Ghost Story Short Story Review "The Shadows of the Dead" by Louis Becke
This story is set in the south Pacific of the 19th century, an unusual setting for most published ghost stories. A Mr. Denison, supercargo (i.e., officer in charge of cargo and commercial concerns on a merchant marine ship) of the Leonora , is out fishing with Kusis, headman of a nearby village, his wife Tulpé and their daughter Kinia.
Kusis tells him that the locals never spend the night on these islands alone because many white men died there long ago. They can be heard walking around and crying out. He will tell “Tenisoni” the story once they are away from these islands because only a “fool or a careless white man such as thee” would talk about the dead where their ghosts might hear.
Kusis’s story is an interesting one, though he and Denison never meet any of the ghosts. What they’re haunted by (and I hope I’m not reading too much into this) is really the poor conduct of the Westerners. The tale is told with a great deal of subtlety. Denison may look down upon Kusis for claiming to be Christian yet still spooked by an island of haunted ghosts, yet he listens to his story. And the one person who escapes retaliation at the end has no blood on hands—the morality of this idea is then backed up with a quote from the Bible. It’s an odd, bloody tale that does give one pause, particularly for the time it was written
Author Louis Becke was an Australian of English parentage. One of the younger children of a large family, he left home young and took to the sea as a stowaway. He was later tried and acquitted of piracy. He spent time in the South Pacific Islands, which furnished him with material for stories published while he lived in Europe.
Title: “The Shadows of the Dead” first published in 1897
Author: Louis Becke (1855-1913)
©2015 Denise Longrie
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