Vintage Horror: “The Beckoning Fair One” by Oliver Onions, 1911

f2bbae68bf0335095be4e13221d4467bTHE BECKONING FAIR ONE

Oliver Onions, 1911

THE THREE OR four “TO Let” boards had stood within the low paling as long as the inhabitants of the little triangular “Square” could remember, and if they had ever been vertical it was a very long time ago. They now overhung the palings each at its own angle, and resembled nothing so much as a row of wooden choppers, ever in the act of falling upon some passer-by, yet never cutting off a tenant for the old house from the stream of his fellows. Not that there was ever any great “stream” through the square; the stream passed a furlong and more away, beyond the intricacy of tenements and alleys and byways that had sprung up since the old house had been built, hemming it in completely; and probably the house itself was only suffered to stand pending the falling-in of a lease or two, when doubtless a clearance would be made of the whole neighbourhood.

It was of bloomy old red brick, and built into its walls were the crowns and clasped hands and other insignia of insurance companies long since defunct. The children of the secluded square had swung upon the low gate at the end of the entrance-alley until little more than the solid top bar of it remained, and the alley itself ran past boarded basement windows on which tramps had chalked their cryptic marks. The path was washed and worn uneven by the spilling of water from the eaves of the encroaching next house, and cats and dogs had made the approach their own. The chances of a tenant did not seem such as to warrant the keeping of the “To Let” boards in a state of legibility and repair, and as a matter of fact they were not so kept.

For six months Oleron had passed the old place twice a day or oftener, on his way from his lodgings to the room, ten minutes’ walk away, he had taken to work in; and for six months no hatchet-like notice-board had fallen across his path. This might have been due to the fact that he usually took the other side of the square. But he chanced one morning to take the side that ran past the broken gate and the rain-worn entrance alley, and to pause before one of the inclined boards. The board bore, besides the agent’s name, the announcement, written apparently about the time of Oleron’s own early youth, that the key was to be had at Number Six.

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Story #1: “How Love Came to Professor Guildea” by Robert Smythe Hichens, from The Greatest Ghost Stories Ever Told, ed. by Sanguine Woods, 2017

How Love Came to Professor Guildea

Robert Smythe Hichens¹, 1900

“It seemed to be a human voice, and yet oddly sexless. In order to resolve his doubt he withdrew into the darkness of the curtains, ceased to watch Napoleon and simply listened with keen attention, striving to forget that he was listening to a bird, and to imagine that he was overhearing a human being in conversation. After two or three minutes’ silence the voice spoke again, and at some length, apparently repeating several times an affectionate series of ejaculations with a cooing emphasis that was unutterably mawkish and offensive. The sickliness of the voice, its falling intonations and its strange indelicacy, combined with a die-away- softness and meretricious refinement, made the Father’s flesh creep….”

Dull people often wondered how it came about that Father Murchison and Professor Frederic Guildea were intimate friends. The one was all faith, the other all skepticism. The nature of the Father was based on love. He viewed the world with an almost childlike tenderness above his long, black cassock; and his mild, yet perfectly fearless, blue eyes seemed always to be watching the goodness that exists in humanity, and rejoicing at what they saw. The Professor, on the other hand, had a hard face like a hatchet, tipped with an aggressive black goatee beard. His eyes were quick, piercing and irreverent. The lines about his small, thin-lipped mouth were almost cruel. His voice was harsh and dry, sometimes, when he grew energetic, almost soprano. It fired off words with a sharp and clipping utterance. His habitual manner was one of distrust and investigation. It was impossible to suppose that, in his busy life, he found any time for love, either of humanity in general or of an individual.

Yet his days were spent in scientific investigations which conferred immense benefits upon the world.

Both men were celibates. Father Murchison was a member of an Anglican order which forbade him to marry. Professor Guildea had a poor opinion of most things, but especially of women. He had formerly held a post as lecturer at Birmingham. But when his fame as a discoverer grew he removed to London. There, at a lecture he gave in the East End, he first met Father Murchison. They spoke a few words. Perhaps the bright intelligence of the priest appealed to the man of science, who was inclined, as a rule, to regard the clergy with some contempt. Perhaps the transparent sincerity of this devotee, full of common sense, attracted him. As he was leaving the hall he abruptly asked the Father to call on him at his house in Hyde Park Place. And the Father, who seldom went into the West End, except to preach, accepted the invitation.

“When will you come?” said Guildea.

He was folding up the blue paper on which his notes were written in a tiny, clear hand. The leaves rustled drily in accompaniment to his sharp, dry voice.

“On Sunday week I am preaching in the evening at St. Saviour’s, not far off,” said the Father.

“I don’t go to church.”

“No,” said the Father, without any accent of surprise or condemnation.

“Come to supper afterwards?”

“Thank you. I will.”

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Story #2: “What Did Miss Darrington See?” by Emma B. Cobb, from The Greatest Ghost Stories Ever Told, ed. by Sanguine Woods, 2017

What Did Miss Darrington See?

Emma B. Cobb, 1870

“It is not hyperbole; it is truth,” he said, softly, a sudden paleness replacing the flush on his face. He stood close behind her, and leaned over to look at the sheet from which she had been singing. His fingers rested for a moment with a light touch upon her hair—a touch inexpressibly soft and caressing—as he repeated:

“‘My dust would hear her and beat,
Had I lain for a century dead;
Would start and tremble under her feet,
And blossom in purple and red.’”

“Why, yes,” he went on, dreamily, “surely the earth does not furnish a grave so deep…’

It was not so very long ago, for it was only about a year before the outbreak of the great rebellion, that Colonel Sibthorpe, living at Catalpa Grove, County, Kentucky, wrote to Mr. Allen, a merchant in Boston, with whom he had large dealings, to procure for him a governess. The correspondent was requested to look out for a young person capable of “finishing” the education of the colonel’s two motherless daughters, aged respectively eighteen and sixteen, and of preparing his younger son for admission to a Southern college.

Mr. Allen was at first not a little embarrassed by a commission so entirely out of the ordinary course of business; but as he had a strong desire to oblige his Kentucky friend and customer, he at once set about making inquiries for a suitable person to “fill the order.” Whether his search was attended with much or little difficulty I am unable to say; I only know that it resulted in the engagement, at a liberal salary, of Miss Elizabeth Darrington, from whom I have derived the chief incidents of the story I am about to relate, and who has reluctantly consented to my making them public.

Perhaps you have seen Miss Darrington? If so, I dare be sworn that you remember her more vividly than many a handsomer woman. At the time I speak of she was about twenty-four, a small figure, slight now, but promising fullness as time should go on; a face neither beautiful nor plain in feature, but showing intellect and esprit, and a manner unmistakably that of a gentlewoman. (It is a word little used now, but it expresses what I mean far more accurately than the flip pant term “lady.”) Sprung from one of the oldest and best families in Massachusetts—one which had produced governors and legislators in the early colonial time, and in nearly every generation since some man of shining mark—she had not only inherited a fair share of the family talent, but she had breathed an atmosphere of intellect and culture from her infancy. She had also been early forced by circumstances into a position of self-reliance, and had learned to think and act independently. The result was a character not so easily summed up as that of a woman of the model sort, made up after the ideal of newspaper homilists, and the reverend gentlemen who lecture on the “Woman Question.” Such as these would have found something of a paganism in the very virtues of Miss Darrington, without, perhaps, perceiving that there was a touch of nobility even in her faults. Proud, certainly—every thing about her, from the curve of her well-cut lip to the high-arched instep of a rather small foot, attested to that fact. Cold? I am not so sure. Her best friends said so; and at least the glance of her eye was cool and steady. Yet she had a keen physical organization, and enjoyed life with a zest unknown to duller and narrower natures. In short, she was one of those women, peculiarly the product of our later civilization, in whom the brain is uppermost, feeling in abeyance, and gifted with a power of self-rule which, if they do suffer, enables them to hide it as skillfully as a Mohican. She liked men, but they seldom got farther with her than the point of good-comradeship. Very young men, by the way, were inclined to fight a little shy of her; but she liked shrewd elderly ones, and these were always her admirers. Her manner, too, was not the modest violet manner of the model woman; there was just a touch of conscious power in it—a fine, well-bred self-assertion, which stood her in good stead in her peculiar position at Catalpa Grove, and enabled her to keep the young ladies of the house very much in order. In those days Northern governesses of the meek sort used often to fare a little dismally among those high-spirited and not over-cultivated Southern girls. But one glance into the level gray eyes of Miss Darrington would have convinced a duller than the Sibthorpes that this was a woman on whom it would be dangerous to play off any airs of superiority. They had a wholesome fear of her at the end of the first hour, but they cordially liked her by the end of the first week, and their respect and liking never diminished while she remained with them. The truth is, real New England “blue blood” is the very bluest in America, and the pride it engenders is more than a match for the haughtiest “F. F. V.”—a fact which our Southern friends did not know so well before the war as they do now, for the reason that in their isolated plantation life they were seldom brought in contact with the real thing. They had their estimate of the Northern spirit from second and third rate specimens. The Sibthorpes were fine girls, however, and when they found out the stuff the governess had in her they were ready enough to make Catalpa Grove a pleasant abode for her, and soon its gayeties were incomplete without her.

The grove was in a populous county, and within easy visiting distance of the city of L—. There was always open house, and a very delightful house at that. The colonel was a good specimen of the Kentucky gentleman, frank, hearty, hospitable, and well-bred, until you touched his prejudices. He greatly admired Miss Darrington, and, in deed, showed some disposition to give his feelings practical expression, but was skillfully checked by the lady before he had committed himself. It did not in the least suit her book to be made love to by her host. She had undertaken a profitable year’s task, and she wanted the salary. She did not choose either to resign the chance of earning it or to be made uncomfortable by the presence in the house of a rejected suitor.

You think I am describing a hard and selfish woman. What do you think she was down there governessing for, that finely trained, thorough-bred creature, among those free-and-easy, not over intellectual Kentuckians? She was the eldest of four children. Her father was dead, and her mother a delicate, fine lady, as lovely and as helpless as a baby or a flower. Elizabeth was the support of the family. She kept the children at school, and wrote every week to her mother a long letter, full of fun and nonsense and merry rattle, to make that dear woman believe she had not a care in the world. But, trust me, she had plenty.

Miss Darrington had been about six months at the grove when, one morning in March, the household was thrown into a little cheerful commotion by a letter from Tom Sibthorpe, the colonel’s eldest son, announcing his return home. He wrote to say that he should bring with him a friend, a young Cuban, with whom he had been traveling, and whom—for I am compelled to give him a fictitious name—I shall call Raphael Aldama. The expected advent of this stranger caused not a little excitement to the. young ladies of the grove. He was of Spanish birth, but his family had lived for years in Havana, and he had formerly been at school with Tom Sibthorpe in New Orleans. The girls had never seen him; but they told Miss Darrington the most remarkable stories about him, of his wonderful personal beauty, his astonishing strength, his terrible temper and reckless daring, his duels and scrapes. He was very rich, very haughty, very magnificent. They were wild to see him, but rather inclined to be afraid of him. He was said to be as irresistible with women as he was dangerous with men. Miss Darrington did not find their picture of the expected guest particularly attractive. She laughed to herself, mentally decided that the romantic Cuban was probably a very ordinary young savage, and thought no more about him.

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Sherlock Holmes and the Scene of the Crime, a Pastiche…


(The Strand)


The autumn of 1897 presented such an array of singular cases that to pen any one of them seems unjust to those excluded. Clients from all walks of life brought their seemingly insoluble problems to my friend for resolution. There was the case where Holmes vindicated a hapless fellow named Sedgington, whose lascivious pencil sketchings of Queen Victoria fell into the hands of the nefarious blackmailer Reginald Quigg. My sleep is still plagued with nightmares of the Horace Bellefonte dental floss affair, as shocking a tale as The Giant Rat of Sumatra or The Monster Anchovy of Crete. It was also during this period that Holmes found my scarf under the sofa. However, complete written accounts of these and other adventures will never reach the public eye, the unfortunate result of my having rammed my case notes so tightly into my desk drawer that I can’t pull it open.Sherlock Holmes and the Scene of the Crime

There is one case that I feel competent to chronicle entirely from memory, so deeply are its details etched in my mind. It all began early in October on a chilly Sunday afternoon during a lull in my friend’s casework. Holmes was deep in the sway of a cocaine-induced stupor as was his habit when no interesting cases occupied his intellect. He had been curled up in a chair by the window all morning with his violin, his incoherent state evident in his effort to coax a tune out of the instrument by licking it. I myself was engrossed in a philosophical treatise concerning man’s pursuit of perfection, which I took to be an allegory of a whale hunt.

The silence was interrupted by the sound of footfalls on the stairs leading up to our flat. Seizing the moment to inject some spirit into my friend, I quickly adopted his deductive methods to describe our visitor in advance.

“Your next client is a man,” I confidently proclaimed. “Rather tall and quite sturdily built, no doubt a logger by trade.”

I succeeded in getting Holmes’s attention, if not his enthusiasm, so I continued.

“Despite the capabilities of his stride, he ascends the stairs one at a time. This, in addition to a slightly perceptible limp, tells me he incurred a leg wound while serving in the army, possibly in Afghanistan.”

Undaunted by my companion’s sardonic grin, I confidently swung the door open to admit Mrs. Hudson, delivering our morning tea. On her way out she mentioned that we had a visitor waiting downstairs and asked whether she should show him up.

“By all means,” I replied on behalf of Holmes, who was too convulsed in laughter to speak. “Anything to relieve the monotony.”

I greeted our visitor at the door and offered him the seat across from Holmes. He was quite young, handsomely attired in the manner of a genteel aristocrat. Once comfortable, he lost no time in beginning his narrative.

“My name is Ichabod Thortonshire. I live with my father and younger brother on a modest country estate in Kent, a mere stone’s throw away from here, provided you can throw a stone about 20 miles. My mother died shortly after my brother, Rodney, was born and Father took it upon himself to raise us on his own, choosing not to remarry.

“Despite his family responsibilities, my father developed a fine career as a physician. Perhaps you’ve heard of him, Dr. Watson, Dr. Osgood Thortonshire?”

“Why, yes, “ I replied. Dr. Thortonshire was the author of many a medical treatise and had caused quite a stir in the profession some years ago when he advocated closing surgical incisions not with suture but through the use of huge styptic pencils.

“Well,” Mr. Thortonshire continued, “about five years ago, my father left a thriving practice for academic life. He had been offered a chair at Cambridge and six months later a file cabinet, but after a while he grew listless in his teachings and eventually had to surrender his chair and was forced to stand. Not the ambitious sort, he elected to retire to Kent and manage a gentleman’s farm there; you know, the type where all the crops get cultivated but somehow no one ever gets their hands dirty.

“The three of us led a comfortable, sedentary life until last week when tragedy struck. I awoke one morning to find my father slumped in a chair in his study, dead of a broken neck. Naturally I called Scotland Yard at once but as yet they’ve no clue to the identity of the murderer. I’ve no one else to turn to, Mr. Holmes, and your reputation for divining solutions in matters like these is widely known. I beg of your help.”

Holmes, who had been listening intently throughout, now leaned forward. “Was your brother at home at the time of your father’s death?”

“Yes, he was. I awakened him with the awful news that morning. He’s a bit simple-minded and quite harmless, though as a child he tended to be rather cruel. I can remember times when he would lay his pet chameleon on plaid surfaces and watch it go crazy trying to blend in. He keeps mostly to himself nowadays, a voracious reader though he ignores the words and reads only the punctuation. Surely you don’t suspect him, Mr. Holmes?”

“Any conjecture I could make at this point would be premature,” assured Holmes. “I suggest that if it is at all convenient, I accompany you back to Kent for a thorough examination of the scene of the crime.”

“Excellent,” Mr. Thortonshire exclaimed. “I can’t tell you what a relief it is to know you’ll be working on the case. You’ve certainly set my mind at ease!”

“I only hope I can live up to your expectations,” my friend modestly replied as he donned his overcoat and deerstalker. Within minutes they left and I decided to take advantage of the solitude to return to my reading. My volume of philosophy in hand, I situated myself comfortably in the easy chair and was asleep in no time flat.

An hour or so later, I was awakened by the creak of a floorboard to find a hobo-like character fumbling through our belongings near the desk. It was obviously Holmes, attired as he was in order to blend in with the London lowlife. He often did this to ferret out clues for a case and took great delight in tricking me with his impressions, but this time I refused to be duped. When he first noticed I was awake, he feigned alarm but I quickly dismissed his anxiety, detailing the whereabouts of certain valuables and chuckling all the while he collected them. After he scurried out the door with a sack full of plunder and a perplexed look on his face, I resumed my nap, confident I had gotten the better of my friend.

Holmes had still not returned that evening when I retired, but early the following morning I awoke to the smell of Mrs. Hudson’s breakfast and putting on my robe, I walked into the living room to find my comrade reading the morning paper while eating.

“Ah, Watson,” he said without even lifting his eyes. “Come and enjoy this marvelous meal Mrs. Hudson has prepared for us.” There was an uplifted tone in his voice that I assumed was attributable to the Thortonshire case, so I sat down to eat and asked him about it.

It’s finished,” he said glibly. In contrast to Holmes’s nonchalance, I reacted to the news with noticeable startle, flinging a forkful of scrambled eggs with such force that they stuck to the ceiling.

“Finished?” I cried, regaining composure. “But it was only . . . “

“The good doctor’s death was accidental,” he murmured, oblivious to my amazement.

“But a broken neck! How, in a chair?”

“Dr. Thortonshire suffered from a rare combination of narcolepsy and insomnia. When the narcolepsy seized him, he would begin to nod off, only to jerk back, unable to sleep. Over time, this presented such stress to his neck that the break was inevitable.”

“But surely his son Ichabod was aware of his father’s condition. Why didn’t he proffer this information to Scotland Yard?”

“I suspect that Ichabod was reluctant to share his father’s inheritance with his brother. Since the death could easily be misinterpreted as foul play, Ichabod concealed this detail, allowing the authorities to draw conclusions implicating Rodney, who was too simple to defend himself. After the dust settled and his brother was institutionalized, the entire estate would accrue to Ichabod.”

“Of all the brazenness!” I exclaimed. “Deliberately submitting the case to your purview and expecting to deceive you!” Holmes characteristically shrugged off the compliment and resumed his meal.

“One thing puzzles me,” I continued. “Why was the disguise necessary?”

“What?” Holmes replied, his face now straight.

“You know, the riff-raff garb.” I proceeded to outline the episode of the previous day while Holmes listened with a blank stare on his face. When I finished, Holmes paused a full minute and then handed me his dinner knife handle first, stood up, turned with his back facing me, and his arms raised, crying “Go ahead then. Finish the deed!”

I wrote off his overreaction to tension and fatigue, although even after a good night’s rest it was weeks before he deigned to acknowledge my presence.


5 Historic Hauntings: Are These the Most Frightening of All Time? You Be the Judge…

Haint-Blue Shudders

borley25The Haunting of Borley Rectory, England. Concept & Design by Woody Dexter. (Images unless otherwise noted: Pinterest)

It’s always fun to put ghost stories into Best Of categories. Well, here is a list of the “Top 5” of all time, one per century. What do you think?

Going back to the 1500s, which stories or legends of ghosts/hauntings stand out? Well, according to this list (, these were some pretty nasty hauntings—one in a church?!

I DO hope they were caught, trapped, exorcized…

The Top 5 Hauntings 1500-1999

scoganTitle Page to Scogan’s Scoggin’s Jests, 1666, 1866

Ghost Tale from the 16th Century

Anne Boleyn, whose headless ghost is rumoured to haunt the vicinity of the Tower of London and other locations, may be the most famous ghost of the 16th century. But instead I nominate a literary hoax ghost.

Following the Reformation, Protestant theologians dismissed ghosts as Catholic inventions, delusions and frauds…

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Vintage Horror: The Bishop from Hell & Other Stories by Marjorie Bowen, 1949

Haint-Blue Shudders

ab806fcf49d767291939a1e27d837e03Chalice of Severence by Denis Forkas Kostromitin, 2013 (Commissioned by Polish rock band Behemoth).

Marjorie Bowen was one of several pen-names that were adopted by the writer Margaret Gabrielle Vere Campbell Long (1885 — 1952). This collection of her stories is 189 pages long and contains a dozen tales of the supernatural and macabre. The book also has an Introduction written by her son Hillary Long.

Below we provide a brief synopsis of the stories collected in The Bishop of Hell & Other Stories, and follow with some information on reading the book free; as well as a bio of the author.

The Stories

d9342cf24e62b07d8b98d891dfd2dd27The Fair Hair of Ambrosine

The first story, “The Fair Hair of Ambrosine”, is set in Paris, where the central character Claude Boucher is counting down the days to the 12th of December with an increasing dread. Claude works as a clerk in The Chamber of…

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The Lodger 1928 (Directed by Alfred Hitchcock)



About the Film:

When a landlady (Marie Ault) and her 41TA438AE9Lhusband (Arthur Chesney) take in a new lodger (Ivor Novello), they’re overjoyed: He’s quiet, humble and pays a month’s rent in advance. But his mysterious and suspicious behavior soon has them wondering if he’s the killer terrorizing local blond girls. Their daughter, Daisy (June), a cocky model, is far less concerned, her attraction obvious. Her police-detective boyfriend (Malcolm Keen), in a pique of jealousy, seeks to uncover the lodger’s true identity. The film, released on June 10, 1928 in New York City, is based on the novel, The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes.


Read the Novel, Free, Here, on Kindle for PC/Tablet/ios/Android…



Watch the Complete Film, Free, Here…,lodgerA