So: Halloween is almost here. What´s your favourite ghost story?
Mine is The Monkey´s Paw by WW Jacobs.
Written in 1902 and included in a short story collection called The Lady Of The Barge, I doubt many people haven´t heard of the story, or seen or read some variation on it. Ever since it´s publication it´s been popular with the public and has seen many adaptations on radio, TV and film. Pet Sematary by Stephen King doffs it´s cap at the story and it´s even been referenced on The Simpsons.
The tale still stands up: a fine lesson in being careful for what you wish for and the vaguaries of fate´s influence on our lives. It´s interesting that Jacobs was primarily known during his lifetime as a writer of humorous, often sea-based stories but perhaps even here there is a link to The Monkey´s Paw. The story, in construct and execution, has the structure of a good joke: a sense of place immediately established, a far-fetched but interesting series of developments and a pay-off or punchline.
If you haven´t read the story in a while I´d recommend revisiting Mr and Mrs White´s humble house during that fateful stormy night when Sergeant-Major Morris arrives, weary from his Indian experiences, with the fakir´s gift. Can´t you see Mr White and Herbest poised over their game of chess as the rain rattles the thin old windows?
“Hark at the wind,” Mr White says, eyeing the chessboard glumly. Little could he know what it was blowing into his life…