I recently read a post by fellow horror blogger Jay Rothermel ( https://jayrothermel.blogspot.com/search?q=Ralph+Adams+cram ) where he looked at a couple stories by Ralph Adams Cram, and it got me thinking about my own love of Cram’s stories. Several years back I posted about the stories Cram included in his collection Black Spirits and White back when I used to write for the Vintage Horror site. When the owner of Vintage Horror decided to shut down the site, I started Horror Delve and began moving my stuff over to it. It turns out, I forgot to transfer over my one on Cram, so I’m rectifying that now.
Born in Hampton Falls, New Jersey in 1863, Ralph Adams Cram would go on to become one of America’s premiere architects, a subject about which he would publish multiple books. He also wrote an excellent collection of ghost stories which he titled Black Spirits and White (1895).
I personally discovered him while attending elementary school in a Troll book of haunted house stories which were actually retelling of older, classic tales. The book was edited by Corinne Denan with illustrations by Ann Toulmin-Rothe one which adapted a story of Cram’s was titled “The Strange House”. It wasn’t until years later that I realized it was a modernized version of “No. 252 Rue M. Le Prince”. When I later learned he’d written several other spooky tales as well, I sought them out and gave them a read. Here’s a look at his stories from Black Spirits and White:
1. “No. 252 Rue M. Le Prince” (1895) – A man from Boston travels to Paris to visits a friend who’d recently moved there after inheriting property from an aunt he didn’t know well. The aunt was rumored to have been involved in black magic and often hosted a strange sect at her house. When she chose to leave that house to her estranged nephew from America instead of her diabolical associate Sar Torrevieja, also known as the ‘King of the Sorcerers’, the place befell a terrible curse. Witnesses claimed to have seen many strange things at that the house (which was wedged between two newer buildings), such as the fact that Sar Torrevieja was often seen entering it but never exiting despite there being only one way in or out, and once a year an odd collection of people would assemble inside creating strange music and sounds from within. When the man from Boston learns his friend is not living in the house he inherited and that it’s said to be horribly haunted, he agrees to accompany him and two other men in spending a night in the empty place. Inside, they discover several bizarre rooms and as night falls, a powerful, dark presence makes itself known. This is one my favorite haunted house stories!
2. “In Kropfsberg Keep” (1895)– Two brash, young men travel to the ruins of a keep reported to be haunted by a vicious entity. They ignore the warnings from the villagers and proclaim they will spend the night there to prove it’s not haunted. Legend has it the keep’s former lord Count Albert hung himself in his great great grandfather’s suit-of-armor in his tower bedroom while revelers he’d invited for a night of debauchery burned to death in the dance hall he set ablaze. Everyone feared the place so much no one ever went to retrieve the Count’s body. They just left it hanging in the room untouched until the body eventually vanished. With such a morbid history, how could the a place not be haunted.
3. “The White Villa” (1895) – Two men traveling abroad miss the last train after sightseeing around some ruins. The only place they can stay the night is in a white villa that’s nearly a ruin itself. During the night one of them that couldn’t sleep hears strange sounds and movements. When he’s finally able to call out to awaken his friend, he’s found on the floor in a pool of blood that is not his own.
4. “Sister Maddalena” (1895) –Sta Catarina is an old Carmelite convent that has become the home of a wealthy Cavaliere. The ghost of a beautiful, young nun appears to people upon their first visit but will never reappear to them. She always gives a mournful look and says the same thing to her visitors, “I cannot sleep!” Her sad history is a dark tale of forbidden love and the price she paid for pursuing it.
5. “Notre Dame des Eaux” (1895)– After a woman falls asleep in an old church cathedral, she awakens to find herself locked inside for the night. As darkness and a storm descends, she’s confronted by a horrible entity that must once have been a mentally disturbed admirer of hers who disappeared years before. She’s forced to use the only weapon she has to try and hold it at bay until dawn.
6. “The Dead Valley” (1895) – Two boys encounter a strange valley while traveling back from buying a puppy in the foothills of Hallsberg. The valley is filled with a thick mist where they hear a loud cry of some unseen thing. After they emerge from the valley, the dog dies and both boys become deathly sick. Months later, after the narrator recovers, he finds his friend has no memory of that night’s events. He decides to return to the site during daylight hours where he finds a disturbing, surreal scene in the valley. Lovecraft himself wrote about his appreciation for this tale.
Here’s some of the artwork which was included in the Troll book for its retelling of “No. 252 Rue M. Le Prince”:
You can read these stories for free here: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/26687/26687-h/26687-h.htm
Article by Matt Cowan
2 thoughts on “BLACK SPIRITS AND WHITE BY RALPH ADAMS CRAM”
Thanks for the link to free reading. I’ve never heard of this author but will definitely check Cram out.
Glad I can help! I think he’s been largely forgotten these days, in part because his catalog of stories is relatively small. He definitely knew how to tell a good spooky yarn, though.