William Wymark Jacobs was born in London, England in 1863. He worked at The Post Office Savings Bank for many years while also writing a number of his stories. Much of his output was of the humorous variety, but he penned some chilling horror tales as well. Today he’s best remembered for the iconic horror tale, “The Monkey’s Paw”, which I first descovered when it was assigned reading for my jr. high English class. I instantly loved it and was happy to see a genuine horror story included as part of the curriculum.
1. “Over The Side” (1897) – A young man tells of an experience he had during his first time at sea when they discovered a crewmate had died manning the wheel overnight. The next night, after his body had been cast overboard, a mysterious stranger climbs on deck from the sea speaking a language no one recognizes. Some of the crew suspect he’s been possessed by their dead crewman.
2. “Jerry Bundler” (1897) – A few nights before Christmas a group of travelers, relaxing in their lodging’s coffee room, share ghost stories with each other. After one is told about the ghost of a criminal named Jerry Bundler who haunts that very location, a sense of unease settles in amongst them. One of the men bets he can scare the rest of them by impersonating Bundler’s ghost even though they’re aware of his intention to do so. This classic story has a tragic ending.
3. “The Monkey’s Paw” (1902) – After a friend who spent time in India with the British army gives a family a withered monkey’s paw said to have the magical ability to grant three wishes to its bearers, they decide to give it a try. Unfortunately, they find these claims to be true, but they come at a horrific price. This is a true classic of the horror genre.
4. “The Well” (1902) – A wealthy young gentleman becomes uneasy when his fiancée begins to linger around an old well on his property following the mysterious disappearance of his neerdowell cousin who was attempting to blackmail him. Things worsen after she loses her valuable bracelet into its watery depths and wants it retrieved.
5. “The Toll-House” (1909) – Four friends agree to stay the night at a London house that’s reputed to be haunted. It’s said the house has exacted the toll of one life from every family that’s stayed there. Many of the group begin to second guess the decision after entering the place which unnerves them almost immediately. A terrifying night follows once something begins stalking the hallways in this tale which offers up a very spooky finale.
6. “The Three Sisters” (1914) – The eldest of three sisters makes good on her deathbed promise to come back for them when it’s their time to join her in death.
7. “The Interruption” (1925) – After successfully causing the death of his wealthy, ill wife without getting caught, a man finds himself blackmailed by one of his house servants. He wrestles with how to deal with her as well.
Article by Matt Cowan