Richard Dalby has selected stories from the pens of England's most well-known supernatural authors, including M.R. James, Charles Dickens, and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, with a few Americans such as Ambrose Bierce and Harriet Beecher Stowe thrown in for good measure. There are 43 stories included in its 573 pages, many of which have been collected in other anthologies, although there are a few that you might not have read before. The stories span the Victorian era from 1839 right up to the end of the Edwardian decade in 1910. These are a few of my favorite stories in this collection:
"The Moonlit Road" by Ambrose Bierce--A young student is summoned home when his mother is murdered. His father then disappears from his boy's sight on a moonlit road.
"The Doll's Ghost" by F. Marion Crawford--An old dollmaker is reunited with his daughter with the aid of one of this book's strangest ghosts. It's difficult to believe this delicate tale of the supernatural was written by the same author who gave us one of the most terrifying ghost stories of all, i.e. "The Upper Berth."
"The Ash-tree" by M.R. James--If your Bible falls open to the verse, "Thou shalt seek me in the morning, and I shall not be" do not, I repeat DO NOT sleep in the Sir Matthew's old bedroom next to the ancient ash-tree. This story is a unique reworking of the "executed witch's revenge" theme.
"The Judge's House" by Bram Stoker--A likeable young man seeks solitude to study for a mathematics exam. Unfortunately, he picks the isolated house of a deceased hanging judge.
"Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter" by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu --An apprentice painter falls in love with his master's daughter, who is promised to a rich but very strange burgher of Rotterdam. Poor Rose does not marry the man of her dreams--more like the man of her nightmares.
"The Mystery of the Semi-detached" by E. Nesbit--A man persuades his fiancée and her family to move out of their comfortable semi-detached house because he had a vision of her murdered body in the house's bedroom.
"The Shadow" by E. Nesbit--The housekeeper is inveigled into telling a group of Christmas guests her own ghost story. Only one of them seems to realize that it is also a love story.
"Christmas Eve on a Haunted Hulk" by Frank Cowper--A man visits a college friend, who is now the curate of a forsaken country parish in the fens. The curate is busy with his religious duties, so the man decides to go duck hunting by himself, and eventually comes across an abandoned ship lying in the mud of a tidal flat. He is stranded on the old hulk when his duck punt floats loose, and must spend an uncomfortable, rainy night below, in the hold. But what is that thumping sound on the deck?