Famous Modern Ghost Stories

Retro Reads: Famous Modern Ghost Stories

NoCategory_Rr.fwDorothy Scarborough’s introduction to Famous Modern Ghost Stories suggests that the modern ghost (of late 19th century vintage) had many advantages over ghosts who have haunted fiction for hundreds of years. “Modern ghosts are less simple and primitive than their ancestors, and are developing complexes of various kinds” she writes, recognizing that “whereas in the past a ghost had to stalk or glide to his haunts, now he limousines or airplanes…” Scarborough seems to foresee the modern ghosts of TV’s Supernatural: complex characters with personalities and powers beyond “boo!”

Dorothy Scarborough author of The Wind and editor of Famous Modern Ghost Stories

The “modern” aspect of the Famous Modern Ghost Stories might be a little confusing. The 1921 publication followed closely on the publication of editor Dorothy Scarborough’s revised dissertation The Supernatural in Modern English Fiction (1917), recognized as a basic reference work soon after it appeared. At least 9 of the 15 authors whose short stories are presented in FMGS were contemporaries of the editor, and most of them were living when the book was published. Although Scarborough is little known today, she is well represented by several books on the folklore and country people of early 20th century Texas. One of her novels, The Wind, was even made into a 1928 film starring the silent film star, Lillian Gish.

Represented in the collection are stories by Ambrose Bierce, Edgar Allan Poe, and Arthur Machen, familiar writers all to those of us who enjoy the chill of a spectral tale. Others such as Fitz-James O’Brien are less well known today, but his story “What Was It?” though brief, is as an original an idea of a ghost story as any more contemporary television effort. And Leonid Andreyev’s “Lazarus” is a chilling tale of the biblical character’s life after being raised from the dead—not a happy one.

Famous Modern Ghost Stories is available for download from Project Gutenberg in multiple e- formats including Kindle and from LibriVox (check out this LibriVox via Internet Archive for a more user-friendly download) as an audiobook.

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