Story #4: “The Lianhan Shee” by Will Carleton, from The Greatest Ghost Stories Ever Told, ed. by Sanguine Woods, 2017

The Lianhan Shee*

Will Carleton, 1888

In Irish folklore the Lianhan Shee is a vampiric, seductive, muse-like female spirit. The name comes from the Gaelic word “leannan“: a sweetheart, concubine, or favourite; and sídhe, “of the fairy (barrow) mounds” (i.e., burial mounds/graves). Also called a lianhan sidhe (pronounce “shee” or “shay”), leanan sídhe, liannan shìth, and leanhaun shee, she is one of the “faery folk” from ancient Irish folklore. Amoral at best, she typically appears in the form of a beautiful woman who takes a human lover and becomes his muse—ironic, because, unlike the muse of Greek mythology, the Irish lianhan shee’s interest in her mortal lover is often fatal for him. While she very well may inspire him, artistically, in actuality she “feeds” off his life, his purpose, his spirituality—until he has nothing left but shadows of his formal self..

One summer evening Mary Sullivan was sitting at her own well-swept hearthstone, knitting feet to a pair of sheep’s gray stockings for Bartley, her husband. It was one of those serene evenings in the month of June, when the decline of day assumes a calmness and repose, resembling what we might suppose to have irradiated Eden, when our first parents sat in it before their fall. The beams of the sun shone through the windows in clear shafts of amber light, exhibiting millions of those atoms which float to the naked eye within its mild radiance. The dog lay barking in his dreams at her feet, and the gray cat sat purring placidly upon his back, from which even his occasional agitation did not dislodge her.

Mrs. Sullivan was the wife of a wealthy farmer, and niece to the Rev. Felix O’Rourke; her kitchen was consequently large, comfortable, and warm. Over where she sat, jutted out the “brace” well lined with bacon; to the right hung a well-scoured salt-box, and to the left was the jamb, with its little gothic paneless window to admit the light. Within it hung several ash rungs, seasoning for flail-sooples, or boulteens, a dozen of eel-skins, and several stripes of horse-skin, as hangings for them. The dresser was a “parfit white,” and well furnished with the usual appurtenances. Over the door and on the “threshel,” were nailed, “for luck,” two horse-shoes, that had been found by accident. In a little “hole” in the wall, beneath the salt-box, lay a bottle of holy water to keep the place purified; and against the cope-stone of the gable, on the outside, grew a large lump of house-leek, as a specific for sore eyes and other maladies.

In the corner of the garden were a few stalks of tansy “to kill the thievin’ worms in the childhre, the crathurs,” together with a little Rose-noble, Solomon’s Seal, and Bu-gloss, each for some medicinal purpose. The “lime wather” Mrs. Sullivan could make herself, and the “bog bane” for the Unh roe, (red water) or heart-burn, grew in their own meadow drain; so that, in fact, she had within her reach a very decent pharmacopoeia, perhaps as harmless as that of the profession itself.

Lying on the top of the salt-box was a bunch of fairy flax, and sewed in the folds of her own scapular was the dust of what had once been a four-leaved shamrock, an invaluable specific “for seein’ the good people,” if they happened to come within the bounds of vision. Over the door in the inside, over the beds, and over the cattle in the outhouses, were placed branches of withered palm, that had been consecrated by the priest on Palm Sunday; and when the cows happened to calve, this good woman tied, with her own hands, a woollen thread about their tails, to prevent them from being overlooked by evil eyes, or elf-shot by the fairies¹, who seem to possess a peculiar power over females of every species during the period of parturition. It is unnecessary to mention the variety of charms which she possessed for that obsolete malady the colic, the toothache, headache, or for removing warts, and taking motes out of the eyes; let it suffice to inform our readers that she was well stocked with them; and that, in addition to this, she, together with her husband, drank a potion made up and administered by an herb-doctor, for preventing forever the slightest misunderstanding or quarrel between man and wife. Whether it produced this desirable object or not our readers may conjecture, when we add, that the herb-doctor, after having taken a very liberal advantage of their generosity, was immediately compelled to disappear from the neighborhood, in order to avoid meeting with Bartley, who had a sharp lookout for him, not exactly on his own account, but “in regard,” he said, “that it had no effect upon Mary, at all, at all;” whilst Mary, on the other hand, admitted its efficacy upon herself, but maintained, “that Bartley was worse nor ever afther it.”

Such was Mary Sullivan, as she sat at her own hearth, quite alone, engaged as we have represented her. What she may have been meditating on we cannot pretend to ascertain; but after some time, she looked sharply into the “backstone,” or hob, with an air of anxiety and alarm. By and by she suspended her knitting, and listened with much earnestness, leaning her right ear over to the hob, from whence the sounds to which she paid such deep attention proceeded. At length she crossed herself devoutly, and exclaimed, “Queen of saints about us!—is it back ye are? Well sure there’s no use in talkin’, bekase they say you know what’s said of you, or to you—an’ we may as well spake yez fair.—Hem—musha, yez are welcome back, crickets, avournenee! I hope that, not like the last visit ye ped us, yez are comin’ for luck now! Moolyeen (cow without horns) died, any way, soon afther your other kailyee, (short visit) ye crathurs ye. Here’s the bread, an’ the salt, an’ the male for yez, an’ we wish ye well. Eh?—saints above, if it isn’t listenin’ they are jist like a Christhien! Wurrah, but ye are the wise an’ the quare crathurs all out!”

She then shook a little holy water over the hob, and muttered to herself an Irish charm or prayer against the evils whic crickets are often supposed by the peasantry to bring with them, and requested, still in the words of the charm, that their presence might, on that occasion, rather be a presage of good fortune to man and beast belonging to her.

“There now, ye dhonans (delicate little thing) ye, sure ye can’t say that ye’re ill-thrated here, anyhow, or ever was mocked or made game of in the same family. You have got your hansel, an’ full an’ plenty of it; hopin’ at the same time that you’ll have no rason in life to cut our best clothes from revinge. Sure an’ I didn’t desarve to have my brave stuff long body (old-fashioned Irish gown) riddled the way it was, the last time ye wor here, an’ only bekase little Barny, that has but the sinse of a gorsoon, tould yez in a joke to pack off wid yourself somewhere else.

Musha, never heed what the likes of him says; sure he’s but a caudy, (little boy) that doesn’t mane ill, only the bit o’ divarsion wid yez.”

She then resumed her knitting, occasionally stopping, as she changed her needles, to listen, with her ear set, as if she wished to augur from the nature of their chirping, whether they came for good or for evil. This, however, seemed to be beyond her faculty of translating their language; for—after sagely shaking her head two or three times, she knit more busily than before.²

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Jon Padgett Unleashes Philosophical Horror with “The Secret of Ventriloquism”

Haint-Blue Shudders

coverSource: Jon Padgett Unleashes Philosophical Horror with “The Secret of Ventriloquism”

I have this ebook. It’s pretty creepy. I never liked the ventriloquist doll I got for Christmas in the 70s.I’d turn its head toward the wall in my closet in the corner. One night, my sister said because I do that the doll was getting mad and planning to murder me in my sleep.

They tried to tell me but I
I couldn’t stop myself and I
I came back, I came back haunted
C-C-C-came back haunted
(9-Inch Nails)

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Vintage Horror: The Second Century of Creepy Stories, ed. by Hugh Walpole, 1937; Table of Contents

Haint-Blue Shudders

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Table of Contents

• 19 • Mad Monkton • (1859) • novella by Wilkie Collins [as by William Wilkie Collins]
• 97 • Mortmain • (1931) • novelette by John Metcalfe
• 141 • The Dead Bride • (1929) • novelette by Anonymous
• 187 • Carmilla • [Martin Hesselius] • (1872) • novella by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu [as by Sheridan Le Fanu]
• 317 • Tarnhelm • (1929) • short story by Hugh Walpole [as by Sir Hugh Walpole]
• 339 • A Watcher by the Dead • (1889) • short story by Ambrose Bierce
• 395 • The Most Maddening Story in the World • short story by Ralph Straus
• 419 • Change • (1936) • short story by Arthur Machen
• 439 • Keeping His Promise • (1906) • short story by Algernon Blackwood
• 457 • The Oak Saplings • (1931) • short story…

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The Stoneground Ghost Tales (1912) by E.G. Swain

The Ghost Stories of E. G. Swain

Mystery and Imagination

Stoneground_Ghost_Tales_1912_Front_cover

Edmund Gill Swain was born in 1861 at Stockport in Manchester. A cleric and antiquary, he was a good friend of noted ghost story writer M.R. James and was present at many of the famous private gatherings at which the latter’s stories were first read aloud. Swain’s only collection of ghostly tales is set in a fictionalised version of Stanground near Peterborough, where Swain was a vicar – indeed, the vicar of Stoneground, Mr Batchel, is a recognisable self-portrait. The collection is dedicated to James and is firmly in the antiquarian tradition of supernatural fiction. Unlike his friend’s fiction, however, Swain’s own stories are less rooted in the horror genre, with only one of his apparitions harbouring malevolent intentions. Swain passed away peacefully in 1938.

The Stoneground Ghost Tales (1912) [Kindle]

The Stoneground Ghost Tales (1912) [Epub]

The Stoneground Ghost Tales (1912) [PDF]

Critical editions:

The Stoneground Ghost Tales, intr. Cardinal Cox (Ashcroft, British Columbia:…

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Free Read of the Week—Vintage Horror: “The Four-Fifteen Express” by Amelia B. Edwards, 1867

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John Dwerrihouse had absconded three months ago–and I had seen him only a few hours back John Dwerrihouse had embezzled seventy-five thousand pounds ofthe company’s money, yet told me that he carried that sum upon his person Were ever facts so strangely incongruous, so difficult to reconcile? How should he have ventured again into the light of day? How dared he show himself along the line? Above all, what had he been doing throughout those mysterious three months of disappearance?

The events which I am about to relate took place between nine and ten years ago. Sebastopol had fallen in the early spring, the peace of Paris had been concluded since March, our commercial relations with the Russian empire were but recently renewed; and I, returning home after my first northward journey since the war, was well pleased with the prospect of spending the month of December under the hospitable and thoroughly English roof of my excellent friend, Jonathan Jelf, Esq., of Dumbleton Manor, Clayborough, East Anglia. Travelling in the interests of the wellknown firm in which it is my lot to be a junior partner, I had been called upon to visit not only the capitals of Russia and Poland, but had found it also necessary to pass some weeks among the trading ports of the Baltic; whence it came that the year was already far spent before I again set foot on English soil, and that, instead of shooting pheasants with him, as I had hoped, in October, I came to be my friend’s guest during the more genial Christmas-tide.

My voyage over, and a few days given up to business in Liverpool and London, I hastened down to Clayborough with all the delight of a school-boy whose holidays are at hand. My way lay by the Great East Anglian line as far as Clayborough station, where I was to be met by one of the Dumbleton carriages and conveyed across the remaining nine miles of country. It was a foggy afternoon, singularly warm for the 4th of December, and I had arranged to leave London by the 4:15 express. The early darkness of winter had already closed in; the lamps were lighted in the carriages; a clinging damp dimmed the windows, adhered to the door-handles, and pervaded all the atmosphere; while the gas-jets at the neighbouring book-stand diffused a luminous haze that only served to make the gloom of the terminus more visible. Having arrived some seven minutes before the starting of the train, and, by the connivance of the guard, taken sole possession of empty compartment, I lighted my travelling-lamp, made myself particularly snug, and settled down to the undisturbed enjoyment of a book and a cigar. Great, therefore, was my disappointment when, at the last moment, a gentleman came hurrying along the platform, glanced into my carriage, opened the locked door with a private key, and stepped in.

It struck me at the first glance that I had seen him before—a tall, spare man, thin-lipped, light-eyed, with an ungraceful stoop in the shoulders and scant gray hair worn somewhat long upon collar. He carried a light waterproof coat, an umbrella, and a large brown japanned deed-box, which last he placed under the seat. This done, he felt carefully in his breast-pocket, as if to make certain of the safety of his purse or pocket-book, laid his umbrella in the netting overhead, spread the waterproof across his knees, and exchanged his hat for a travelling-cap of some Scotch material. By this time the train was moving out of the station and into the faint gray of the wintry twilight beyond.

I now recognised my companion. I recognised him from the moment when he removed his hat and uncovered the lofty, furrowed, and somewhat narrow brow beneath. I had met him, as I distinctly remembered, some three years before, at the very house for which, in all probability, he was now bound, like myself. His name was Dwerrihouse, he was a lawyer by profession, and, if I was not greatly mistaken, was first cousin to the wife of my host. I knew also that he was a man eminently “well-to-do,” both as regarded his professional and private means. The Jelfs entertained him with that sort of observant courtesy which falls to the lot of the rich relation, the children made much of him, and the old butler, albeit somewhat surly “to the general,” treated him with deference. I thought, observing him by the vague mixture of lamplight and twilight, that Mrs. Jelf’s cousin looked all the worse for the three years’ wear and tear which had gone over his head since our last meeting. He was very pale, and had a restless light in his eye that I did not remember to have observed before. The anxious lines, too, about his mouth were deepened, and there was a cavernous, hollow look about his cheeks and temples which seemed to speak of sickness or sorrow. He had glanced at me as he came in, but without any gleam of recognition in his face. Now he glanced again, as I fancied, somewhat doubtfully. When he did so for the third or fourth time I ventured to address him.

“Mr. John Dwerrihouse, I think?”

“That is my name,” he replied.

“I had the pleasure of meeting you at Dumbleton about three years ago.”

Mr. Dwerrihouse bowed.

“I thought I knew your face,” he said; “but your name, I regret to say—”

“Langford—William Langford. I have known Jonathan Jelf since we were boys together at Merchant Taylor’s, and I generally spend a few weeks at Dumbleton in the shooting season. I suppose we are bound for the same destination?”

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