Roald Dahl was a famous writer from Wales who specialized in short stories for both children and adults. His works include such famous titles as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach or Matilda.
But the book from which I come to speak to you was not written by him, but was commissioned to make and edit it. This book is a compilation of his favourite ghost stories.
In 1958 he had the idea of making a TV series based exclusively on ghost stories that, unfortunately, never came to anything. For that project he ended up reading more than 500 stories of ghosts of which he selected the best 24. Having made all this effort he decided that his work was not spoiled and edited a book with 14 of those 24 stories, the 14 that were the best among hundreds.
Spookiness is, after all, the real purpose of the ghost story. It should give you the creeps and disturb your thoughts.
It is a very interesting book, the truth is that I wanted it because I thought they were stories written by Roald Dahl, but I was not disappointed at all. He made an outstanding and varied selection that encompasses the different types of ghosts and their interactions with humans.
Personally I think it is an easy book simply because it is an anthology. It is ideal for interspersing with other readings.
The most endearing thing is that there are stories capable of terrifying us, others that leave us in a deep state of reflection and others that awaken tenderness among us. That, in my opinion, is its most prominent feature of the book.
I want to read the other 10 stories!
The introduction of this book is the only part written by Roald Dahl. He tells us more about his idea of the TV series, the problems he had when selecting the best 24 and the mistake they made that lead the project abandonment.
W. S. de L. P. Hartley
A well-known writer begins to receive postcards from a stranger who signs with his initials that is approaching him in a silent and terrible threat of an unspoken revenge.
What happens when the most horrifying being you can imagine is standing in front of you?
Harry by Rosemary Timperley
We all know of a story in which an adopted child doesn’t turn out to be the little angel he looked like. Well in this story the problem is not the girl, but Harry, her “imaginary friend”.
A woman has to face the terror caused by the imaginary friend of her adopted daughter. Little by little she discovers the sad past of the girl, stained with pain and death and understands the latent threat that this “friend” of the girl embodies.
The Corner Shop of Cynthia Asquith
A beautiful story full of hope and redemption in which the ghost in question is not a tortured soul but one that seeks to compensate for the evil he did in life by helping others.
Everything happens in an antique shop whose appearance changes drastically depending on the nature of who the regent is at the time.
It’s a story that aims to show the kindness and generosity that is inherent in the human being.
In the Tube of E. F. Benson
This story opens a new possibility, the existence of ghosts not only of the dead, but also of the living. What they call an astral body. The differences between the two are established, both in their own essence and in the sensations they transmit to those who can see them, and it is also about mediumship.
It is a very interesting story that perfectly describes the sensations produced when being around beings from beyond, so much so that it makes you think that the author lived something similar.
On the other hand, it begins with an interesting concept of time, space and eternity. He argues that it is difficult for us to understand the dimensions of time and space because we set limits for them, because we always think “and before?” or “and beyond?”. When thinking that there is no limit, that they are eternal, that problem disappears.
Christmas Meeting by Rosemary Timperley
This is a very short but extremely accurate story. I do not consider that what appears in it is a ghost as such but the shadow of two people who spend Christmas alone and who are united throughout time.
A very good idea that opens a new world of possibilities for ghost stories in which time is something that takes a back seat.
Elias and the Draug de Jonas Lie
It is a story based on a Nordic legend of a spirit that furrows evils and takes revenge on those who claim evil. This is the case of the protagonist who ignores the warning words and puts his whole family at risk.
Playmates by A. M. Burrage
With this story we are shown that not all appearances are intrinsically evil, some can indeed pretend to do good and help those who need them. But being able to see and hear ghosts, even if they are of a good nature, opens up possibilities for new encounters that may not be so harmless or pleasant.
Ringing the Changes by Robert Aickman
Without a doubt the story that I liked the most, very different from the others since it is not about incorporeal ghosts but about the resurrection of the flesh. A chilling story that I would have liked in a much longer format.
A newly married couple go on a honeymoon to a coastal town where the bells of all the churches don’t stop ringing for hours. An old guest of the same hotel reveals the reality of what is happening and they have little time to decide what to do.
The Telephone by Mary Treadgold
A very short story that I find very difficult to summarize without gutting it whole. I will only say that there is a telephone that connects two houses, two people and two very different worlds.
The most curious thing is that it is a ghost story in which, as a reader, you never get to interact directly with the ghost itself.
The Ghost of a Hand by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
The inhabitants of a mansion begin to have paranormal experiences and to see a white and plump hand. The events are going to influence and even make some of the characters sick.
The most chilling part of this story is that any of us, on one of those nights in which we are alone and susceptible, have been able to imagine things like hands. This is Why I’ve enjoyed it so much.
The Sweeper by A. M. Burrage
In this story, the possibility of a ghost stalking a living with an inherent threat of death is explored. It is an interesting story in which it is proposed that the actions we do in life can pursue us after it, once dead.
Everyone knows the secret and share in the terror of not being able to do anything to stop the inexorable course of things.
Afterward by Edith Warton
What happens when we meet a ghost and are unable to identify its true nature and confuse them with a living creature? This question is what explores this story. Everything happens in a haunted house in which one can’t identify the ghosts until much later.
These ghosts are able to mix and interact with the living and even claim revenge.
Brighton Road by Richard Middleton
A very short story that explores the possibility that a ghost has no awareness of being dead. After all, can we say with absolute certainty every morning not to have died during the night?
The Upper Berth by F. Marion Crawford
What is special about this story is that the protagonist can physically interact with the ghost, that is, it opens up the possibility that the living and the dead interact directly. To make it even more intense, the whole story takes place on a ship at sea.
It contains the basic points before the “standard” appearance of a ghost: temperature drop, humidity increase, unpleasant smell and objects that move without explanation. In short, a great story to close the anthology.