Monday, March 29, 2010

"The Haunted and the Haunters." Edward Bulwer-Lytton

One-minute review: No one would stay in this London house more than a few hours. Each one who would talk about what had happened had experienced something different.

Sometime in the distant past a wealthy man had been killed by his sister, and his little son died soon after. The woman whose brother had died and her American husband were apparently the culprits. Her husband went off to sea. With the son dead, she gained her brother’s fortune.

The narrator, a calm, objective observer takes on the challenge, with his carefree servant, and his pugnacious dog, to stay the evening in the house. The servant soon leaves in terror. The dog is killed. And a whole series of ghostly events occur. The narrator is sure that some human is directing the events. Disembodied hands and feet and footsteps and all shapes and colors and sizes of presences seek to terrify anyone who stays in the house.

Narrowing the origin of the events to a single room, the narrator and the owner of the house find a portrait within which is a device and an anathema written against the house and all who dwell within it. The portrait is of the American husband who had gone off to sea and several years later had gone down with his ship. The device on the back of the portrait is like a compass, with a needle floating in fluid. The device slips out of the hands of the narrator, breaks, and the ghostly spell of the house is ended. That device, set up by the American husband, had directed the events as in dreams. That device had the power to project the malignant spirit of the American husband even from beyond the grave.

Famous Ghost Stories. Ed. Bennett Cerf. New York: The Modern Library. Random House, inc. 1944.

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