Ghost Story Short Story Review: "The Room in the Tower" by E. F. Benson
The first-person narrator of this story has been plagued by a recurrent dream since he was about 16. At the time of the story, he’s about 30. He finds himself visiting an unpleasant family, that of his schoolmate Jack Stone, whom he barely knew and didn’t much care for. Sometimes in the dream they have tea on the back lawn, from which a three-story tower-like building is visible. Sometimes they have dinner. Jack, his parents and a couple of sisters are there. No one speaks. The silence is broken when Mrs. Stone rises and announces, “Jack will show you your room: I have given you the room in the tower.”
The dream ends in terror just as he enters the room in the tower, but he never sees or understands what frightens him so. As the years go by, the people in the dream age as people normally would. One of the sisters leaves only to reappear with a man the narrator takes to be her husband.
The narrator meets up with another old friend from school, John Clinton, who takes him to meet his family at house they just bought in the country. Instantly, he recognizes the house from his dreams, but the family is not the family in his dreams. The people are warm and welcoming. Yet he knows all cannot be well when Mrs. Clinton tells him, “Jack will show you your room: I have given you the room in the tower.”
This is a spooky little story, but much of it is so unlikely. The narrator comes to accept the recurring dream, as horrible as it is, as simply inevitable. He offers no explanation for it. The evil says it has been waiting for him, but there seems to be not previous connection between it and him. The origin of the evil lies in a person who committed suicide and corpse that will not remain in consecrated ground.
Author E. F. Benson was known for atmospheric and sometimes amusing ghost stories, but he also wrote biographies, including one of Charlotte Brontë. He never married and is believed to have been a homosexual, something he couldn’t have been open about in his own lifetime, though readers do see homoeroticism in some of his works such as David Blaize .
Title: “The Room in the Tower” first published in The Room in the Tower and Other Stories (collection) 1912
Author: E.F Benson (Edward Frederick Benson) (1867-1940)
©2015 Denise Longrie
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