Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Ghosts’

OK, guys, go easy on this stuff, it’s all in Beta stage! Read the commentary afterwards for this to actually make sense and see what I was on about!

Suffrage Boy

After politely dismissing the persistent landlady who assured her return in an hour with supper, Henry Bentley walked into the inn’s bedroom, shrugging off the black armband that clung to his arm just as he wished to also shrug off the afternoon’s bleak happenings. He was a sentimental man, and he had been thoroughly sobered by the afternoon’s proceedings.

 

His dismal disposition however, was altered, and not for the better as he spotted an unfamiliarly familiar package that had been slipped under his door, he assumed, by the landlady. From sombre sobriety his mood changed to suspicious suspense as he all too familiarly recognised the handwriting on the front of the envelope that read: “Please Read.”

 

Throwing his dog Holly the scraps of his hastily devoured breakfast, he sank into the chair next to the bed and considered the letter. He was reluctant to release its contents upon his already battered centre of emotion but, feeling it was his duty, he thumbed open the roughly clenched fingers of the document’s edges.

 

He expected to find a poorly timed delivery of the article that he had unwittingly stowed upon his journalist. Mr. Bentley was the editor of The Frightful Farthing 1/4d and therefore employed several journalists for his story paper who might attempt to outwit Mr. Harmsworth and his Halfpenny Marvel. His expectations were, however, misplaced.

 

As the package yielded its contents, Mr. Bentley discovered a form of diary, accounting for only a day or so, written by his only female journalist, Ms. Lucy Davison. As Mr Bentley looked at the handwriting he found himself experiencing a mounting sense of unease, as although the script was familiar to him, its progressively erratic and distressed form seemed to him a foreign trait of its caster. Despite his reservations, he poured himself a large glass of the whiskey that sat in the Victorian-esq decanter on the desk, and settled deeper into the chair.

 

‘It is as I sit here, in what could well be my tomb, that I wish to document what has befallen me. This is not so I may point the finger of blame to any, but merely so that others may learn from my folly, from disturbing memories that are best forgotten, and so that by doing so this may be laid to rest.

 

I arrived on Glastonbury at dawn yesterday, (June 4th 1913), to provide a thorough report regarding the tragic and mysterious death of two townsfolk that occurred at the premises of the also recently deceased Ms. Isobel Báthory. Ms. Báthory had been resident of a local manor at the foot of Glastonbury Tor, and a prominent member of the Women’s Social and Political Union, who had been killed during a rally in London.

 

After alighting from the train that had so swiftly carried me from London, I had my luggage sent ahead to the local tavern wherein I would be spending my night’s slumber and pulled my bicycle down from the train (a fusty gentleman had attempted to do this for me, yet I assured him I was able to perform this duty independently) I then proceeded to take the short four mile journey into the ancient town.

 

As I cycled, noticing just how bitter the air was against my skin, I couldn’t help but be slightly perturbed by the weather. Those ominous dark clouds, the lonesome blowing wind and the rain that seemed to cry tears down my own face. This was not the weather I had expected of June, nor the weather I had left in London. It disturbed me significantly, and I approached the town with more trepidation than I would have liked. This was contributed by the overhanging, dominating presence of Glastonbury Tor. It leered over the town, seemed to grow in size and presence even once I arrived and was consistently in my peripheral vision.

 

On arrival into Glastonbury I checked into the tavern that bore the name ‘The Bloody Lady’ on a rickety and rotten wooden sign, which creaked and thumped as the icy wind knocked it against the old building.

 

I could tell you of the nature of the inn, the peculiar and overtly sexist nature of the locals, the queer terror that arose when I mentioned my purpose. I could tell you of the bump in the night that awoke me, and the figure of a small skeletal boy that I had thought I had seen, sat at the end of my bed watching me sleep, but I dare not. It would detract from what I need to say and I do not know how long I have until he returns, or till I lose the ability to process real memories and am left with the echoes of ones that took place here, so many years ago. Therefore I skip to my arrival at the house: my inevitable resting place.

 

The manor was a short cycle ride from the town’s centre, and I swiftly came to the foot of Glastonbury Tor, and the pathway that led to the old mansion.

 

It was a sublime sight, like its surroundings, and filled me with a type of terror and awe that I had yet to feel in the city. It had gargoyles or each corner of the roof; they glared down at me daring me to enter and at the same time pleading my return to The Bloody Lady.

 

I left my bicycle as I reached the doorway, hoisted my suitcase containing my typewriter under my arm. With great effort, I pushed the monstrously tall door which creaked with immense weight and showered me in dust and cobwebs, and stepped into the dark and dank hall.

 

It smelt of damp, and the air was thick with dust and, alike to the door, cobwebs clung to every corner of the majestic room. Despite its obvious age, the time had apparently been taken to install electricity within its ancient walls and as I was able to light the room instantly. It was vast and square, with a staircase in the centre leading above, a doorway that I had been informed led to the kitchen, and a small, oval door behind the staircase, which seemed to be the only part of the house that was clean and seemed to have been in recent use. This sparked my interest: the two men that had been found dead had both been found in a cellar.

 

I set my typewriter on an ancient chaise lounge that expelled copious clouds of dust and headed straight for the door, notebook clutched to my breast. I stooped to open the undersized door and cross through it and was confronted with a pitch black hole with a flight of stairs.

I activated the lights to the cellar and as I did so, I saw him.

 

The boy that had been in my room the night before, stood at the bottom of the steps. Naked, skeletal, with pale skin that barely stretched across his face. He had sunken eye sockets with empty, bottomless black eyes, dried blood around his miniature ears and a mournful expression across his dry, chapped mouth.

 

He screamed, just as I did the same, and his face became contorted with rage. The next thing I knew I was tumbling down the steps towards him and crashed at the bottom. It took me a few minutes to come around and pick myself up from the cold stone floor of the cellar and look around. He was nowhere to be seen. I was, of course, terrified and regardless of my rational way of thinking, strong will and resolve, I turned to run up the stairs and leave this building forever.

 

However, it was then that I noticed a pristine and gleaming table set up in the middle of the room with three piles of documents upon them. They appeared to a mixture of newspaper cuttings and handwritten notes of which the writing was evidently of a child’s hand. I approached the table and began to sift through the papers.

 

It took me well over an hour to read everything, I could not stop myself, and after I had done so I had understood its relevance. The newspaper cuttings showed the rallies and exploits of Isobel Báthory: activist, independent woman and, what the newspapers could not divulge, mother. The notes were written by her son, they did not mention his name. Due to her status as a suffragette (a coinage I had read recently in the Daily Mail) Ms. Báthory had resented, despised and, seemingly, tormented the boy. That was what the paper-trail diary seemed to denote at any rate. The boy wrote that he had been locked in the very cellar I stood in, without food or ventilation for days at a time. Whenever Ms. Báthory went away on a rally or a convention, had acquaintances to visit or simply when the sheer sight of him caused her to remember his existence, he was locked in the cellar. It seemed as though this was where he had died, without anyone’s knowledge, from suffocation and starvation after his mother had been killed and never returned to emancipate him.

 

The notes were painfully distressing to me, and what was more I felt that the air in the cellar was starting to dwindle. I was struggling to breathe, despite the cellar door being wide open and the paper upon the desk rippling from the wind that surely blew in from the hall; air was becoming less and less easily absorbed into my lungs.

 

I staggered up the stairs, gasping, and reached for the doorway but the door snapped shut. I pulled and tugged at it as my mind began to cloud and my vision blur. However, just as I thought I had lost consciousness, I felt a hand upon mine, a small, bony hand with overlong nails that dug painfully into my hand and turned the handle of the door. It flew open and there I lay upon the hall floor, hyperventilating and feeling the sweet cold air flood my lungs and bring me to my senses.

 

I looked down at my hand and noticed, with a jolt in my stomach, that five, finger spaced, nail shaped cuts were upon my hand. Blood was seeping down my wrist like scarlet tears from my knuckles.

 

It was at this same time, as I sobbed on my knees holding my hands, I heard a sound that caused me to jump in fright. It was a bell. But there was no doorbell, I thought, and no one came up to this house, the locals had made that much clear as day. I gazed at the monstrous door.

 

However, as I knelt with the hair beginning to stand up on the back of my neck, the sound of a bell sounded, louder this time, and carried on ringing, over and over again. I suddenly recognised its sound; it was from my bicycle. I sprinted to the door, praying to find one of the strange locals signalling for me, and hauled open the door and ran out onto the porch way where I had left my bicycle. The sound had stopped as I crossed the threshold of the house to the outside and I noticed that my bicycle was not where I had left it. It was several meters away, on the pathway, and looked as though it had been thrown.

 

The chain that worked the wheels from the pedals had slipped off and I bent down and reattached it into its correct place; I was ready to climb upon it and ride back to the town. As soon as it clicked into place the pedals started whirring and spinning, the wheels turning rapidly, whilst my hand was still inside the chain. Its teeth snapped at me and I fell backwards with a scream as ruby red blood scattered across my clothes.

 

As I staggered into the house, attempting to find a tap to run my hand underneath, I noticed my typewriter had moved. It was lying, in pieces on the floor, as if someone had smashed it. The paper that had been inside it, ready for my recordings lay crumpled on the floor, yet I could see the trace of ink upon it. I crossed the room and scooped it off the floor, my heart thumping in my throat, and unfolded the note and realised that it had been typed upon, just two words, before the destruction of the typewriter.  “HELP. ME.”

 

I…’

 

The diary stopped here. Mr. Bentley assumed the worst of what had happened after she had written these final words. The locals had informed him that they had found Lucy’s body in the corner of the cellar of the house, lifeless from asphyxiation.

 

A shiver ventured from the back of his collar and made its way down his spine as he considered just how the landlady could have come across the letter and, more troublingly, how she could had known it was for him. He heard a creak outside his door and glanced up from the paper.

 

Holly growled deeply and retreated into the corner as the door slowly opened.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

My key intentions for my final assessment were to emulate themes, conventions and certain styles found within Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black and ‘The Beckoning Fair One’ by Oliver Onions and, in particular, illustrate and explore the role and treatment of the New Woman within these tales. Near to all of these elements I have applied can be found within both Onion and Hill’s stories but due to the restricted limit to this companion I will only be looking at certain ones in detail.

 

I chose numerous conventions within my tale. These are such as the haunted house, a story within a story, bumps in the night, a locked door, pathetic fallacy, hostile landscapes and a grisly secret. These conventions allowed me to link certain theory within the gothic ghost story, for example, the application of Freud’s classification of Fear, Dread and Fright.

 

“‘Fear’ represents a certain kind of inner state amounting to expectation of, and preparation for, danger of some kind…‘Dread’ requires a specific object of which we are afraid. ‘Fright’, however, emphasises the element of surprise…when we find ourselves plunged into danger without being prepared for it.”  (Freud 51)

 

Fear, I created using mounting suspense within the story, for example: the bumps in the night and the use of pathetic fallacy. Dread was simple in creating the reappearing ghost of the boy as an object to be afraid of which ultimately led to Fright: the discovering of the secret of the boy’s existence and death, the newspaper cuttings and diary.

 

I also intended for ‘Suffrage Boy’ to contain liberal references to the uncanny. This is a theory that is prevalent within both of my chosen primary texts and one that is iconic to the gothic ghost story in numerous forms. Simple examples include the editor’s simultaneous feelings of familiar and unfamiliarity and his ‘mounting sense of unease’ (Beatson 1). The latter is an application of the uncanny within gothic literature I had identified from my secondary reading of Angela Carter who states the definition uncanny within gothic literature, ‘retains a singular moral function-that provoking of unease.’ (Carter 133) This can be witnessed within Onions’ story also: ‘Oleron had moments of deep uneasiness…’ (Onions 44)

Other examples of my application of the uncanny can be identified in the simple use of the ghost being neither dead or alive, the ghost’s use of animism of the bicycle and typewriter, and the repetition of the ghost’s haunting. These elements are ones that I have imitated from both Hill and Onions’ stories. Another example is the theme of suffocation which was an attempt to create the uncanny fear of being buried alive.

 

Intertextuality is something I chose to focus on heavily within the writing of my ghost story and led it to becoming a pastiche. The way in which I have achieved this can be witnessed in the names chosen for characters within the story and places. The name for the heroine, Lucy Davison, was one of careful selection. Lucy is the figure of the New Woman, as I will explore fully later, and her Christian name and surname is a reference to two women who also represented this figure and were punished for it. Lucy, is a reference to the character within Bram Stoker’s Dracula and ‘Davison’ is a reference to the suffragette Emily Davison, who was fatally injured under the Kings horse during a rally for women’s rights on the 4th of June 1913. This is subsequently the date of Lucy’s imprisonment and torture from the ghost. Lucy’s occupation is a journalist, intended to emulate the figure of Elsie within ‘The Beckoning Fair One’ who occupies the same vocation, and is also a figure of the New Woman. Similarly, the dead mother Isobel Báthory is deliberately chosen to contain the surname of Elizabeth Báthory, Countess in Hungary in the 17th century whose alias of ‘The Bloody Lady of Čachtice’ is echoed in the name of the inn. The character of Henry Bentley is a reference to Mr Bentley, who is the employer that sends Arthur Kipps to Eel Marsh House.

 

My profuse application of intertexuality is due to the convention itself being a form of haunting, a return, alike to story telling and literature itself: to recall figures from the past. This is why I chose to have the editor reading the diary, similarly to Hill’s novel.

 

I will now briefly comment upon the historical and social contexts. I took great care to have historically accurate details about aspects like technology, so I undertook considerable research into the period in which I was writing and attempted to include these details. Therefore, the line of: ‘Mr. Bentley was the editor of The Frightful Farthing 1/4d…who might attempt to outwit Mr. Harmsworth…’ (Beatson 1) is demonstrating the presence of the Halfpenny Marvel ran by Alfred Harmsworth, pioneer of tabloid journalism, who put the Penny Dreadful out of business.

 

One of my key intentions with my creative piece was to explore the figure of the New Women within the gothic ghost story that rose in the late 19th century and the ‘Long 19th century’ that my story is set in. ‘…the “New Woman” emerged increasingly into public controversy. The New Woman, or 1980s feminist, challenged gender roles…’ (Hurley, 121)  In Onions’ story, Elsie is independent, financially sound, has an occupation and pursues Oleron in a traditionally masculine manner. She is then punished by the presumably jealous ghost who represents the traditional Victorian woman and the past. This is similar in Hill’s novel, as the ghost of Jennet Humfrye who is punished for having a child out of wedlock. In my story the ghost of the boy, whose mother (a suffragette) was the cause of his death, punishes Lucy. Lucy represents the New Woman: she is independent, has a job and has mastered modern technology. She is then punished by the very technology she uses.

 

The idea of the ‘Long 19th Century’ is partly due to society within Britain containing many of the same fears as the fin de siècle of the previous century. Onions and Hill’s stories reflect these and this is something I have attempted to do also. This includes the fear of science and rise in technology, the rise of the New Woman and a general anxiety of change. Ghost stories offered an anchoring of the past to the present and the ghosts themselves as a bridge between them. The boy within my story has died due to many of these social fears and he represents the past, punishing anyone who stands for them.

Bibliography:

 

  • Carter, Angela. “Afterword” Fireworks: Nine Stories in Various Disguises Cambridge: Harper & Rowe (1974). 133.
  • Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920) London: Penguin (2003) 51.
  • Hill, Susan. The Woman in Black. London: Vintage (1998)
  • Hurley, Kelly. The Gothic Body: Sexuality, Materialism, and Degeneration at the Fin de Siecle. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1996) 121
  • Onions, Oliver. ‘The Beckoning Fair One’. Gothic Literature Module Reader (Bristol: Department of English, Writing and Drama, UWE, 2011) 131-156
  • Stoker, Bram. Dracula. London: Penguin (1994)


Read Full Post »