Wednesday December 21, 2016

Just in time for Christmas: a previously unpublished ghost story from H. G. Wells

 Andrew Gulli

Andrew Gulli (Alan Jacobson)

Listen 12:00

"This was an old English tradition," says Andrew Gulli, editor of The Strand Magazine. He is referring to the Victorian era tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmastime. After Dickens' A Christmas Carol became such a hit, "a lot of people had this tradition of gathering around the fireplace and remembering ghosts of past and a lot of their relatives who are no longer with them," explains Gulli. This practice was carried on by one of England's most famous ghost stories writers M. R. James, where "he would gather people all around his home and they would have a crackling fire and he would be reading ghost stories for them," adds Gulli. Plus, there was a lot more mysticism surrounding death during that time, so it was common for people to try and get in touch with relatives who had passed.   

"Nobody seemed to have known about this," says Gulli of the newly found H. G. Wells story, The Haunted Ceiling, "this was probably tucked away in the archives." The Haunted Ceiling was written in the 1890s and follows a man who is driven to madness when his indoor chimney produces the image of a woman with her throat slit in soot on the ceiling. Eventually, the man seeks the assistance of his friends to figure out why this is happening.

Gulli has published The Haunted Ceiling in the holiday edition of The Strand Magazine, but if you're looking for further holiday reading, check out Gulli's list of recommended ghost stories:

M. R. James, Casting the Runes

Hugh Walpole, Major Wilbraham

H. G. Wells, The Red Room

Arthur Machen, The Three Imposters  

E. F. Benson, Night Terrors: The Ghost Stories of E. F. Benson