RIP XII: Two Short Stories of Haunted Houses


I always make a bit of time for short stories during RIP. The horror genre is perfect for short form writing. People have been sitting around in the dark trying to scare each other with their tales since forever. You don't need a lot of explanation or exposition to get your point across. "I was in this place, some creepy things happened, the end."

The following stories follow that formula perfectly. In fact, they are almost the same story but with a few details changed. Let's take a look.

An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street by Joesph Sheridan Le Fanu. Two Irish cousins keep house in the family's rental property in Dublin, unaware of its haunted reputation. Not long after settling in the narrator's sleep is disturbed by terrible dreams. His cousin unceremoniously vacates the house, leaving him alone to experience harrowing encounters.

The Haunted and the Haunters by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. A English gentleman hears of a haunted house for rent and spends the night there with his servant and dog. Immediately, the group is harassed by spirits. The servant flees and leaves the narrator alone to witness a ghostly visitation.

Since I read both stories within 24 hours of each other, I couldn't help but compare the two. I ended up liking Le Fanu's story more for a few reasons. First, the protagonist is a more likable character. He and his cousin are just trying to make their way in the world. Being medical students, they try to save a few pennies by staying in a recently purchased family property. They are just minding their own business when the events occur. On the other hand, Lytton's hero is looking for trouble. He's a guy with money and little else to do, so why not rent a haunted house for funsies?

I also like a ghost story where the hauntings are more psychological. In Aungier St, the narrator experiences dreams, he hears more of the ghost than he sees. In the end, the cousin relates the experience that drove him from the house to the narrator, which helps put the pieces all together. The Haunted's ghosts are right in the narrators face from the start. They are not shy! They even put on a little play for the narrator that reminded me of- don't laugh- Garfield's experience in Garfield's Halloween Adventure. (I must have watched that show about a million times when I was a kid.)

The Haunted and the Haunter's protagonist is a "rational" man and takes pains to tell the reader how he had to be courageous and not give into fear. He goes into some theories about ghosts, including some discussion of mediums and mesmerism. It's a very Victorian point of view, but also a bit like Ancient Aliens, where a quas-scientific explanation is given which doesn't hold up to much scrutiny. The alternative title is The House and the Brain, so...

The Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street, on the other hand, is just a straight up ghost story, as the narrator points out in the first sentences.
It is not worth telling, this story of mine--at least, not worth writing. Told, indeed, as I have sometimes been called upon to tell it, to a circle of intelligent and eager faces, lighted up by a good after-dinner fire on a winter's evening, with a cold wind rising and wailing outside, and all snug and cosy within, it has gone off--though I say it, who should not--indifferent well.
The narrator knows the right atmosphere for this story, and as cousin Tom is dearly departed, there is no one to refute his claims. You have to decide whether or not to believe him. It helped that I read this during a thunderstorm. Perfection!

I'd still recommend both, as they are short and available for free. On Project Gutenberg:
An Account of Some Strange Disturbances on Aungier Street / The Haunted and the Haunters.


5 comments:

  1. Maybe I could handle horror in short story form.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh, fun!

    I'm surprised the narrator in The Haunted didn't go off on women's fragile sensibilities and hysterics. It seems fitting with his Victorian ego.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love a good story about a haunted house.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Have you ever watched The Ghost Breakers with Bob Hope? It uses all the typical haunted house short story ideas and makes it a comedy (mostly).

    ReplyDelete
  5. I totally agree that the short story is a perfect vehicle for horror, and the Victorians were masters of combining the two. I think I've read the Le Fanu story, but it's been so long I really don't remember it much. I've never read anything by Bulwer-Lytton, so this might be a good way to get a taste of his writing.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for visiting! Please leave a comment. I've disabled Anonymous comments since I've had a barrage of Anon spam lately. Sorry about that.
Also, if you leave a legit comment but it contains a spammy link, it will not be published.