A Darker Shade of Spring

ghosts of spring

“Not half a bad yarn,” remarked Reynolds, as Lewis finished the thrilling ghost story he had been narrating. “Only the worst of all these sort of lies, to my mind, is the finale. You get something beautifully weird and thrilling, then comes the explanation — tame and unconvincing — and spoils the lot. “What’s your opinion, John?”

Thatcher, who had been gazing dreamily into the fire, stretched himself out full length in his chair and blew a big cloud of smoke ceilingwards.

“My opinion,” said he, brusquely, “is that it’s easy to sit and scoff surrounded by lights and friends. But I fancy that a night passed in a certain room I know of would be likely to make you modify your views on these things.”

“Where is this room?”

“In the suburbs. I lodged there in my younger days— for one night only.”

“Did you see anything?” asked Reynolds.

“No,” replied Thatcher, slowly.

“But there was something in that room— ”

“Well,” put in Reynolds, “show me this room, and I’m game to spend a night alone in it.”

Thatcher merely glanced at his watch, and said:

“Very good. We’ll start at once then.”

“All right,” replied Reynolds, coolly, although he was somewhat taken aback at this sudden acceptance of his offer.

“I’m ready.” Continue reading

The Ghost of Alan Mophant

Victorian ghost

I am dying; the solid world, that once was so much to me and in which I held a great place, is slipping fast away like the ending of a dream. I have faith that I may wake in a brighter one. I look about me at the whitewashed walls of the prison infirmary, and am glad that this is at an end; I tell this story to one who has been a good friend to me and who will write it down, so that all men may know what my life has been, and may understand the ruin that fell upon me.

So many tales have got about, as to the crime I committed, that it is just and right that the truth should be told; as I hope for mercy I lay my hand upon my heart and look at the white ceiling above me and swear this is the truth.

I was said to be wild as a young man; I do not think it can ever be claimed I was vicious. The world seemed very full of wonderful things and I longed to see them; life stretched out before me like a great panorama, and I wanted to examine every corner of the picture. So, at an age when most boys are still in the home-nest, I had started out to make my fortune in what fashion I could.

I made that fortune somewhat more rapidly than most men have done. That was a day of new countries, when fortunes were to be picked out of the solid earth; when cities rose in a night, as it were; and when a man who rose a beggar in the morning might lie down at night a millionaire —or something very near it, at all events. I was one of the lucky ones; everything seemed to prosper with me; and I looked forward to returning, within a very short time, back to the old country a rich man. Then, in an evil hour, I thought I saw a chance to take a bigger stride even than before; and I arranged a partnership with Alan Mophant. Mophant was one of those bright, bold, dashing sort of creatures, who seem to twine their way into the hearts of their fellows, and who are always ready with a smile and a jest for good or ill fortune. I liked him; trusted him utterly. He repaid my trust by robbing me of all I had in a desolate part of Mexico, and leaving me penniless and almost starving. The crime was blacker when I remember that I was lying ill of a fever and could not help myself.

My fortune was gone; I had to begin all over again. A kindly woman nursed me back to life and health; and I set out with one bitter hope in my mind: to find Alan Mophant and take my revenge for the wrong he had done me. I couldn’t begin to make another fortune until I had found him —until I had met him face to face.

I was prospecting a little later in a place hundreds of miles from where he had deserted me and had practically given up all hope of finding him, when I suddenly came upon him — almost walked into his arms, as it were. We were all alone, as it happened; and, almost before he knew what had occurred, I was upon him, and we were grappling together like tigers.

I swear I did not mean to kill him; I don’t think I knew what my real intention was at that moment. All I thought of was the fact that the man who had robbed me of all I had toiled so hard to get, and who had deserted me when I was almost dying, was in my clutches. So we gripped each other and swayed about, breathing hard and not speaking a word. Continue reading

THE HOUSE WITH BLACK SHUTTERS, a Gothic tale

gothic tales

“When I was a boy almost all the folk, especially in Romsey, where I was brought up, believed in ghosts. Those that worked the breweries, the corn mills, the iron and jam makers’ works, the leather board and paper mills all had stories to tell. My mother believed in them; I believed in them; everybody believed in them. I have run many a mile from my own shadow and returned home with a certainty that I was followed the entire way.”

Read the whole story here: THE HOUSE WITH BLACK SHUTTERS

P.J. Hodge is the author of GHOSTS AND OTHER SUPERNATURAL GUESTS, 12 tales of supernatural terror available from Amazon as ebook and Kindle: http://mybook.to/ghosts.

Winner of Gothic Reader Book of the Year.

THE HOUSE WITH BLACK SHUTTERS, a tale of torment

house of torment

When I was a boy almost all the folk, especially in Romsey, where I was brought up, believed in ghosts. Those that worked the breweries, the corn mills, the iron and jam makers’ works, the leather board and paper mills all had stories to tell. My mother believed in them; I believed in them; everybody believed in them. I have run many a mile from my own shadow and returned home with a certainty that I was followed the entire way.

Now, among the countless mysteries of the surrounding country there was one that seemed to torment my mind, possessing me deep into the night, far beyond the limits of its estate: an old brick house, with black shutters, said to be haunted, situated on the top of the hill.

No one ever saw the shutters open, nor even a light, except in the turret, where it burned every night without ceasing.

Any time after dark, especially after midnight, a spectre could be seen, moving to and fro, sometimes beckoning its long fingers or waving its arms toward the roadside. Rest assured that that was always a signal for the lonely wayfarer to flee for his life.

In consequence of these nocturnal manifestations the main road had about grown over with weeds, and it was indeed a stout-hearted man that would not go out of his way rather than pass the house with the black shutters in the middle of the night.

All kinds of stories were afloat about the strange noises heard at night and the rattling of chains. The place was declared to be alive with evil spirits, unrestful souls returned to make the living perform some unfinished deed, or perchance vent its wrath upon the occupants for some crime committed there.

The owner was rich, but a sort of recluse, and the house seemed to be kept practically closed. He had but one tie on earth, a beautiful young daughter, who had been sent away to school.

One day she returned to be married. Continue reading

The Crawling, an echo of the macabre

victorian ghost story

“It was in her arms,” he continued, “the infant, that is.” “You see, she had lost her mind to such a degree that she had begun gnawing the skull of the child… and with the fingers and toes of the baby tied to her hair.”

“Good God,” I uttered, a deep disgust throttling my voice. “Such a thing—!”

Read the story here: THE CRAWLING

GHOSTS AND OTHER SUPERNATURAL GUESTS, 12 tales of supernatural terror by P.J. Hodge is available from Amazon as ebook and Kindle here: http://mybook.to/ghosts. Winner of Gothic Reader Book of the Year.

THE CRAWLING, an echo of the macabre

ghost baby

“Do I believe in ghosts?”‘ echoed Mr. Jensen, our village oracle and bootmaker. “Yes, I do. Listen, and I’ll tell you about one I saw the other night. It’s different from most ghost stories as it’s perfectly true.”

The conversation had moved beyond the hour when a shadow of indiscernible origin had passed across us. Up to this point we had struck upon several, all entirely wholesome, subjects to converse upon, that which were most prominent in our thoughts, but the appearance of the shadow had the effect of shifting the conversation to a far less familiar and, in hindsight, rather disquieting territory.

“You know Mr. Fullen, who lives over at the mill? Well, he wanted his new wellingtons badly; he must have ’em, for he was off to Nettleham market next morning early with a load of pigs. I worked at the boots till about eleven o’clock. The wife says, ‘Peter, you can’t go over to mill this night, it’s a raining cats and dogs and goodness knows what else…!’ I must go, Eliza; and away I goes, after I had put on my cloak. It was a long walk, and I often wished myself back again. I reached the mill at last, wet through to my skin. Mr. Fullen gave me a drop of something penetrating, and kept me yarning till it was after twelve. The night was then darker and thicker than when I left home, and big drops of rain were falling. I walked on quickly, trying hard not to think of something Mr. Fullen had been reading out of a local paper…”

Mr Jensen reached for his glass. His breathing had appeared to quicken at every word; now his lips waited for his lungs to regain composure.

“Terrible thing it was: a young woman what had gone mad, murdered her baby, and rushed through the streets of Marshbury and….”

I leaned forward in my chair and enquired after my companion: “Do you wish to continue, sir?”

Mr. Jensen took another sip and told me that he had no intentions of quitting though, he had to admit, his tale was a rather gruesome one.

“It was in her arms,” he continued, “the infant, that is.” “You see, she had lost her mind to such a degree that she had begun gnawing the skull of the child… and with the fingers and toes of the baby tied to her hair.” Continue reading

Horror Wood

haunted forest

The most wonderful thing about Haines — whom you will perhaps remember for his story, “The Unnatural Encounters of Mr. Bergen,” published in Short Tales of Mystery and Suspense a week or so back — was that you knocked up against him in the oddest places. Never would you find Haines seated on the famous terrace of Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo; but if you took your life in one hand, and a revolver in the other, and entered the dangerous slum district which skirts the citadel of the same city, it is ten to one that you would run into him sitting outside an obscure and oil-lit American cafe, having his boots cleaned, and reading a Greek newspaper with the utmost composure.

Yes, always you will find him at a cafe, sipping his beloved absinthe, be it in on a hill overlooking the Golden Horn in Istanbul, or Saint-Denis, an unpleasant suburb of Paris, or on the Rhinebank at Cologne, which is even more unpleasant.

However, a year or so after he had told me the story of Mr. Bergen, who he had known personally, in Marseilles, I met him again, this time outside the Dardanelles Cafe, which lies on the northern side of the Place de la Constitution in Athens. He greeted me with his usual friendliness, and, on my asking him if he had experienced any further eerie adventures since I had last seen him, he filled his glass and said: “Ever been in a place called Hajdúböszörmény?”

I looked at him in horror. “My dear Haines,” I said, “You surely don’t think I value my self esteem so lightly to allow myself to be seen in a place with a name like that? Where is it— in Cochin, China?”

”No,” he replied tranquilly, “in north eastern Hungary. You take the train from Buda-Pesth, jump off at Dobreezen, get on a nag, and after about twelve miles of rough going, you will land at the place with the awful name.”

Haines lit a cigarette. “Between Hajdúböszörmény and Nyiregyháza,” he added, “lies a stretch of forestry which is known to the natives as Horror Wood. Here, old boy, have a drink…” Continue reading