Born in England in 1872, Elliott O’Donnell lived quite the extraordinary life, possessing probably the most interesting bio of anyone featured here at Horror Delve. Among other things, he served in the British army during WWI, sailed on SS Elbe, was a schoolmaster, actor, a police officer in America during the Chicago Railway Strike of 1894, but today he’s best remembered for his novels and short stories of the supernatural. He often claimed many of his popular ghost stories were true tales of things he’d personally experienced, even claiming to have once been strangled by a ghost and to have witnessed a spectral elemental covered in spots as a young child. His notoriety landed him appearances as a paranornal expert on both radio and television programs. Whether these extraordinary tales truly happened or were just spooky embellishments are besides the point for our interests here today. They’re well written and always fun to read, which is good enough for me.
1. “The Haunted Spinney” (1904) – After hearing a cry, a man goes to investigate its source and comes across a murdered woman in a spinney (a small area of trees and bushes). Her husband arrives soon afterwards having heard the same thing. The husband ends up being tried and hanged for her murder. Years later the man returns with a friend to the area where he found the body only to discover something terrible as a result.
2. “Phantom Ships and The Sargasso Sea” (?) – This essay recounts a pair of great legends. The first describes the sighting of a hideous phantom ship crewed by grinning corpses, and the second is about a ship that gets hopelessly stuck in the mire of The Sargasso Sea. Her crew makes a suicide pact to take rat poison once they exhaust the ships drinking supplies rather than die a long painful death. They live for weeks eating and reveling like madmen, but when the supplies do eventually run out things begin to change.
3. “The Top Attic in Pringle’s Mansion, Edinburg” (1911) – A hideous ghost haunts the attic chamber. Looking at it nauseates and incites the female protagonist to want to destroy it. The description of this nasty thing is superb.
4. “How To Become A Werewolf” (1912) – This essay by O’Donnell describes the various possible means by which a person could contract Lycanthrope (the disease that causes one to transform from human into a werewolf). He even details rituals one could perform should they desire to purposely transform themselves into one. The account of a case involving a werewolf is also recorded here. Despite its rather ridiculous premise, it’s an enjoyable read.
5. “The Haunted Wood of Adoure” (1930) – An executioner in France traveling on New Years Eve to a job is forced to spend a harrowing night inside a remote, lakeside cabin within the Adoure forest after wrecking his bicycle. He ignores a warning to avoid these woods on that particular night which is said to be haunted by ghosts of the living.
6. “The Haunted Curve” (1990) – After missing the last train for the night, a man decides to walk the tracks to his destination. Weary, wet and cold, he stops at an abandoned signal box beside a dangerously sharp curve in the line to take a brief rest. This turns out to be a poor decision as he ends up witnessing a ghostly porter reenacting a terrible event from years past.
Article by Matt Cowan