Ghost Story Review: "The Drummer Ghost" by John William DeForest
The Thursday entry in my pre-Halloween ghost story countdown:
Mr. Adrian Underhill has just graduated from Winslow University. He is friendly with one Miss Marian Turner, a young lady who says extraordinary things. Orphaned, she is a ward of her uncle and must work for a living as a teacher.
As the two are speaking outside the Turner residence one evening, her uncle, Mr. Joshua Turner, appears on the veranda.
“He looks as if he wanted to see one of us,” Marian says. “It can’t be me. You had better come in.”
Underhill hesitates. He doesn’t want to be pressed about his intentions toward Marian. He’s just not quite in the marrying frame of mind yet.
Without saying a word to her uncle, Marian walks into the house. It is indeed Underhill that Turner wants to talk to, but not about Marian. He’s hearing things and he wants to know if Underhill with his freshly minted degree can sort them out for him. He hears a drummer coming down the street and into the house, but when he goes to look, nobody’s there.
Of course, Underhill thinks the poor old man has a screw loose but since he doesn’t wish to offend, says only that his education will be of no help. Nevertheless, he agrees to sit up with Turner and wait for the drummer.
At first, he hears nothing, but then as clear as day, he hears the sound of a drum coming up and down the hall. When he opens the door, the hallway is empty.
To his horror, he hears Marian cry, “You’ve killed him!”
While there is every bit of Victorian melodrama one might expect from a story of this time period, the author also manages to work in a degree of sophistication with respect to the ultimate conclusion. Is a spirit working on a guilty conscience, or is a guilty conscience simply working on itself?
While I can’t say enjoyed the melodrama, I was happier with the ending than I thought it would be. Great literature, no, and a bit of a morality tale: don’t mistreat your relatives.
Title: “The Drummer Ghost” first published in Atlantic Monthly July 1869
Author: John William DeForest (1826-1906)
Last review: “A Ghost” by Guy de Maupassant
©2015 Denise Longrie
An earlier version of this review appeared on another site. It has been removed and is no longer visible. It has been updated and expanded for its inclusion at PP.
Image Credit » https://pixabay.com/en/halloween-ghost-weird-surreal-963127/ by Alexas_Fotos