone spending the night within its confines are found dead the next day. This well written story has strong character development and a mounting fear for how things will ultimately turn out for them.
Article by Matt Cowan.