Born in Bombay, British India in 1865, Joseph Rudyard Kipling led a very successful life as a writer. He was the first English language author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907, an award for which he remains the youngest recipient ever. He’s best remembered for the various screen adaptations of his works which includes THE JUNGLE BOOK and RIKKI TIKKI TAVI (about a mongoose in India that protects a family from a pair of deadly cobras with hypnotic powers). Here we’re going to take a look at some of his more macabre short stories.

1. “The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes” (1885) – An Englishman out for a night ride on his steed falls down a sand slope where he finds himself trapped in a crater filled with people believed to be dead. Unable to find a way out, he’s forced to live among them. The only one of them who regularly talks to him, Gunga Dass, cannot be trusted. While Dass supplies him with crows to eat and does whatever Morrowbie wants, he also taunts him and seems to know more than he reveals.

2. “The Phantom Rickshaw” (1888) – This is the tale of a man haunted by the ghost of a woman he once loved but whom he cruelly discarded after his feelings changed. Losing him led to her death soon afterwards, but that did not prevent her from continuing to pursue him. This is a classic story about a tragic, obsessive ghost whose relentless appearances have devastating results on the haunted man.

3. “My Own True Ghost Story” (1888) – Is there indeed an assembly of ghosts playing pool in the room next door?

4. “The Mark of the Beast” (1890) – An Englishman named Fleete finds himself in India upon inheriting property there. After drinking too much at a New Years Eve celebration he’d attended, the man comes upon a temple dedicated to Hanuman, a monkey god worshipped by the local priests. He foolishly runs up the temple steps to put his cigarette out on the big red statue of The Return of Imray, . A leper with silver skin and disintegrated facial features emerges from a recess of the statue, making “mewing” sounds. He then touches the offender. Afterwards, Fleete begins to smell a strong scent of blood, animals become terrified of him, and he begins to undergo physical changes. His friends notice the alterations and seek to help him before it’s too late. This is a fantastic tale about a powerful supernatural curse.

5. “At the End of the Passage” (1890) – A man is tormented by horrible nightmares.

6. “The Return of Imray” (1891) – Imray, a man of great importance and influence, disappears one day without a trace. Eventually another man takes up residence in his old bungalow which proves unsettling due to figures half-glimpsed moving about at night that pull on doorknobs and seem to be trying to communicate with him.

7. “The Disturber of Traffic” (1891) – A lighthouse keeper begins to lose his mind as he obsesses about how the boats passing through his strait make the water “streaky”. He puts a plan in motion to divert the boats in this tale of madness.

8. “A Matter of Fact” (1893) – A group of journalists endures a harrowing time at sea when they find their boat flanked by a pair of sea serpents awakened by an underwater disturbance.

9. “They” (1904) – A man who’s become lost driving through a forested area encounters a house where he sees children. They scamper off to hide from him while he meets a beautiful, blind woman there. His interest in her and the mysterious children prompt him to pay future visits. This ghost story falls more into the weird tale category than it does horror.

10. “The House Surgeon” (1909) – After a brief stay in a house that is routinely “haunted” by a pervasive veil of depression, a man begins to investigate the cause. No one seems aware of any tragedy in its history however in this intriguing psychic mystery story.

Article by Matt Cowan


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