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    December 2021
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    In Wigtown’s Oldest Bookshop A Very Old Storyteller Introduces Ghost Stories Writers

    “The strange human craving for the pleasure of feeling afraid….”

    (Virginia Woolf – The Common Reader)

    In The Book Shop (Wigtown, Scotland)

    In The Book Shop (Wigtown, Scotland)

    We’re not of the kind to discriminate against anybody, so let us  share our readings with this old guy relaxing in his armchair, or… is it a “she” ? This venerable person must have a lot of thrilling stories to tell us …

    The Book Shop-Wigtown-Scotland

    The Book Shop (Wigtown,Scotland)

    Indeed, there seems to be a good  number of books devoted to  tales of the supernatural  in Wigtown’s bookshops… but we’re in Scotland !

    Perhaps it has something to do with our landscape: seen in the right light (or should that be the wrong light?!) at the right time of year, Scotland’s deep dark lochs, rain-lashed moors and chill Glens covered by slow-moving mists can certainly seem eerie enough. Indeed Scotland’s geography has been providing writers with spooky inspiration for some time now. . .

    Typewriter near inglenook in The Book Shop (Wigtown,Scotland)

    Typewriter near inglenook in The Book Shop (Wigtown,Scotland)

    It would not come as a surprise if we were to hear the sound of this old typewriter in the middle of the night …

    By the way, Janice,  since we happen to be in so good a company, let us try to discover more about ghost stories !

    J’adore les histoires de fantômes !

    Collected Ghost Stories - M.R. James

    M.R. James-Collected Ghost Stories-Introduced by Penelope Fitzgerald and Illustrated by Francis Mosley-The Folio Society-London-2007

    On my bookshelves, there are some books of ghost stories that would give great delight to the  ‘amateurs du genre’, just have a look at the covers ! Most of them are anthologies of tales written by  eminent ghost stories writers coming from Great Britain and Ireland.  The Victorian era seems to have been a very prolific time for that kind of literature.  Newspapers and magazines used to publish ghost stories regularly then,  especially at Christmas time.

    Christmas Ghost Stories - Folio

    Christmas Ghost Stories-Illustrated by Peter Suart-The Folio Society-London-2005

    Among the most famous ghost stories writers, let us mention first M.R. James who used to tell his thrilling tales to his students in a very stylish manner, the meetings taking place in the old panelled rooms of the University of Cambridge, on Sunday evenings, in the winter terms.

    There are also J. Sheridan Le Fanu, from Dublin,  who became a master in  mystery and horror fiction, Algernon Blackwood, Ambrose Bierce, Wilkie Collins, Amelia Edwards…,but there are many others and among them, Scottish authors like Margaret Oliphant whose best known book  is entitled A Beleaguered City and Other Tales of the Seen and the Unseen. Her stories include The Open Door and The Library Window.

    Ghost Stories

    Ghost Stories-Selected, Introduced and Illustrated by Charles W. Stewart-The Folio Society-London-1997

    Nowhere but in Scotland will the writer of ghost stories  find such appropriate settings for his spooky tales : moors, lochs and mountains, ruined castles and abbeys, unique landscapes  and dramatic effects  in an ever changing light. It’s all a question of atmosphere !

    Haunting Tales Of The Supernatural

    Hauntings - Tales Of The Supernatural. Edited by Henry Mazzeo. Drawings by Edward Gorey.

    Some writers of ghost stories do specialize in the genre but most of them only write a few stories in the course of their literary career. Many great authors have thus tried their hand at ghost stories and with great success, like Charles Dickens ( A Christmas Carol), Walter Scott ( Wandering Willie’s Tale ; The Tapestried Chamber ; My Aunt Margaret’s Mirror) Stevenson (The Body Snatcher ; Thrawn Janet) and of course, Conan Doyle though not in his Sherlock Holmes stories (Lot No. 249).

    I hate to disappoint you : this is not a story about Sherlock Holmes. In his entire career, Holmes never encountered a genuine spook, and that’s the only kind allowed in this book. In fact, he went so far as to express complete skepticism in The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire : “Rubbish, Watson, rubbish ! What have we to do with walking corpes who can only be held in their graves by stakes driven through their hearts? It’s pure lunacy… This agency stands flat-footed upon the ground, and there it must remain. No ghosts need apply.” But, if you’ve read The Sussex Vampire, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot, The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane, and many more, you know very well that the adventures of Sherlock Holmes are macabre enough to satisfy the most Halloweenish appetites. Holmes himself possesses the brooding intensity and dramatic flair of a Gothic villain, as befits a descendant of Edgar Allan Poe’s detective, C. Auguste Dupin.

    Henry Mazzeo  (Hauntings – Tales of The Supernatural Lot No. 249″)

    I would like to make special mention here of George Mackay Brown, the great Orkney bard, not only because he is my favourite Scottish writer but also because he has produced little gems in the ghost stories genre : Andrina, Beliah, Sara, The Drowned Rose, The Interrogator, Mr Scarecrow. But we’ll say more about Scottish ghost stories and ghost stories writers in the additional pages we intend to create in Scotiana.

    In the meantime, here are some very interesting books I can recommend to our readers. As I do like to anticipate my readings by going through the contents of my books I’ve thought it could be a good idea to give our readers a list of the stories they are going to find in the following books.

    Bonne lecture et à bientôt !

    Scottish Ghost Stories

    Giles Gordon (ed) – Scottish Ghost Stories (Senate, 1996: Lomond, 2000: originally published as Prevailing Spirits: A Book of Scottish Ghost Stories (Hamish Hamilton, 1976: Panther, 1977: Grafton, 1986.)

    Forbes Bramble : Holiday

    George Mackay Brown : Beliah

    Elspeth Davie : The Foothold

    James Allan Ford : A Kind of Possession

    Antonia Fraser : Who’s Been Sitting in my Car ?

    Clifford Hanley : The Haunted Chimley

    Dorothy K. Haynes : The Curator

    Angus Wolf Murray : The Curse of Mathair Nan Uisgeachan

    Robert Nye : Randal

    Iain Crichton Smith : The Brothers

    Fred Urquhart : Proud Lady in a Cage

    Gordon Williams : The Horseshoe Inn.

    Supernatural Tales - John Buchan

    Supernatural Tales-Edited and Introduced by Rev. James C.G. Greig--B & W Publishing-1997

    The Watcher by the Threshold

    The Kings of Orion

    Tendebant Manus



    The Far Islands

    The Outgoing of the Tide

    The Wind in the Portico

    The Grove of Ashtaroth

    The Lemnian

    The Green Glen

    The Herd of Standlan


    The Rime of True Thomas

    A Lucid Interval

    The Penguin Book Of Ghost Stories

    The Penguin Book Of Ghost Stories-Edited by J.A.Cuddon-1984

    The Beggarwoman of Locarno – Heinrich von Kleist

    The Entail E.T.A. Hoffmann

    Wandering Willie’s Tale  – Walter Scott

    The Queen of Spades – Alexander Pushkin

    The Old Nurse’s Story – Elisabeth Gaskell

    The Open Door – Margaret Oliphant

    Mr Justice Harbottle – Sheridan Le Fanu

    Le Horla – Guy de Maupassant

    Sir Edmund Orme – Henry James

    Angeline, or the Haunted House – Emile Zola

    The Moonlit Road – Ambrose Bierce

    A Haunted Island – Algernon Blackwood

    The Rose Garden – M. R. James

    The Return of Imray – Rudyard Kipling

    My Adventure in Norfolk – A. J. Alan

    The Inexperienced Ghost – H. G. Wells

    The Room in the Tower – E. F. Benson

    One Who Saw – A. M. Burrage

    Afterward – Edith Wharton

    The Wardrobe – Thomas Mann

    The Buick Saloon – Ann Bridge

    The Tower – Marghanita Laski

    Footsteps in the Snow – Mario Soldati

    The Wind – Ray Bradbury

    Exorcizing Baldassare – Edward Hyans

    The Leaf-Sweeper – Muriel Spark

    “Dear Ghost…” – Fielden Hughes

    Sonata for Harp and Bicycle – Joan Aiken

    Come and Get Me – Elizabeth Walter

    Andrina – George Mackay Brown

    The Axe – Penelope Fitzgerald

    The Game of Dice – Alain Danielou

    The July Ghost – A. S. Byatt

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