The Old Nurse's Story by Elizabeth Gaskell: Short Story

Woman and boy standing on doorstep
Credit: Hartlepool Cultural Services
This is my very first Elizabeth Gaskell short story for the RIP VI Challenge. I sure hope they get better. The problem is back in Gaskell's time The Old Nurse's Story was probably pretty scary. I've seen enough episodes of Scooby-Doo to be unimpressed. There's a spooky old house with forbidden wings, an organ that plays mysterious music, and a ghostly girl on the moors. Zoinks! The ending I'm sure I saw on The Garfield Halloween Special when I was a kid.

I did enjoy the nurse's voice. Gaskell wrote it in a "as true as I'm sitting here" style that felt authentic. So, who is this nurse and what's her story? The nurse is telling one of her charges about something that happened when his mom was little. Her Miss Rosamond was orphaned quite suddenly and shipped off to live with an ancient aunt in said spooky old house. The nurse goes along happily until she sees the place. Things are fine at first, until the music and the creepy kid start making trouble. Apparently the old aunt has some dirty laundry the dead want revealed.

The title of the short story collection is Curious, If True so you have to wonder if the nurse is telling a true tale or did she end this whopper with a "now eat your green beans or the dead baby will get ya."


  1. I actually don't mind when these older ghost stories have that Scooby Doo feel, IF they are written well. I certainly don't expect to be scared by many of them. I just want to feel that nostalgic atmosphere when I read them. But still, if it is not well written, or structured well, then I don't get that feeling.

    I haven't read any of Gaskill's stories, to my recollection. I do remember adding one of her collections to my wishlist during one of the first R.I.P. Challenges.

    I'll be interested in your thoughts if you read any more of the stories to see if they improve.

  2. Elizabeth Gaskell has been on my TBR for quite some time, but more because of Wives and Daughters and Cranford. I'll probably start out with those first, and keep my old school ghost stories to Edith Wharton or Daphne du Maurier :)

  3. I think Carl is right when he says that older ghost stories should probably be read to enjoy a well written story, rather than to be scared by. I usually find them creepy rather than terrifying, but I just love a beautifully crafted story set a century or so ago.

    I read The Old Nurse's Story many years ago and don't think I was mad about it to be honest. I have a couple of books of her ghost stories and will try one or two soon to see if I like them any better now. Definitely I would not name Gaskell as a favourite ghost story writer.

  4. Thanks for commenting, guys! The only Gaskell I've read was her biography of Charlotte Bronte, so I don't have much to compare. It could be that Gaskell doesn't have the ghost story touch. I guess I'll know by the end of this collection.

  5. I cant' stand being scared, so sounds just right for me. I love cheesy scary. That said, I have heard that Gaskell's ghost stories aren't the most impressive of her writing....

  6. My first attempt at reading Gaskell was a disaster, so I have been avoiding her ever since....


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