Monday, October 19, 2009

More Virago Ghost Stories

The Virago Book of Ghost Stories is still supplying plenty of Halloween-themed reading. This week, I've moved ahead another forty years, to the late 1930's, and selected works by two new-to-me authors.

"The Station Road" by Ann Bridge was originally published in 1936. It begins:
There was a little pause when the last speaker finished. We sat round the fire, each occupied with his own thoughts; the mind of each seeking its own solution of the problems raised by the uncanny story to which we had just listened.

I was immediately reminded of Henry James' The Turn of The Screw, which also opens around a fire with the telling of a strange tale. The similarities may not extend much further, but an outstanding ghost story was already anticipated. Bridge did not disappoint. A mysterious evening visitor, a deserted road, a train station, a murder, and a warped time dimension combine to deliver a chilling story.

Next up was "Roaring Tower" written by Stella Gibbons (author of Cold Comfort Farm) in 1937. This story is about a young woman sent away by her parents to visit an aunt in Cornwall, in hope that she will forget an inappropriate attraction.

The passions which invade a heart at nineteen, like a beautiful menacing army, seem faded and small enough if one looks back on them after a lapse of fifty years, as I am doing now, but on the late summer morning I describe, as I waited with my parents under the dome of the railway station, no heart could have been fiercer, and yet colder, than mine. One voice, which I should never hear again, sounded in my ears, and one face, which I had promised to forget, filled my eyes.

The ruin of the Roaring Tower, surrounded by beautiful rose bushes, captures her imagination after hearing a strange sound emanating from deep within. This story involves village lore, a large bear-like monster, a fall into the tower, and a questionable state of consciousness. It proved to be another wonderfully atmospheric Halloween read.

Next week, the last Monday before Halloween, I'll be reading a more modern ghost story from the same collection. Visit The Book Mine Set to see more Short Story Monday posts.


  1. I'm loving these short stories! It totally takes me back to the things I used to read when I was younger!

  2. I think I may really enjoy this collection of short stories. I have never read "Turn of the Screw" maybe I will sometime.

  3. Are you noticing a change in styles or anything as the chronology gets younger and younger?

  4. I won a copy of this book on ebay (before my book buying ban!) and am waiting anxiously for it to arrive. Will be good for Halloween.

  5. Oooh I want this book! Ann Bridge is superb - track down her novels as you won't be disappointed. Illyrian Spring is one of my all time favourites.

  6. Sandy - These stories have been so much fun. Now in addition to being surprised that I enjoy short stories, I'm amazed that I love ghost stories, too!

    Staci - These stories are great, but it took some effort to get through The Turn of The Screw.

    John - In addition to the language itself, there have been some other changes. My plan is to do a wrap-up post on the ghost stories the week after Halloween.

  7. Verity - This is the perfect choice for Halloween weekend reading. Enjoy!

    Rachel - Don't be shocked, but I'd never heard of Ann Bridge before reading that story! I will try and track down her novels. I'm guessing Persephone doesn't publish her books?


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