In 1879, Jacobs began work as a clerk in the civil service, in the Post Office Savings Bank, and by 1885 he had his first short story published. His road to success was relatively slow: Arnold Bennett writing in 1898 was astonished that Jacobs turned down the sum of £500 for six short stories, but from October 1898 Jacobs’s stories were appearing in The Strand magazine, an arrangement which lasted almost to his death and provided him with financial security. Jacobs was secure enough to be able to leave the Post Office in 1899.
The majority of his output was humorous in tone. His favourite subjects were marine life: “men who go down to the sea in ships of moderate tonnage” said Punch, reviewing his first collection of stories, Many Cargoes, which achieved great popular success on its publication in 1896. He is now chiefly remembered for his macabre tale “The Monkey’s Paw”, published 1902 in the collection of short stories The Lady of the Barge. In the story, three wishes are granted to the owner of The Monkey’s Paw, but the wishes come with an enormous price for interfering with fate.
Frequently anthologized, “The Toll House” (published 1909 in the collection of short stories Sailors’ Knots) is a disturbing and ambiguous haunted house story using the common device of three friends spending the night in the place of the title.The best thing about it is the atmosphere and Jacobs uses the classic device of never showing, olt implying the menace.
“Jerry Bundler” (published 1901 in the collection Light Freights). is a classic British Chrismas ghost story, taking place in an inn, where a group of men are huddled at the fire, swapping ghost stories that genuinely terrify them. The chief ghost of the hour is that of Jerry Bundler, a highwayman who hanged himself in the upstairs bedroom in the previous century. The men, too frightened to pass the night alone, begin bartering for bedfellows. , The skeptic retires to bed. Meanwhile, one of his friends bets that he can get a good scare out of him. Of course, things do not go as planned.
“The Well” is a tremendously dark story – both thematically and artistically. So much shadow covers it. Suggestion reigns in its chilling text, and terror is afforded the throne rather than the much easier and more tempting Prince Horror. Like so many of Jacobs’ stories, it features a murder, and the plight of that murderer as he tries to hide his crime. But fate conspires against him – or is it Something else? No spolers, if I give too much of the plot you may ot be enticed to read it and that would be a shame. The acknowledged master, M. R. James was tremendously influenced by “The Well,” incorporating its eeriness and themes in a variety of stories.
H.R.Wakefield’s ghost stories were published in several collections during the course of his lengthy writing career: They Return at Evening (1928), Old Man’s Beard: Fifteen Disturbing Tales (1929), Imagine a Man in a Box (1931), Ghost Stories (1932), A Ghostly Company (1935), The Clock Strikes Twelve: Tales of the Supernatural (1940), and Strayers from Sheol (1961). In 1946, August Derleth’s Arkham House issued an expanded version of The Clock Strikes Twelve for the U.S. market; they were also the publishers of Strayers from Sheol. In 1978, John Murray published The Best Ghost Stories of H. Russell Wakefield, edited by Richard Dalby, which spanned Wakefield’s career and featured some previously uncollected tales. A series of collections comprising his complete output of published ghost stories was produced in the 1990s by Ash-Tree Press in limited editions that quickly went out of print. Ash-Tree also published a volume of previously unpublished stories, Reunion at Dawn and Other Uncollected Ghost Stories, in 2000.
Wakefield’s supernatural fiction was strongly influenced by the work of M. R. James and Algernon Blackwood. “The Red Lodge”, “The Thirteenth Hole at Duncaster”, “Blind Man’s Buff”, “‘Look Up There!’” and “‘He Cometh and He Passeth By!’” are among his most widely anthologised tales.
To many E. F. Benson is the author of the Lucia and Mapp series of novels but he also has an audience among horror fans. He is known as a writer of atmospheric and at times humorous or satirical ghost stories, which were often first published in story magazines such as Pearson’s Magazine or Hutchinson’s Magazine, 20 of which were illustrated by Edmund Blampied. These “spook stories”, as they were also termed, were then reprinted in collections by his principal publisher, Walter Hutchinson. His 1906 short story, “The Bus-Conductor”, a fatal-crash premonition tale about a person haunted by a hearse driver, has been adapted several times, notably during 1944 for the movie Dead of Night . and for a 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone. The catchphrase from the story, “Room for one more”, created a legend.
The collection The Room in the Tower, and Other Stories (1912) contains in the title story one of my favorites. In spite of havig been re-read many times, it never fails to draw me in. The volume also includes “Gavon’s Eve”, “The Dust-Cloud”, “The Confession of Charles Linkworth”, “At Abdul Alt’s Grave”, “The Shootings of Achnaleish”, “How Fear Departed from the Long Gallery”, “Caterpillars”, “The Cat”, “The Bus-Conductor”, “The Man Who Went Too Far”, “Between the Lights”, “Outside the Door”, “The Other Bed”, “The Thing in the Hall”, “The House with the Brick-Kiln”, “The Terror by Night”. I can highly recommend “Caterpillars” a short but very effective story, with a very usettling premise.
Visible and Invisible, published in 1923 in the UK and the United States in 1924, contained “And the dead Spoke…”, “The Outcast”, “Machon”, “Negotium Perambulans…”, “At the Farmhouse”, ” Inscrutable Decrees”, “The Gardener”, Mr Tilly’s Seance”, “Mrs Amworth”, “In the Tube”, “Roderick’s Story”, “The Horror Horn” Tired of the same old vampire tales? Try “Mrs. Amworth”. If you do’t feel like reading there is a lovely 1975 version with the wonderful Glynis John’s in the titular role which I enjpyed.
- Spook Stories (1928)
- “Reconciliation”, “The Face”, “Spinach”, “Bagnell terrace”, “A Tale of an Empty House”, “Naboth’s Vineyard”, “Expiation”, “Home, Sweet Home”, “And No Birds Sing”, “The Corner House”, “Corstophine”, “The Temple”
- More Spook Stories (1934)
- “The Step”, “The Bed by the Window”, “James Lamp”, “The Dance”, “The Hanging of Alfred Wadham”, “The Wishing-Well”, “The Bath-Chair”, “Pirates”, “Monkeys”, “Christopher Came Back”, “The Sanctuary”, “Thursday Evenings”, “The Psychical Mallards”.
- The Flint Knife: Further Spook Stories by E. F. Benson; (Equation, 1988) Edited by Jack Adrian (Contains twelve ghost stories none of which had previously been published in volume form, plus the three ghost tales which had appeared in The Countess of Lowndes Square)
- The Collected Spook Stories published by Ash Tree Press consists of four volumes contaiing all of E. F. Benson’s supernatural fiction.
- Ann Mellor’s Lover
- The Avenging of Ann Leete
- The Bishop of Hell
- The Breakdown
- The Crown Derby Plate
- Elsie’s Lonely Afternoon
- The Extraordinary Adventure of Mr John Proudie
- The Fair Hair of Ambrosine
- Florence Flannery
- The Folding Doors
- The Grey Chamber
- Half-Past Two
- The Hidden Ape / Marjorie Bowen
- The House by the Poppy Field
- The Housekeeper
- One Remained Behind: a romance a la mode Gothique
- Raw Material / Marjorie Bowen
- Scoured Silk
- The Sign-Painter and the Crystal Fishes
- Black Magic: a tale of the rise and fall of the Antichrist 
- The Haunted Vintage 
- God’s Playthings [Smith, Elder, 1912]
Including: “A Poor Spanish Lodging”, “The Burning of the Vanities”, “The Extraordinary Adventure of Grace Endicott”, “Twilight”.
- Shadows of Yesterday [Stories from an Old Catalogue [Smith, Elder (London), 1916]
Including: “Giuditta’s Wedding Night”, “The Fair Hair of Ambrosine”, “Petronilla of the Laurel Trees”.
- Curious Happenings [Mills & Boon, 1917]
Including: “The Pond”, “Love”, “Belle Hutchinson”, “The Sign-Painter and the Crystal Fishes”.
- Crimes of Old London [Odhams (London), 1919]
Including: “Brent’s Folly”, “The Confession of Beau Sekforde” [aka “The Housekeeper”].
- The Pleasant Husband and Other Stories 
Including: “The Blue Glove”.
- Seeing Life! and Other Stories [Hurst & Blackett (London), 1923]
Including: “The Tarnished Mirror”, “Ann Mellor’s Lover”, “The Avenging of Anne Leete”, “The Cabriolet”, “Decay”, “He Made a Woman”, “Kecksies”, “The Proud Pomfret”.
- Dark Ann and Other Stories [John Lane (London), 
Including: “The Accident”, “A Persistent Woman”, “Flower of Carnival”, “Dark Ann”.
- Old Patch’s Medley; or, A London Miscellany, Being Some Adventures of the Old Gentleman in London City Some Two Hundred Years Ago or So, Here Recorded [Selwyn & Blount, 1928]
Including: “The Confession of Beau Sekforde” [aka “The Housekeeper”].
- The Gorgeous Lovers, and Other Stories [The Bodley Head (London), 1929]
Including: “Florence Flannery”, “The Bishop of Hell”.
- Sheep’s Head and Babylon, and other stories of yesterday and to-day [The Bodley Head, 1929]
Including: “An Appointment with Stiffkey” [aka “Half Past Two”], “The Necromancers”, “The Pond”, “The Prescription”, “Sheep’s Head and Babylon”
- Grace Latouche and the Warringtons, some nineteenth-century pieces, mostly Victorian [Selwyn & Blount (London), 1931]
Including: “The Crown Derby Plate”, “Heliotrope”, “Kecksies”, “Raw Material”, “Marwood’s Ghost Story”, ”The Sign-Painter and the Crystal Fishes”.
- The Last Bouquet: Some Twilight Tales [The Bodley Head (London), 1933]
Includes: “The Last Bouquet”, “Madam Spitfire”, “The Fair Hair of Ambrosine”, “The Hidden Ape”, “The Avenging of Anne Leete”, “The Crown Derby Plate”, “The Prescription”, “The Lady Clodagh”, “Florence Flannery”, “Kecksies”, “The Sign-Painter and the Crystal Fishes”, “Raw Material”.
- The Knot Garden: Some Old Fancies Reset [as George Preedy] [The Bodley Head (London), 1933]
Including: “Red Champagne”, “Graf Maarten and the Idiot”.
- Orange Blossoms [as Joseph Shearing] [Heinemann (London), 1938]
Including: “She Knew What to Do”, “They Found My Grave”.
- The Bishop of Hell and Other Stories [John Lane, The Bodley Head (London) 1949]
Including: “The Fair Hair of Ambroise”, “The Crown Derby Plate”, “The Housekeeper”, “Florence Flannery”, “The Bishop of Hell”, “The Grey Chamber”, “The Avenging of Ann Leete”, “Kecksies”.
- Kecksies and Other Twilight Tales [Arkham House, 1976]
Including “The Hidden Ape”, “Kecksies”, “Raw Material”, “The Avenging of Anne Leete”, “The Sign-Painter and the Crystal Fishes”, “The Crown Derby Plate”, “The Breakdown”, “One Remained Behind”, “The House by the Poppy Field”, “Florence Flannery”, “Half Past Two” (aka “An Appointment with Stiffkey”) .
- Twilight and Other Supernatural Romances [Ash-Tree Press, 1998]
Including: “Dark Ann”, “The Last Bouquet”, “Madam Spitfire”, “The Lady Clodagh”, “Decay”, “The Fair Hair of Ambrosine”, “Ann Mellor’s Lover”, “Giuditta’s Wedding Night”, “Twilight”, “The Burning of the Vanities”, “A Stranger Knocked”, “They Found My Grave”, “Brent’s Folly”, “The confession of Beau Sekforde” (aka “The Housekeeper”) “The Recluse and Springtime”, “Vigil”, and the short novel Julia Roseingrave.
Oliver Onions wrote in a variety of genres, but is best remembered for his collections of ghost stories, beginning in 1906 with Back o’ the Moon, the highly-regarded collection Widdershins (1911) which includes the novella “The Beckoning Fair One”, and on. There were later publications now only found in the used book market but several of his stories have been collected in a new edition The Dead of Night: The Ghost Stories of Oliver Onions (Tales of Mystery & the Supernatural)
My top ghost stories:
Without question M. R. James is my favorite author of ghost stories. I am not alone in this. While the plots and characters in his stories clearly take their inspiration from his antiquarian and scholarly interests, he divested his stories of Gothic cliches and used more contemporary settings and situations. Even as he is my favorite author, although I enjoy them all, I have favorites among all his stories. Still, there are so many and all so good I have a couple of ties. Algernon Blackwood was one of the most prolific writers of ghost stories in the history of the genre. He was also a journalist and a broadcasting narrator. It is no wonder he comes in a (reluctant) second with my two favorites of his stories. I like his other John Silence stores and The Willows is downright scary but these two give a taste of his north woods stories and his European based stories and they are ones I have re-read again and again..
- Mrs Charlotte Riddell was well known as a writer of ghost stories. Five of her novels deal with buildings blighted by supernatural phenomena, but her shorter ghost stories, such as “The Open Door” and “Nut Bush Farm”, which were collected in the volume Weird Stories are more available, having been often anthologized.Mary Louisa Molesworth was a writer of fiction for young people who also produced supernatural fiction. In 1888, she published a collection under the title Four Ghost Stories, and again in 1896 a collection of six stories, title Uncanny Stories. In addition, her volume Studies and Stories includes a ghost story entitled “Old Gervais” and her Summer Stories for Boys and Girls includes “Not exactly a ghost story.”
Mary Elizabeth Braddon was a prolific writer, producing more than 80 novels with inventive plots. The most famous is Lady Audley’s Secret (1862), which won her recognition, and a fortune as a bestseller. It has remained in print since its publication and been dramatised and filmed several times. Braddon wrote several works of supernatural fiction, including the pact with the devil story Gerald, or the World, the Flesh and the Devil (1891), and many ghost stories, including “The Cold Embrace”, “Eveline’s Visitant” and “At Chrighton Abbey”. I found “The Shadow in the Corner” especially creepy and sad.
- E. F. Benson The Room in the Tower Mrs Amworth Negotium Perambulans
- M. Burrage Smee
Francis Marion Crawford The Upper Berth
H F Arnold The Night Wire
Charles Dickens The Signalman
Amelia B Edwards The Ghost Coach
John Buchan Fullcircle
Lafcadio Hearn The Boy Who Drew Cats
William Hope Hodgson
Evelyn Nesbit John Charrington’s Wedding
Arthur Conan Doyle Lot No 249
Sheridan LeFanu Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter Carmilla
L.T.C. Rolt On Bosworth Pound
- G. Swain Bone to His Bone
- H. Maldin
Edgar Allen Poe Ligeia
Julius Long He Walked by Day Julius Long was a lawyer born in Ohio in 1907 who penned a handful of horror and detective tales before his death in 1955. Some of his stories were published in Weird Tales Magazine during the 1930’s. His most popular offering seems to have been “The Pale Man” (1934) which has been regularly reprinted in various anthologies. 1. “He Walked By Day” (1934) – A crew of road workers in a small Ohio town are approached by a pale, exceptionally tall, young man who asks for a job so he can take care of his sick mother. After proving to possess unbelievable strength despite his frail frame, they agree to take him on. Later he explains that he’s actually a ghost who can’t rest while his mother still needs him.
- W. Jacobs The Monkey’s Paw
- Russell Wakefield
Oliver Onions The Cigarette Case
Robert Loiis Stevenson The Body Snatcher Thrawn Janet For those to whom the Scot’s dialect would be an obstacle I found a lovely translation into English on a site whose creator has an obvious love and deep knowlegge of supernatural fiction. Click here for a bit of Stevenson you might be unfamiliar with,
1838),The Irish made their contributions to the ghost story as well. Dublin was not just the haunt of James Joyce but of many writers of supernatural fiction as well. One could easily create a tour of the city on that theme. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, an author whose technique was much admired by MR James, wrote his tales of vampires and sinister monkeys from his home on Merrion Square. Dorothy Macardle penned the ghost stories in her first collection Earth-Bound while imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol. Head over to York Street where Charles Maturin wrote his novel of satanic longevity, Melmoth the Wanderer – a favorite of Oscar Wilde, himself no stranger to supernatural musings. On Leeson Street you’ll find the childhood home of Lafcadio Hearn, where he suffered nightmares that would later inform his writings on America, the Caribbean and Japan. And on Herbert Place, overlooking the Grand Canal, you’ll find a plaque denoting the birthplace of Elizabeth Bowen, a writer who fully recognized that ghost stories are “oblique and subtle, perfectly calculated to get the modern person under their skin”.