By in Sci Fi & Paranormal

Ghost Story Review: "The Shell Of Sense" by Olivia Howard Dunbar

Frances has just passed away, but she can’t pass over—not quite yet. She returns home to find it “intolerably unchanged.” Her sister Theresa, with whom she’d been on good enough terms, though they’d never really spoken of their feelings, is sitting at her desk— her desk!—taking care of some correspondence.

Frances’ husband Allan comes in. She’s elated. After all, it’s he that she’s come back to see, even if Allan doesn’t believe in the supernatural:

“I came, therefore, somewhat nearer—but I did now touch him. I merely leaned toward him and with incredible softness whispered his name. That much I could not have forborne; the spell of life was too strong in me.

“But it gave him no comfort, no delight. ‘Theresa!’ he called, in a voice dreadful with alarm—and in that instant the last veil fell…”

Poor Frances comes to realize that all the time she lived happily with her husband, he and her sister were in love with each other, but out of love for and loyalty to her, they did not speak to each other of it. She’s jealous, irrationally so, making this a sad little story. The reader is sad not only for Allan and Theresa, but also for Frances who really should have left a while ago.

This story is available free of charge through Project Gutenberg.


Title: “The Shell of Sense” First appeared in the December 1908 issue of "Harper's Magazine."

Author: Olivia Howard Dunbar (1873-1953)

Source: ISFDB


Last review: “Shepherd of the Planets” by Alan Mattox

Last ghost story: “A Cold Greeting” by Ambrose Bierce



©2015 Denise Longrie

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Rufuszen wrote on November 11, 2015, 10:13 AM

It is rather sad, with that Victorian morality and duty

JohnRoberts wrote on November 11, 2015, 10:17 AM

Where do you find these collections of vintage ghost stories? Do you find them at the library or buy them?

MegL wrote on November 11, 2015, 10:23 AM

That's very sad. They were loyal to her when she was alive, she needs to move on now.

msiduri wrote on November 11, 2015, 2:18 PM

Yes. And even sadder that she can't let go now that she's dead. I mean—for crying out loud! I think if it were my sister and my husband, I might give a good dressing down, but I'd also send them a post card and a wedding present from the great beyond.

msiduri wrote on November 11, 2015, 2:20 PM

Most of them are available from amazon either as freebies or quite cheaply. Only because I'm cheep.

msiduri wrote on November 11, 2015, 2:21 PM

Exactly. Cut them some slack. They're human. She's not.

JohnRoberts wrote on November 11, 2015, 8:52 PM

I wish my local library had these kind of short story collections.

msiduri wrote on November 11, 2015, 9:38 PM

It's a shame they don't. They're in public domain.

msiduri wrote on November 12, 2015, 8:52 AM

You can also try Project Gutenberg for a lot of this sort of stuff. There is no charge and you have to know what you're looking for. No topic search. You can download into electronic devices or print out (which I know is not free, given the price and trouble of ink/toner)

CalmGemini wrote on November 14, 2015, 2:36 AM

I had read this story.Shall I say sad little story?I won't say anything else, as I do not want to give away the ending.

CalmGemini wrote on November 14, 2015, 2:41 AM

JohnRoberts ,many of the stories including this one are available online for free.We type,free online stories with the name of the author and story and they appear.As they are short you can read them without downloading I think.

msiduri wrote on November 14, 2015, 8:19 AM

I didn't want to either. It was hard because I wanted to describe the central conflict. It is sad, but I think it reflect human nature.