Monthly Archives: June 2013

Ghost Gleams (1921) by W.J. Wintle


This is a collection of ghost stories by the author, editor and natural historian, William James Wintle. A prolific freelance writer, Wintle was later Oblate (that is, a lay brother) of the Abbey of Caldey Island, off the west coast of Wales. It was here that he composed these fifteen tales for the entertainment of the boys who attended the Abbey school. Although written for children, the tales in this varied collection remain entertaining for a modern audience and are notable for the variety of the phenomena evoked – from the ghost of a woolly mammoth to a fearsome attack by a Romany werewolf.

Ghost Gleams [Kindle]

Ghost Gleams [Epub]

Ghost Gleams [PDF]

Critical edition:

Ghost Gleams, intr. Richard Dalby, aftwrd. Peter J. Wire  (Ashcroft, British Columbia: Ash-Tree Press, 1999) [also includes an essay by Wintle, ‘Can You Explain It? True Stories of the Ghost World’]

Note: the painting above is of Whitby Abbey. There is no connection between Wintle and that abbey – I have chosen the picture simply because it seems to me to capture the atmosphere of Wintle’s stories!

More Werewolves


Below are links to two further significant werewolf books, both from the nineteenth century.

The first is Sabine Baring-Gould’s The Book of Were-Wolves, being an account of a terrible superstition (1865). This was my first brush with werewolf literature and I found it an engaging place to start. The work of a hugely prolific author, historian, antiquarian, folklorist and hymn-writer (most famously ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’), Baring-Gould’s is a level-headed and fascinating look at the werewolf tradition in European folklore. The book also takes in the related phenomenon of lycanthropy, culminating in a shocking account of the atrocities committed by the Gilles de Retz. The Book of Were-Wolves is sometimes unfairly dismissed as too dry and scholarly for the modern reader, but Baring-Gould’s linking of legend with accounts of historically-verifiable happenings is effectively achieved and the effect is often unnerving. At the same time, his determination to see the werewolf not as some ‘superphysical’ entity forgotten by modern science, but as a potent feature of the collective memory of myth is a compelling approach to the subject. It can be downloaded in multiple formats from Project Gutenberg.

The second work on the agenda is Clemence Housman’s The Were-Wolf (1896). Housman was the sister of the poet and classicist A.E. Housman and the author Laurence Housman. As well as being a writer, she was an active campaigner for woman’s suffrage. I had hoped to prepare an ebook edition of Housman’s book for download from this blog but, since it’s still in copyright in the UK, I won’t be able to do this. However, since this is one of the earliest examples of the werewolf novel, it would be a shame not to draw attention to the online version at Project Gutenberg. This edition is fully illustrated and available to download in multiple formats!


The Door of the Unreal (1919) by Gerald Biss

Door of the Unreal 1

“I, a strange American in London, advancing a theory so bizarre as to astound even the heads of Scotland Yard!”

A classic of werewolf fiction, this was crime writer Gerald Biss’s only supernatural novel. Having greatly admired Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), Biss uses a similar technique of presenting a casebook of ‘evidence’ to place an ancient evil convincingly within a thoroughly modern England. In doing so, Biss turns the werewolf into a threatening symbol of a regressive past, returning to invade a progressive, modern civilization in which urban expansion is on the increase and whose symbol is the ubiquitous motor car. As with Stoker’s vampire Biss’s werewolf is also a figure of the invading foreigner. The theme is especially resonant in Biss’s novel which, in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, presents its readers with a band of British and American allies who come together to fend off a German invasion of a different sort!

The Door of the Unreal [Kindle]

The Door of the Unreal [Epub]

The Door of the Unreal [PDF]

Biss’s major source was the dubious (but entertaining) account of werewolf lore compiled by the paranormal investigator, author and perennial teller of tall tales, Elliott O’Donnell. This can be downloaded from Project Gutenberg.

More information about Gerald Biss is available on the Bear Alley blog

The text is taken from Daniel Correll’s website – a splendid collection of horror fiction formatted in HTML. My grateful thanks for his permission to use his work as the basis for the edition provided here.

The Broken Shaft: Tales in Mid-Ocean (1886) edited by Henry Norman


This special anthology was published in 1885 (dated 1886) by T. Fisher Unwin as that year’s Unwin’s Christmas Annual. It is formed of seven stories, together with an introductory chapter setting up a framing narrative by Henry Norman (pictured above), which is returned to at the end of each subsequent tale. This connecting narrative concerns a group of travellers on a transatlantic crossing. When their ship, the Bavaria suffers a ‘broken shaft’, they are forced to remain becalmed mid-ocean, telling stories to pass the time.

As well as being an entertaining collection of late-Victorian short fiction in its own right, the annual represents the original publication of three classic supernatural stories – ‘The Upper Birth’ by F. Marion Crawford, ‘Markheim’ by Robert Louis Stevenson and ‘Marjory’ by F. Anstey. The other stories in the collection are; ‘The Action to the World’ by Walter Herries Pollock, ‘My Fascinating Friend’ by William Archer, ‘Riley, M.P.’ by Tighe Hopkins and ‘Love and Lightning’ by Henry Norman. A charming literary-historical feature is the caricatured versions of the writers, who figure as themselves in the framing narratives. Crawford is referred to as ‘the Novelist’, Stevenson as ‘the Romancer’, Pollock as ‘the Editor’ and Archer as ‘the Critic’ while, as a contemporary review from the Princetonian (the Princeton University newspaper) points out, ‘Beatrice’ and ‘the Eminent Tragedian’ are easily identifiable as Ellen Terry and Henry Irving (this anonymous review, together with another from the Saturday Review,  is included below as a curiosity).

The Broken Shaft: Tales in Mid-Ocean [Kindle]

The Broken Shaft: Tales in Mid-Ocean [Epub]

The Broken Shaft: Tales in Mid-Ocean [PDF]

Two contemporary reviews

A Beleaguered City (1880) by Margaret Oliphant

Beleagured city - i distinctly saw a boat

This is one of only two supernatural novels by prolific nineteenth-century writer Margaret Oliphant. Set in the town of Semur, in the Bourgogne region of France, it is a powerful, sombre fantasy relating the events that unfold after the settlement is besieged by the dead. A departure from her ubiquitous realistic tales of everyday middle-class Victorian life, the novel is presumably inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem of the same name, itself widely available online and well worth seeking out. The story was well-received on publication and is the first in Oliphant’s series of ‘Tales of the Seen and Unseen’, more of which will find their way onto this blog in due course.

A Beleaguered City [Kindle]

A Beleaguered City [Epub]

A Beleaguered City [PDF]

Critical Editions:

A Beleaguered City and Other Tales of the Seen and Unseen, edited by Jenni Calder (Canongate, 2000)

A Beleaguered City and Other Stories, edited by Mervyn Williams (Oxford University Press, 1988)


The Autobiography of Margaret Oliphant, edited by Elizabeth Jay (Broadview Press, 2002)

Williams, Mervyn, Margaret Oliphant: A Critical Biography (Palgrave Macmillan, 1986)

Web Links:

Mrs Oliphant, 1828-1897

A comprehensive annotated bibliography of secondary criticism from 1849-2005, prepared by John Stock Clarke. Also includes a thorough summary of Oliphant’s critical reception.

The Official Mrs Oliphant Website

Mrs Oliphant at the Literary Gothic website

Haunted Scholars: Antiquarian Ghost Stories from Cambridge Magazines


This selection of tales by ‘B.’, ‘D.N.J.’ and another anonymous writer appeared in Magdalene College Magazine and the Cambridge Review between 1911 and 1920. The identity of the writers is not known, but the tales themselves are so reminiscent of the style originated by M.R. James (scholarly protagonist, haunted objects, strange old texts) that they must have been acquainted with James’s circle of friends, colleagues and admirers at Cambridge. Unknown for many years, they were reprinted in Ghosts & Scholars magazine in the 1980s and 1990s. They are now available at the Ghosts & Scholars online archive and I extend my grateful thanks to Rosemary Pardoe for permission to reprint the material here.

Haunted Scholars [Kindle]

Haunted Scholars [Epub]

Haunted Scholars [PDF]

Critical Editions:

When the Door is Shut and other ghost stories by ‘B.’, ed. Rosemary Pardoe (Haunted Library, 1986)

The Moon-Gazer and one other, ed. Rosemary Pardoe (Haunted Library, 1988)

Web links:

Ghosts & Scholars archive

Ghosts & Scholars main site

The main online resource page for all things related to M.R. James and his circle, it contains a fascinating array of stories, articles, bibliographies and other material. Click on the individual story links in the archive page for more information about the authorship and publication history of the stories of ‘B.’, ‘D.N.J.’ and the anonymous author of ‘An Old MS.’

Haunted Library

The Stoneground Ghost Tales (1912) by E.G. Swain


Edmund Gill Swain was born in 1861 at Stockport in Manchester. A cleric and antiquary, he was a good friend of noted ghost story writer M.R. James and was present at many of the famous private gatherings at which the latter’s stories were first read aloud. Swain’s only collection of ghostly tales is set in a fictionalised version of Stanground near Peterborough, where Swain was a vicar – indeed, the vicar of Stoneground, Mr Batchel, is a recognisable self-portrait. The collection is dedicated to James and is firmly in the antiquarian tradition of supernatural fiction. Unlike his friend’s fiction, however, Swain’s own stories are less rooted in the horror genre, with only one of his apparitions harbouring malevolent intentions. Swain passed away peacefully in 1938.

The Stoneground Ghost Tales (1912) [Kindle]

The Stoneground Ghost Tales (1912) [Epub]

The Stoneground Ghost Tales (1912) [PDF]

Critical editions:

The Stoneground Ghost Tales, intr. Cardinal Cox (Ashcroft, British Columbia: Ash-Tree Press, 1996)

Bone to His Bone: The Stoneground Ghost Tales of E.G. Swain, intr. Michael Cox (Equation, 1989) [also contains six new stories by David Rowlands in the style of Swain]