East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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The Phantom Rickshaw

Nearly every other Station owns a ghost. There are said to be two at Simla, not counting the woman who blows the bellows at Syree dâk-bungalow on the Old Road; Mussoorie has a house haunted of a very lively Thing; a White Lady is supposed to do night-watchman round a house in Lahore; Dalhousie says that one of her houses “repeats” on autumn evenings all the incidents of a horrible horse-and-precipice accident; Murree has a merry ghost, and, now that she has been swept by cholera, will have room for a sorrowful one; there are Officers’ Quarters in Mian Mir whose doors open without reason, and whose furniture is guaranteed to creak, not with the heat of June but with the weight of Invisibles who come to lounge in the chairs; Peshawur possesses houses that none will willingly rent; and there is something—not fever—wrong with a big bungalow in Allahabad. The older Provinces simply bristle with haunted houses, and march phantom armies along their main thoroughfares.

The_Phantom_Rickshaw_&_Other_Eerie_TalesOriental ghost stories, we said, and let’s start with Kipling’s The Phantom Rickshaw and other ghost stories, that you can find in a variety of formats on Project Gutenberg.
The book was first published in 1888, but I think the Gutenberg edition is somehow later, because it includes an extra story, The Finest Story in the World, that’s not listed in the Wikipedia page devoted to the book.

The original stories in the book were written by Kipling in his twenties, and published by The Pioneer or the Civil and Military Gazette.

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Ghosts from the East

nightbird coverLet’s leave Egypt behind for a while.
Last week my friend Lucy published her new novel, the first with Acheron Books. It’s called Nightbird and it’s a ghost story1.
So we had the opportunity of talking a lot about ghost stories, and our favorite novels, movies and what not. It was fun. It also turned out that Lucy would love to write a vampire novel, while I’d love to write a few ghost stories. And as we talked about books, I realized that while I love Peter Straub’s Ghost Story or James Herbert’s David Ash books, what I really like is ghostly short stories. The sort you can read in one sitting, and be scared and entertained.
And so I started compiling a list of my favorite collections of ghost stories. Continue reading

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Night Visitors

397bf385fd3ef7e7dc9307272a808a85Do we need ghost stories?
It turns out the house in which I’m living is supposedly haunted – this explains why some of the locals look strangely at me and my brother. Or maybe they are just weird country bumpkins, who knows.
Fact is, by the weekend I’ll have to deliver a learned article – in Italian – about ghostly literature. It’s the spirit (aha!) of the season, I guess.
I’ve been translating two ghost stories for a new publication – a story by Edith Nesbit and one by the wildly eccentric Robert Stephen Hawker, and I’ve been reading on the subject. Continue reading

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Karavansara Free Library: Edith Nesbit’s Ghosts and other

staged-ghost-photoI’ve been looking up Victorian and Edwardian ghost stories, for a small collateral project I’m working on.
Now the bad side of this is, alot of my books are still boxed away. The bright side on the other hand is, you can find most Victorian and Edwardian fiction online on the Project Gutenberg pages, or in the Internet Archive.

So I started checking, and of course I ended up with Edith Nesbit.
I admit I have a sort of literary crush for Edit Nesbit.
Deservedly famous as an author of children’s books – including the classic The Railway Children from 1906 – Nesbit was also responsible for adult fiction, often of the ghostly and horrific kind.
And if her children’s books are based on her expanded family and show a good understanding of a child’s imagination, her horrors show a good grasp of human psychology and the dynamics of fear. Continue reading

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Writing ghosts

I’m writing a ghost story.
You know I like the genre, and I think it’s a pity there are not more opportunities for writing spooky tales.
Contrary to my usual line, it’s a pro bono effort – for an anthology that will raise funds to help the children.
This is, to me, a good reason to give away my work for free.


Being a pro bono effort, it will have to be fitted between paying jobs – which is the reason why I’m working on it on the weekend and the reason why this is the only update for Karavansara today.
I’ve got a stack of books to read, I’ve got posts to write, but this takes precedence.

The story will be called The day we played at Middle Ages, and is shaping up nicely.
As soon as it’s out, I’ll be happy to spread the news, because it is for a good cause.

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Famous Modern Ghost Stories

17408014662_1a0e70e2e9_oWhat’s Halloween without a good ghost story, or five?

In 1921, Texas-born Dorothy Scarborough, lecturer in English at the Columbia University, edited a selection of spooky tales, and called it Famous Modern Ghost Stories.
The book includes works both familiar (Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Machen), and less obvious choices (Anatole France, Olivia Howard Dunbar).
One hundred years on, the volume is still a wonderful selection of ghostly narratives, and is highly recommended.

Here’s the full index… Continue reading


More ghosts (and other supernatural things)

And talking about ghost stories, two big fat books landed on my desk this week.
Well, actually one on landed on my Kindle and the other on my desk.

dark_detectives_cover_largeThe great old Fedogan & Bremer collection Dark Detectives, edited by Stephen Jones, has been recently reissued, both as a paperback and as an ebook.
Alas, the new edition does not have the incredible Les Edwards cover, but the contents are all there, and they are simply great – including Kim Newman‘s complete Seven Stars cycle of stories1, and a wealth of other supernatural investigation adventures from an authors roster that includes the likes of Neil Gaiman, Brian Lumley and Clive Barker (among many others).

The introduction by Stephen Jones is a good introduction to the subject of supernatural investigation and occult detectives, and has the power to add a number of titles to an already crowded to-read list.

51bbW8wT5ZL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_And yesterday, I received as a gift the highly suggestive Voodoo Tales, a thick Wordsworth Classics paperback collecting the ghost stories and supernatural tales of Henry S. Whitehead, that were originally published by Arkham House, and are today pretty hard to get (and expensive as hell).
Whitehead was an author specializing in uncanny stories set in the West Indies, and worked from first-hand experiences – he had spent a lot of time in the Carribean, and had met and interviewed real practitioners of voodoo.
His stories appeared in Weird Tales magazine, and it is a nice addition to my collection.

Now, the nice bit is, the first of these books was a much anticipated purchase (I pre-ordered the ebook, saving some money), but the second was a gift – and an unexpected gift, too.
A sign?
A weird coincidence?
For sure, I better start putting my notes and outlines together…

  1. in turn inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle‘s Jewel of the Seven Stars, in itself another quite interesting read you can find in the Gutenberg Project.