The Best Ghost Stories
The Woman's Ghost Story
By Algernon Blackwood
"Yes," she said, from her seat in the dark corner, "I'll tell you an experience if you care to
listen. And, what's more, I'll tell it briefly, without trimmings—I mean without
unessentials. That's a thing story-tellers never do, you know," she laughed. "They drag in
all the unessentials and leave their listeners to disentangle; but I'll give you just the
essentials, and you can make of it what you please. But on one condition: that at the end
you ask no questions, because I can't explain it and have no wish to."
We agreed. We were all serious. After listening to a dozen prolix stories from people who
merely wished to "talk" but had nothing to tell, we wanted "essentials."
"In those days," she began, feeling from the quality of our silence that we were with her,
"in those days I was interested in psychic things, and had arranged to sit up alone in a
haunted house in the middle of London. It was a cheap and dingy lodging-house in a
mean street, unfurnished. I had already made a preliminary examination in daylight that
afternoon, and the keys from the caretaker, who lived next door, were in my pocket. The
story was a good one—satisfied me, at any rate, that it was worth investigating; and I
won't weary you with details as to the woman's murder and all the tiresome elaboration as
to why the place was alive. Enough that it was.
"I was a good deal bored, therefore, to see a man, whom I took to be the talkative old
caretaker, waiting for me on the steps when I went in at 11 P.M., for I had sufficiently
explained that I wished to be there alone for the night.
"'I wished to show you the room,' he mumbled, and of course I couldn't exactly refuse,
having tipped him for the temporary loan of a chair and table.
"'Come in, then, and let's be quick,' I said.
"We went in, he shuffling after me through the unlighted hall up to the first floor where
the murder had taken place, and I prepared myself to hear his inevitable account before
turning him out with the half-crown his persistence had earned. After lighting the gas I
sat down in the arm-chair he had provided—a faded, brown plush arm-chair—and turned
for the first time to face him and get through with the performance as quickly as possible.
And it was in that instant I got my first shock. The man was not the caretaker. It was not
the old fool, Carey, I had interviewed earlier in the day and made my plans with. My
heart gave a horrid jump.
"'Now who are you, pray?' I said. 'You're not Carey, the man I arranged with this
afternoon. Who are you?'