Ghost Story Short Story Review: "The Haunted and the Haunters" by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
The unnamed narrator of this story is happy to hear of a haunted house in London that no one seems to be able to spend more than a night or two in. He takes his servant F—— and his dog (oh, just put a red shirt on the poor wee beastie!) and engages the house.
The owner, Mr. J——, who has only recently returned from service abroad and inherited the house, warns him that no one, not even he, is comfortable in it. Most people flee in terror after a single night. No one is quite sure what terrifies them and no one tells quite the same story. So the narrator and his servant can’t say they weren’t adequately warned.
The dog has more sense than either of the humans and begs to be let out the front door the moment the company crosses the threshold. He gets talked into staying. As soon as the humans settle in for the evening, chairs start moving of their own accord.
This may sound like slapstick, but it is in deadly earnest. It reflects the mid-19th century interest in spiritualism as well as ancient beliefs of hauntings by evil people and wronged people. But it also blathers on about “scientific” notions of the true nature of spirits. They are not supernatural per se, but are human in origin and should therefore be something one can deal with.
While I think most modern readers may lose patience before this is over, the melodrama is what got to me. Interestingly, it wasn’t until the very end, when ALL IS REVEALED that I remembered I had read this story as kid some time long ago and far away. I think most people will be happy enough giving this one a pass.
English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton was a popular novelist in his day and contributed many common phrases to everyday speech: “The pen is mightier than the sword,” “the great unwashed,” “the pursuit of the almighty dollar,” and the never-to-be-forgotten opening to his 1830 novel Paul Clifford , “It was a dark and stormy night.”
Title: “The Haunted and the Haunters” first published in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine Aug. 1859
Author: Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton (legal name: Sir Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton) (1803-1873)
©2015 Denise Longrie
An earlier version of this review appeared on another site. It has since been removed and is no longer visible. It has been updated and expanded for its inclusion in PP.
Image Credit » http://pixabay.com/en/home-old-haunted-house-797031/ by HiQ-Visions