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Classic Ghost Stories

Classic Ghost Stories

Tony Walker

A weekly podcast which reads out ghost stories, horror stories and weird tales every week. Classic stories from the pens of the masters. Occasionally we feature living authors, but the majority, are dead. Some perhaps are undead.

135 - S0302 The Earlier Service by Margaret Irwin
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  • 135 - S0302 The Earlier Service by Margaret Irwin

    The Earlier Service by Margaret Irwin The Earlier Service is a tale of what happens in a remote English church late at night. A Listener suggested I record The Earlier Service by Margaret Irwin. I hunted it down via the internet and found it in an anthology called Bloodstock, published in 1978 by Ian Henry Publications in 1978. I believe the collection was initially published in 1953. Bloodstock is split into three sections: Stories From Ireland (five stories here); Uncanny Stories (four stories) and two ungrouped stories: Mrs Oliver Cromwell and Where Beauty Lies. Margaret Irwin doesn’t include any biographical information in this book so I had to go looking elsewhere. As usual, Wikipedia came up trumps and I gave them $2 for their great work. Margaret Irwin was born in Highgate, London in 1889, and she died in 1967 in London also. Her father was an Australian from Perth and her mother was English and her mother’s father was a colonel in the 16th Lancers, a British Cavalry regiment. She was brought up by her uncle in Bristol after her father died. She started writing professionally in the 1920s and specialised in historical fiction, particularly the Elizabeth and early Stuart periods. As well as historical novels she did ghost stories and two fantasy novels, one about a time slip and the other about a wizard’s daughter. She married a book illustrator who did the covers for some of her books. The Earlier Service The story seems to hark back to a different England: a rural England of evensong and churchgoing that no longer exists. We have examples from the work of R H Malden and M R James of country vicars going about their business in rural parishes where they and the doctor and the solicitor are the only educated and literary people but where they service and minister to the illiterate throng. Most country churches now in England are dead or dying and this therefore is a picture of a world that once was and is no longer. The story begins with the rector’s family going to church. It’s dad’s job so it is the daughters’ duty to go to each service. The younger daughter Jane has developed an irrational fear of the church, though at the beginning, neither she nor we know why. There is some hint that that gargoyles on the church spire are stretching out their necks to get into her room, but that is not what’s happening and is just a little spooky detail thrown in to create atmosphere rather than foreshadowing proper. In the same way the bits of dried black stuff on the church door is said to be the skin of flayed heathens. Imagine torturing people just because they don’t think the same things you do. How awful. I’m glad we’re not like that now. When I was young, I used to collect plastic figures of crusaders. In films they were great heroes, but apparently they are the bad guys now. In any case, the crusader is a great defender in this story. I’ve been to lots of churches with tombs in them with knights and ladies in relief. There was a chapel near Chilingham Castle that I used to take my ghost tours to, usually in the middle of the night. It was always so cold and it was easy to believe in that quiet, chill atmosphere, that they might come back to life. But of course this is a witchcraft/satanism story. In the old days the two were thought to be the same thing. Of course this is what happened to the old pagan gods—they became demons. Jane sees the little dark man with the sharp object in his hand. Of course this is the old Giraldus atte Welle who was defrocked for demonism back in the day. It seems her mother gets a hint of it, but doesn’t see it as clearly as Jane. This is probably because she is not the next victim. It reminded me of The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971), that folk horror classic film. This story was written long before that so perhaps it was cribbed by writer Robert Wynne-Simmons and director Piers Haggard. If you don’t know how the Anglican Church works:...

    Fri, 14 Jan 2022 - 47min
  • 134 - S0301 The Fair Family by Tony Walker

    A timid man and his worried wife take a trip through Wales. The weather is awful and they worry they will be late for a Christening. That is the least of their worries. A story of the fairy folk and the Welsh gods and the Welsh weather. One of my own. In the afterword I reveal that this whole podcast was a trojan horse to get you to buy my stories. But hang on.... this one's free. My plan failed! Never mind.

    Fri, 07 Jan 2022 - 48min
  • 133 - S02E64 The Pleasure Pilgrims by Ella D'Arcy

    The Pleasure Pilgrims by Ella D’Arcy The Pleasure Pilgrims can be seen as a love story, a murder tale or a sort of Christmas Story (though it’s not set at Christmas). But most of it all it is a story that lays bare the differences between British and Americans. They speak the same language, but they mean different things and seem incapable of understanding what the other really means. We’ve done another of Ella D’Arcy’s stories on The Classic Ghost Stories Podcast: The Villa Lucienne. That too deals with the wealthy elite who skipped around Europe staying in grand houses. There is a ghost in that story, there is one in this too—ultimately. Observations as we go along are that the hosts, the Ritterhausens, and Germans in general don’t make much of an appearance in The Pleasure Pilgrims. They add a little local colour. The setting of a grand old German castle near Hamelin with its pied piper is delightful set-dressing. Ella D’Arcy really brings this out with the snowy train journey, the old bridge choked with ice floes, the German servant in the horse-drawn carriage in his second-best livery. The main character, Campbell is a successful novelist. However, he is a bit of an innocent. He has some funny ideas about the purity of love and we wonder whether he has ever kissed a girl. D’Arch makes two remarks on the British character, one at the beginning when Campbell is forced to share the carriage with the two American girls. They only ride with him out of kindness to the German servant to stop the man making two trips. Campbell is, like most British people, shy, D’Arcy says. Then at the end, when the deed is done, she refers to the ‘cold, complacent British unresponsiveness’. I don’t think this pairing at the beginning and the end is accidental. In fact, the whole story is a study of British versus American character, and the British don’t come out of it so well. Campbell has his cynical second Maynes, who won’t believe a single good thing about Lulie and when Campbell himself starts to relent, Maynes is always there to convince him she’s putting it all on. Campbell comes over was a cold-hearted, vain, prig, and Maynes as simply a monster. D’Arcy gives us a short passage where she explains that Maynes really did think Lulie was putting it on and that he wasn’t just an evil pig. At the end, she also explains that Lulie has led the loveless, homeless life of a poor little rich girl. Rich people are people too, you know in case you are ready to dismiss her suffering as not being as valuable as the suffering of a poor person. Lulie also has her second, Nannie Dodge who appears to be complicit in Lulie’s shameless seduction. If we believe Maynes’s version of the story. Throughout, Lulie’s ostentation and lack of reserve are emphasised, from her flamboyant and luxurious clothes to her persistent warmth and affection. I was reminded of the case of the English nanny Louise Woodward. There is a great article here https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1997/11/24/here-and-there-3 (Here and There | The New Yorker) Woodward was never seen to cry. In court she sat, hunched, deferential, submissive, lowered eyes and voice. This was seen apparently by American eyes as indicating her guilt. However, this deference and submission in an English court is exactly what would show her innocence. The writer makes the point that in America if you are telling the truth, you meet your questioners eyes, you throw your shoulders back, you have nothing to hide. The the British Woodward was appropriately modest and self-effacing as she should be in court being judged by a judge, who might well be a lord. In America, she was shifty and with her eyes down, must have something to hide. Two nations divided by a common language. I remember going to the States for the first time and thinking how amazing it was we really did speak the same language. Small, homely words such as cuddle and nana are used by both side. But then after a week or two I...

    Fri, 31 Dec 2021 - 1h 12min
  • 132 - S02E61 The Piano by Tony Walker

    A short Christmas Ghost story. A couple move into an old house, a house whose foundations go back centuries. Once in there they begin to suspect it's haunted. A short, sweet ghost story for Christmas where a couple get an opportunity to remember things that have been forgotten. If You Appreciate The Work I’ve Put In Here If You Appreciate The Work I’ve Put In Here You could buy me a coffee https://ko-fi.com/tonywalker (https://ko-fi.com/tonywalker) Become a Patron https://www.patreon.com/barcud (https://www.patreon.com/barcud) And you can join my mailing list and get a free audiobook: https://bit.ly/dalstonvampire (https://bit.ly/dalstonvampire) Music By The Heartwood Institute https://bit.ly/somecomeback*** (https://bit.ly/somecomeback***)

    Sat, 25 Dec 2021 - 09min
  • 131 - S02E60 Surprise View by Tony Walker

    A man who has lost everything goes to a remote part of the country for Christmas. In that beautiful landscape it seems the air is full of spirits: both of nature and of those long gone. A heart-warming ghost story for Christmas. If You Appreciate The Work I’ve Put In Here If You Appreciate The Work I’ve Put In Here You could buy me a coffee https://ko-fi.com/tonywalker (https://ko-fi.com/tonywalker) Become a Patron https://www.patreon.com/barcud (https://www.patreon.com/barcud) And you can join my mailing list and get a free audiobook: https://bit.ly/dalstonvampire (https://bit.ly/dalstonvampire) Music By The Heartwood Institute https://bit.ly/somecomeback*** (https://bit.ly/somecomeback***)

    Fri, 24 Dec 2021 - 27min
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