Born on Halloween in 1852, Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman went on to become a successful American fiction writer. She produced many novels and short stories and became the first recipient of the William Dean Howells Medal for Distinction in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1926. Through her writing she helped advance the feminist cause by creating strong female leads in her stories that weren’t dependent upon men for assistance. Below are several of her supernatural stories. My favorites of these would be “The Wind in the Rose-Bush”, “The Shadows on the Wall”, “The Hall Bedroom” and “The Southwest Chamber”.
1. “Symphony In Lavender” (1883) – A woman has a dream about a mysterious man for whom she feels both desire, as well as an intense repulsion at the same time. Years later, she meets this man and falls in love, but the feelings from the dream soon returns.
2. “The Wind in the Rose-Bush” (1902) – This novelette follows a woman named Rebecca who travels to her late sister’s house in order to retrieve her niece and bring her back to live with her. The niece has been living with her stepmother following the passing of her father. Locals give Rebecca strange, foreboding looks when she tells them who she is and where she’s going but won’t specify why. When she arrives, the relationship between her and the stepmother is strained. This is further tested when the niece she’s come to pick up keeps remaining absent from the house, despite her aunt catching several glimpses of her. This is a good weird tale with a sad ending.
3. “Luella Miller” (1902) – This is a strange story of a beautiful woman who is somehow always able to get others to wait on her hand-and-foot. Each of these people seem happy to do so, even though they begin to rapidly sicken and die as a result.
4. “The Vacant Lot” (1902) – A shrewd businessman moves to a new house in another city with his family and maid. While there they begin to experience supernatural occurrences emanating from the vacant lot next door. The strange things that happen in this story are generally unique, and I like that they stem from the empty lot next door rather than the house itself, but the ending seemed a bit rushed.
5. “The Shadows on the Wall” (1903) – Following the death of Edward Glynn, his three sisters begin to suspect their other brother Henry might be responsible for bringing it about as the two had quarreled shortly beforehand. Things grow more mysterious when a shadow, perfectly in the shape of the departed Edward, is cast upon the wall in the sitting room. This classic tale was famously adapted for an episode on the television series Rod Serling’s Night Gallery.
6. “The Hall Bedroom” (1903) – Following the untimely death of her husband, a woman is forced to make her living running a boarding house. When she places a sick man in the hall bedroom, strange things begin to happen there. The majority of this story is told from the sick man’s journal entries as each night his room seems to expand and change into some other location in the dark. There seems to be some connection with a large painting which hangs on the room’s wall.
7. “The Southwest Chamber” (1903) – After receiving a a large house following the death of an estranged aunt, two sisters work to make a living by opening it as a boarding house. Issues arise when they put a guest in the southwest chamber, which is where the aunt had recently died. As one-by-one a different guest decides to sleep in that room in order to prove nothing is amiss, they experience spectral occurrences by a powerful, malignant entity. This novelette tells an excellent, vintage ghost story.
Article by Matt Cowan