Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Best Ghost Story 20 from 1800-1849 is "The Ghost with the Golden Casket" by Allan Cunningham


This is an exciting time because we have reached in the countdown the Top 20 ghost stories for the first half of the nineteenth century. This first scary story does not disappoint as it comes from Allan Cunningham (1784-1842) who was right at home in telling a supernatural yarn.


Cunningham is less than popular today, but in the early nineteenth century he was a popular author and poet. He kept company with Sir Walter Scott and James Hogg (the "Ettrick Sheppard) who appeared at spot 29 in the ghost short story countdown with "Mary Burnet". Each of these Scottish authors forged new ground when telling supernatural tales. It is Allan Cunningham, however, who penned one of the best ghost stories apart from Scott's "The Tapestried Chamber," which I included in The Best Ghost Stories 1800-1849: A Classic Ghost Anthology.

In The Ghost with the Golden Casket readers are immediately transported into Scotland of old where they can visualize, through Cunningham's fine prose, Caerlaverock Castle, smell the conifers and greensward, feel rocky hillocks underfoot, and hear the crash of the green ocean waves. But let's be honest, the thick accents of the peasant speakers are challenging in modern times. Still, I am hard pressed to find a true to life Scottish ghost story for the first half of the nineteenth century than this. Get ready to be scared after you are transported to Scotland from your favorite reading chair!       

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Best Ghost Story 21 from 1800-1849 is The Haunted Manor-House of Paddington by Charles Ollier


Ghost story 21 of the Top 40 from 1800-1849 is The Haunted Manor-House of Paddington by Charles Ollier (1788-1859). "The Haunted Manor-House of Paddington: A Tale for November" was published in Bentley's Miscellany during 1841 at a time when Ollier was associated with the literary magazine. The haunted manor, which has fallen into "gloomy ruin" in the scary story, is based on an actual house in the Paddington borough of Westminster, England where Ollier lived. The house was ideally situated next to a cemetery and was demolished nearly 200 years ago, as a footnote in the story admits. The story's building terror and heard but not seen ghost nearly place it in the Top 20 ghost stories for the first half of the nineteenth century. But I believe there is much more to this horror tale than meets the eye.  


For my observant followers of this countdown you have already noticed that the photo provided is of Charles Dickens (1812-1870). This is not a mistake of the Charles. One reason is because there are no known photos/illustrations of Charles Ollier. More importantly, is what I believe is a link from this scary ghost story to Boz; or more specifically to his famous novella: A Christmas Carol. This most famous ghost story of our modern age was published on December 17, 1843. This was a mere two years after Ollier published "The Haunted Manor-House of Paddington." This is unremarkable in itself, except that the later ghost story contains a ghost or spirit that warns of the future visit of a more horrid ghost. Dickens was clearly familiar with the magazine. He was its first editor from 1836-1839. During this same period Charles Ollier was employed by Richad Bentley, founder of the magazine. It is very likely that Dickens read Ollier's ghost story and the rest, as they say, is history.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Best Ghost Story 22 from 1800-1849 is "Allan M'Tavish" by Caroline Norton


One of the first and few scary ghost stories by a female author takes spot 22 in my countdown of the Top 40 ghost short stories for the first half of the nineteenth century. The story is Allan M'Tavish and it is set in Ireland. It is a ghost story of the sea and includes the appearance of a waith or warning ghost, without giving too much of the story away. The horror tale was published in 1833 by Caroline Norton (1808-1877) whose full name was Caroline Elizabeth Sarah (Sheridan) Norton. She was an accomplished poet and novelist. Her portrait below gives her an uncanny resemblance to Virginia Poe, Edgar Allan Poe's only wife.


If you would like to skip ahead in the countdown, the top 10 scary ghost stories from this period are laid out with story backgrounds in my newly edited book: The Best Ghost Stories 1800-1849: A Classic Ghost Anthology ---->

Monday, August 8, 2011

Best Ghost Story 23 from 1800-1849


Horace Smith (1779-1849) was an English stockbroker, poet and novelist. When he became independently wealthy trading stocks, he turned to writing full time. One can also add to his resume: ghost short story writer.


Floating in at spot 23 in my countdown of the Top 40 ghost stories for the first half of the nineteenth century is Horace Smith's Sir Guy Eveling's Dream. This scary story first appeared in The New Monthly Magazine of 1823. Smith later collected it in his compilation of short stories and essays titled Gaieties and Gravities in 1826. Nine years later Washington Irving would publish his much anthologized "Adventure of the German Student," which has a similar construct as "Sir Guy Eveling's Dream." I won't give away anymore than that!

The Best Ghost Stories 1800-1849: A Classic Ghost Anthology is now available on Kindle, Nook or through the iBookstore.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Best Ghost Story 24 from 1800-1849 is "The Water Spirit"


Joseph Snowe's ghost story "All Soul's Eve" appeared at spot 30 in my countdown of the Top 40 ghost stories from 1800-1849. His next appearance on the countdown is at spot 24 with The Water Spirit. This scary story about a mid-wife who is summoned by the spirit world is very well written. It first appeared in Vol 1 of the 1839 collection of short stories titled The Rhine, Legends, Traditions, History from Cologne to Mainze by Snowe. Long before the movie Jaws, this ghost story taps into our hidden fears about what lurks beneath the water. I hope you enjoy it.