I place The Death's Head in spot 33 of my countdown of the Top 40 ghost stories for the first half of the nineteenth century. Published anonymously in 1827, "The Death's Head"--this particular "species of phantasmagoria"--is perhaps the first short story that contains a talking skull. It also the only scary story in this countdown that involves ventriloquy. The scene where spirits are conjured is heart pounding horrific. I hope you enjoy it.
Saturday, April 30, 2011
I am in a horrific mood of late and as a result have just dropped the price of The Best Horror Short Stories 1800-1849: A Classic Horror Anthology to $.99 on: Best Horror Stories on Kindle Enjoy!
As the author of the fictional Edgar Allan Poe biography Coffee with Poe and editor of Edgar Allan Poe Annotated Short Stories and Poems, I am sometimes asked if Poe had a favorite ghost story. Truth be told, Poe was quiet clear on his favorite ghost story--or at least his favorite by an American, which I believe is a dig at Charles Dickens and his bias toward British literature. It is by William Gilmore Simms and is titled: Murder Will Out. I don't, however, agree with Poe since I have placed it in spot 35 in my Top 40 countdown of the scariest ghost stories from 1800-1849. This is what Poe had to say about it in his review (published posthumously in 1850) of Simm's collection of short stories: "The Wigwam and the Cabin."
William Gilmore Simms (1806-1870) is little read today, but was known in the first half of the nineteenth century as the leading novelist of the Southern United States. His novels include the all but forgotten "The Vision of Cortez" (1829), "The Tricolor" (1830), and "Atlantis, a Story of the Sea" (1852). But he penned an excellent ghost story that Edgar Allan Poe called "the best ghost story ever written by an American. . . ." Tomorrow I will post a link to it as I continue counting down the Top 40 scary ghost stories from 1800-1849.
Some of the scariest ghost stories are found at sea and the 36th best ghost story of 1800-1849 is no different. The Strange Sail is its title and it is very strange indeed. In the first paragraph readers are greeted with a wave crashing over the deck of the ship and it only gets scarier from there. When a white sail is seen during the storm, the sailors witness something supernatural that they will never forget. "The Strange Sail" was published anonymously in Atkinson's Casket of1839. It is one of best ghost stories of the sea during the first half of the nineteenth century. I hope you enjoy it along with the rest of my countdown of the Top 40 ghost stories from 1800-1849.
Just like a number of early stories in my countdown of the Top 40 ghost stories from 1800-1849, the 37th best ghost story in the list was published anonymously. To whet your appetite, here is the illustration that was included with the story. It is one of the oldest pickax murder stories I have found in my research. Tomorrow I will provide a free link to it.
Edgar Allan Poe Biography - "Coffee with Poe" by Andrew Barger - Receives USA Best Book Awards Historical Biography Finalist Award
Let's get on with my countdown of the Top 40 best ghost stories published in the English language from 1800-1849. I am still early in the countdown, but some solid ghost stories have already made the list. The classic ghost story filling slot 38 is no exception. As you know from my last post it was published anonymously. If you like ghost stories on the sea, this is the ghost tale for you. Without giving any too much of the story, it centers around The Flying Dutchman--the infamous ghost ship that is doomed to continually round the Cape of Good Hope in a storm with Vanderdecken as its captain. I found the story in the May 1821 issue of Blackwood's. The awkward title of the story (Vanderdecken's Message Home; or, the Tenacity of Natural Affection) does not diminish the strong storyline and "creep factor." It is perhaps the first ghost story that focuses on the futility of the dead when trying to contact the living and deserves to be remembered. As late as 1860 horror author brothers, William and Robert Chambers, included this story in their collection titled: Shipwrecks and Tales of the Sea. Enjoy!
We are told that all cats are grey and I am convinced that all ghosts are grey, too . . . even ghosts on the sea. The author for the 38th best ghost story 1800-1849 is anonymous. Tomorrow I will post a link to the story online. If my hint about ghosts on the sea was not enough, this illustration from the nineteenth century should give you a clue as to what the next story in the countdown is about.