Season of mists and yellow fruitfulness…and, of course, of ghosts and stories for long cold evenings. We asked some Hedgehog Review editors, contributors, and friends to send in their recommendations for their favorite Halloween stories for this weekend. Enjoy!
Ghosts, Edith Wharton
According to Edith Wharton, we don’t so much believe in ghosts as feel them, “in the warm darkness of the pre-natal fluid far below our conscious reason” where “the faculty dwells with which we apprehend the ghosts we may not be endowed with the gift of seeing.” Not long before her death in 1937, she worried that this “ghost-instinct” might be gradually atrophying. Ghosts, she wrote, don’t need “echoing passages and hidden doors behind tapestry” to “make themselves manifest,” but two conditions diminishing in a noisy and fast-paced world. Silence, of course, for a ghost “obviously prefers the silent hours,” and also continuity: “For where a ghost has once appeared it seems to hanker to appear again.”
Happily, Wharton’s Ghosts, an omnibus of her own ghost stories, ably stimulates that faculty required for their enjoyment. Her tales are exquisitely sensitive, with subtle premonitions and invariably tragic endings. They induce chills that run down the spine. From “The Triumph of Night,” one of her lesser known:
Faxon’s first impulse was to look away, to look anywhere else, to resort again to the champagne glass the watchful butler had already brimmed; but some fatal attraction, at war in him with an overwhelmingly physical resistance, held his eyes upon the spot they feared.
The figure was still standing, more distinctly, and therefore more resemblingly, at Mr. Lavington’s back; and while the latter continued to gaze affectionately at his nephew, his counterpart, as before, fixed young Rainer with eyes of deadly menace.
—Joseph E. Davis is publisher of The Hedgehog Review.
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