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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

The Spectre of Tappington

Author: Richard Harris Barham (also wrote under the nom de plume of Thomas Ingoldsby)
Story Originally Published: 1840
Found in Collection: Classic Victorian & Edwardian Ghost Stories, edited by Rex Collings

The Story

The Spectre of Tappington tells the story of a haunted house. In generations past, the owner of the house had a guest that mysteriously disappeared one night. Rumour has it that the room this guest was staying in still gets nightly visitations from the one who mysteriously disappeared.

Now, the room is only used when there are no other guest rooms available.

Present Day: Charles Seaforth is visiting his cousins, and they unfortunately do not have any guest rooms other than the haunted room. So in what way does this ghostly apparition manifest itself? By stealing his pants every night, of course.

The Response

Pants stealing? Seriously? How brilliant and random is that?

The writing in this short story was brilliantly hilarious. How have I never read any of Barham’s work before? But if his other stuff is as funny as this was, then I want to read more. Just take a look at this, about one of the minor characters, for example:

His essay, demonstrating that the globe is a great custard, whipped into coagulation by whirlwinds, and cooked by electricity – a little too much baked in the Isle of Portland and a thought underdone about the Bog of Allen – was highly spoken of and narrowly escaped obtaining a Bridgewater prize.

It honestly reminded me slightly of a darker Jeeves and Wooster, in fact. I can just imagine Bertie Wooster having to deal with his pants disappearing every night. Of course, Jeeves would be much more competent than Seaforth’s own valet.

Yes, the story was slightly predictable. And have you ever noticed how Victorian ghost stories aren’t necessarily always about the supernatural or about ghosts? But a lot of time there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation, people just always assume the supernatural? They are all very sentimentalistic. Similar to Ann Radcliffe’s stuff, similar to what Jane Austen made fun of in Northanger Abbey, etc. etc.

This was a good way to start my attempt to actually read more short stories.

The Bottom Line

If the other stories in this collection are as good as this one, then I’m looking forward to the rest of these stories. Also, I DEFINITELY need to read more of Barham’s work – anyone have anything to recommend?

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 7:27 am August 6, 2010.
Category: Short Stories
Book Author(s): ,