Short Short Review: "In the Barn" by Burges Johnson
The narrator of this story, a teacher, and his wife bring a group of students into an old barn that has been unused for some 30 years to tell them a seasonal ghost story. The girls arrange themselves in a circle on the hay. The teacher, already suspicious of the regular student pranksters Miss Anstell and Miss Royce, hangs the open-flame lanterns far enough away from the hay so as not to cause trouble.
“This barn stands on the old Creed place,” he begins. “Peter Creed was the last owner, but I suppose that it has always been and always will be known as the Turner barn….”
Above them, the rusty mechanism that once moved the hay starts to creak in the dark as the wind picks up. Night falls as the teacher tells his tale of a drunken husband, usurious neighbor and an innocent wife with her children being run off the land. While he’s talking, he gets the feeling of something brushing by his head. No doubt it’s that Miss Anstell again, annoying him.
This is creepy, but it’s also overstated, from the melodramatic story the teacher is telling, to the musty, atmospheric setting of an old barn, to the students who are only half paying attention. It’s parody, up until the end, which is kind of confusing, as one of the students ends up recovering at home from a “mental shock” and the teacher is looked upon as simply taking a practical joke too far.
Title: “In the Barn” first published in Century Magazine June 1920
Author: Burges Johnson (1877-1963)
©2015 Denise Longrie
Image Credit » http://pixabay.com/en/roof-decay-ruin-lumber-lapsed-540835/ by FrankWinkler