December Reading Tip: Ghosts, Just for Laughs

0 Conversations

December Reading Tip: Ghosts, Just for Laughs

A ghost-shaped sign advertising a ghost walk in Lincolnshire

Last week, I recommended that you try Professor MR James for your Christmas season spooky stories. Reading his work gave me a new appreciation of the British custom of telling ghost stories during the Yuletide season. Those spine-tingling tales certainly go well with a good fire and some hot cider, while the wind howls outside.

This time, I'd like to suggest you might want to turn to the funny side of the supernatural. Once again, we reach back about a century. Although published in 1921, this collection contains stories mostly written around the turn of the century – the 19th to th3 20th, that is. The tales were put together by another professor of the time, Texas-born, US- and Oxford-educated Dorothy Scarborough. Dr Scarborough was a folklorist, novelist, and expert on ghost stories. In fact, she wrote the definitive reference book on The Supernatural in Modern English Fiction. This collection, called Humorous Ghost Stories, contains some classics, as well as a few you've probably never seen before. I know I hadn't. I guarantee you'll laugh, even if you find these stories pretty quaint.

I was delighted to find an old favourite of mine, that I'd read as a kid in another anthology. 'The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall', by John Kendrick Bangs, is not only laugh-out-loud funny, but actually borders on science fiction. You'll enjoy the way the heir of Harrowby Hall solves his supernatural predicament.

Generally speaking, these early 20th-century ghostbusters are a resourceful lot. Take the young man in 'The Transplanted Ghost'. When somebody moves a whole castle to Perkinsville, Ohio, well, you expect trouble. But the damsel in the donjon is tired of reading Ivanhoe

The early 20th Century was a time of disbelief, obviously. This turns up in such classics as Wilde's 'The Canterville Ghost' and 'The Last Ghost in Harmony' by the less well-known Nelson Lloyd. I found 'The Last Ghost' very funny, but Elektra thought it was kind of sad. Ghosts didn't have an easy time of it, once people got electric lights. Apparently, they had to move to Maine, which doesn't surprise us. There's a Maine tale in this volume that will give you a chuckle. It's anonymous, goes back to 1874, and appeared in The Sun. You remember The Sun: that's the New York City paper that published The Great Moon Hoax. Just think of it as 19th-century America's answer to the Daily Mail

There's an introduction to the stories that puts them in academic context, but you can skip all that, and just pick a fun tale to read at your next party. Or to illustrate for a future issue of the h2g2 Post, if you so desire. Or just store the link away for a rainy, snowy, or merely boring day.

Writing Right with Dmitri Archive

Dmitri Gheorgheni

08.12.14 Front Page

Back Issue Page

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Conversations About This Entry

There are no Conversations for this Entry



Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry


h2g2 is created by h2g2's users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the Not Panicking Ltd. Unlike Edited Entries, Entries have not been checked by an Editor. If you consider any Entry to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please register a complaint. For any other comments, please visit the Feedback page.

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more