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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Fisher’s Ghost

Author: John Lang
Story Originally Published: 1859
Found in Collection: Classic Victorian & Edwardian Ghost Stories, edited by Rex Collings

The Story

So! There’s this well-off guy in Australia – Fisher. And one day – Bam! He’s disappeared.

In walks Mr. Smith, the friendly neighbour in charge of Fisher’s estate (whenever Fisher is out of town). He tells this story about how Fisher went to England for a while. Everyone buys that… until drunk old Ben Weir sees Fisher’s ghost sitting on the side of the road.

Of course, the first time he sees this, everyone just believes it’s the drink making him seeing things. Because why would Fisher’s ghost be hanging around here, if he’s alive and well in England? But! The next time he sees the ghost, he is stone cold sober, so obviously it wasn’t just a drunken vision he saw.

So! Old Ben, the town magistrate, and an Aboriginal investigate the sighting of the ghost – and what do you think they find? Fisher’s very-dead body in the middle of a pond!

End of the story, turns out, is that Mr. Smith killed Fisher with a tomahawk – chopped out all his brains – and we don’t know if Fisher’s ghost is ever seen again, but Mr. Smith is brought to justice and everything ends happy for everyone except Mr. Smith (who gets hanged).

The Response

What I really liked about this story was the fact that it takes place in Australia and includes Aborigines. I’ve never read anything with this group of people in it before, but am definitely intrigued – I’d like to read more with them in it, so if anyone has any recommendations, it would be greatly appreciated.

In fact, I’ve never read any gothic novels that take place in Australia… actually, the only books that I’ve read that take place in Australia that I can think of are a couple of YA books. Weird.

This is the first story in this collection that doesn’t take place in England, from as far as I can tell. It was a good change of scenery. I had actually thought that the book only contained stories from England and English authors, so I was quite surprised. What surprises me, though, is that … well, when you read books from different countries, the author often includes slang or various inflections that are specific to that region… but that wasn’t the case in this story. I did a bit of research on the author, and he spent some of his time in England (and worked with the British East India Company sometimes when he wasn’t in England) so that could be the reason for the language being so very similar to everything else in this collection.

The Bottom Line

Not a bad story. Has made me curious about other books taking place in Australia.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 7:29 am September 24, 2010.
Category: Short Stories
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