By in Sci Fi & Paranormal

Ghost Story Review: "The Ghost Club" by John Kendrick Bangs

The narrator of this story interviews prisoner no. 5010 at Sing Sing Prison, a gentleman sent up for “sneak thieving.” As a gentleman, he’s incapable of the manual labor required of prisoners.

“We can’t never do nothing with the boots he makes,” the prison keeper tells the narrator. He told the authorities his name was Marmaduke Fitztappington De Wolfe, of Pelhamhurst-by-the-Sea, Warwickshire. Not too surprisingly, they couldn’t get a response when they cabled Pelhamhurst-by-the-Sea to try to verify his identity.

After a “contribution” to the officer’s “pension fund,” the narrator for arranges an interview with no. 5010 who tells him that he is, of course, innocent of the theft. The spoons found on his person were a gift—just not from the owner. They were given to him by “a lot of mean, lowdown, practical-joke-loving ghosts.”

Back in the days when he was still Austin Merton Surrennes (of course he didn’t give the authorities his real name! He has an uncle and an inheritance to be concerned about!), he was travelling in this country and came across his old friend Hawley Hicks. This surprised him as Hicks had died some years before. Hicks then talks him out of visiting Coney Island in favor of seeing the Ghost Club where he might see such wonders Shakespeare and Caesar debating on the topic of “The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword.”

Of course, Austin goes. The ghosts are all famous people. There are no shopkeepers or accountants. It is silly and slapstick, and rather amusing. He just happens to mention that he admires the set of spoons. This, according their “rules” requires someone make them a gift to him. Shortly after that, he’s given the bum’s rush. Of course there are no witnesses to his account of matters, because, well, they’re all indisposed. This one I rather liked, as farfetched as it all is. It hearkens back to ancient stories of travelers being waylaid by trickster fairies.

Author John Kendrick Bangs worked at both Harper’s and Life magazine as a humorist.


Title: “The Ghost Club” first published in The Water Ghost and Others (collection) 1892

Author: John Kendrick Bangs (1862-1922)

Source: ISFDB




Last review: “The Last Supper” by H. D. Hamm

Last ghost story review: “The Middle Bedroom” by H. de Vere Stacpool


© 2015 Denise Longrie


An earlier version of this review appeared on another site. It has since been removed and is no longer visible there. It has been updated and expanded for its inclusion on PP.

Image Credit » by gerardom

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AliCanary wrote on September 24, 2015, 3:28 PM

It does sound rather fascinating, although 'tis a pity he wound up in jail.

msiduri wrote on September 24, 2015, 7:47 PM

It is funny, although it's rather old-fashioned.