E. G. Swain (1861 – 1938) was a chaplain at King’s College, Cambridge where he was friends with ghost story grandmaster M. R. James. Inspired by James, Swain wrote several ghost stories of his own. All of these tales centered around the vicar Reverend Roland Batchel and his encounters with the supernatural at the church called Stoneground. While these nine tales fail to match the terrors James manages to convey, they are still quite entertaining. Swain’s stories were published in his collection The Stoneground Ghost Tales in 1912.
You can listen to these stories as read by Jim Moon for free on his Hypnogoria podcast here: https://www.hypnogoria.com/h_stoneground.html
1. “The Man With The Roller” – Impressed by a picture some boys of his vicarage took, Mr. Batchel requests the negative so he can make a copy for himself. Upon receiving it, he discovers it has a minor flaw. Later that flaw begins to form into the figure of a distraught man running a roller over a spot of land on the Stoneground Vicarage grounds. He then sets about seeking to discover the reason for the mysterious manifestation.
2. “Bone To His Bone” – A supernatural force turning the pages of a book leads Mr. Batchel to uncover something in his private garden on Christmas Eve.
3. “The Richpins” – People keep seeing a man named Mr. Richpin they recognize from town searching for something in an area known as Frenchman’s Field even though when questioned he insists he’d not been there. One terrified young girl claims this specter of the living man was searching for his missing eyes.
4. “The Eastern Window” – Mr. Batchel witnesses a painted-glass image which moves and half of a ghost motioning toward a spot of land where he discovers a pair of very old coins, but that is not the end of this mystery.
5. “Lubrietta” – While grading papers, Mr. Batchel is visited by the specter of a beautiful young woman encouraging him to reconsider giving a failing grade to one of the papers. This specter proves to be of a much different variety than usual.
6. “The Rockery” – While working on the grounds, Mr. Batchel’s gardener uncovers an ancient stake and chain driven into the ground. They ignore a message found attached to it that warns that the stake should never be removed. Soon afterward, a series of mysterious assaults begin to occur nearby.
7. “The Indian Lamp-Shade” – Mr. Batchel receives a decorative, Indian lampshade which he puts atop a rather ugly, old lamp he likes to use. It casts an unusual glow and begins to reveal images in the room’s mirror of diabolical things which happened there long ago.
8. “A Place of Safety” – Mr Batchell becomes intent on discovering the location of a treasure hidden somewhere on the grounds by thieves years ago. He spends his time watching an area where workers are excavating for repairs in hopes it turns up. Later he sees a spectral boat in area where it shouldn’t be and some shady men stalking about. This is a well told tale with interesting character interactions and some intriguingly eerie events.
9. “The Kirk Spook” – Caleb Dean, dedicated parish clerk for Stoneground, encounters a specter while alone in the parish. This specter explains that it has been there for six hundred years and that it can’t leave. This story is more tongue-in-cheek than it is scary.
Article by Matt Cowan
9 thoughts on “THE STONEGROUND GHOST TALES BY E. G. SWAIN”
Would Reverend Batchell be considered an occult detective?
I suppose he could be, but he comes as less an expert in the field and more an interested amateur investigator most of the time.
Occult detectives, in general, are stories I want to read more of once my life settles down.
Carnacki has always been my favorite Occult Detective. As Sandy mentioned Occult Detective Magazine is all about them and just released a free download issue with a bunch of stories in it. My buddy John Linwood Grant is one of the primary people in charge of publication. You can download that free issue here: http://greydogtales.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/ODM0-Download-Version.pdf
BMJ2K – there’s a publication called Occult Detective Magazine (previously Quarterly) that might interest you. Full disclosure – they have published one of my stories:)
Great suggest! That’s an excellent publication, indeed.
Thanks. I’ve heard about that magazine, this must be the nudge I need to finally get on board.
Hi Matt, just checking in to say I bought that anthology of Wales Ghost Stories you wrote about a while back. Haven’t started it yet, but am looking foward… -Jay
Excellent! I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. I’ve bought nearly all that series of anthologies edited by Paul Finch as I love them so much. They are really well done and always boast an impressive list of talented authors.