Famous Modern Ghost Stories HTML version
Introduction: The Imperishable Ghost
Ghosts are the true immortals, and the dead grow more alive all the time. Wraiths have a
greater vitality to-day than ever before. They are far more numerous than at any time in
the past, and people are more interested in them. There are persons that claim to be
acquainted with specific spirits, to speak with them, to carry on correspondence with
them, and even some who insist that they are private secretaries to the dead. Others of us
mortals, more reserved, are content to keep such distance as we may from even the
shadow of a shade. But there's no getting away from ghosts nowadays, for even if you
shut your eyes to them in actual life, you stumble over them in the books you read, you
see them on the stage and on the screen, and you hear them on the lecture platform. Even
a Lodge in any vast wilderness would have the company of spirits. Man's love for the
supernatural, which is one of the most natural things about him, was never more marked
than at present. You may go a-ghosting in any company to-day, and all aspects of
literature, novels, short stories, poetry, and drama alike, reflect the shadeless spirit. The
latest census of the haunting world shows a vast increase in population, which might be
explained on various grounds.
Life is so inconveniently complex nowadays, what with income taxes and other
visitations of government, that it is hard for us to have the added risk of wraiths, but
there's no escaping. Many persons of to-day are in the same mental state as one Mr.
Boggs, told of in a magazine story, a rural gentleman who was agitated over spectral
visitants. He had once talked at a séance with a speaker who claimed to be the spirit of
his brother, Wesley Boggs, but who conversed only on blue suspenders, a subject not of
vital interest to Wesley in the flesh. "Still," Mr. Boggs reflected, "I'm not so darn sure!"
In answer to a suggestion regarding subliminal consciousness and dual personality as
explanation of the strange things that come bolting into life, he said, "It's crawly any way
you look at it. Ghosts inside you are as bad as ghosts outside you." There are others to-
day who are "not so darn sure!"
One may conjecture divers reasons for this multitude of ghosts in late literature. Perhaps
spooks are like small boys that rush to fires, unwilling to miss anything, and craving new
sensations. And we mortals read about them to get vicarious thrills through the safe
medium of fiction. The war made sensationalists of us all, and the drab everydayness of
mortal life bores us. Man's imagination, always bigger than his environment, overleaps
the barriers of time and space and claims all worlds as eminent domain, so that literature,
which he has the power to create, as he cannot create his material surroundings, possesses
a dramatic intensity, an epic sweep, unknown in actuality. In the last analysis, man is as
great as his daydreams—or his nightmares!
Ghosts have always haunted literature, and doubtless always will. Specters seem never to
wear out or to die, but renew their tissue both of person and of raiment, in marvelous
fashion, so that their number increases with a Malthusian relentlessness. We of to-day
have the ghosts that haunted our ancestors, as well as our own modern revenants, and