‘A Haunted House’ by Charles Dickens

A Haunted House by Charles Dickens, 1859

The magic trick:

Creating a scary/silly myth around the haunted house in question

“A Haunted House” is a total mess of a story. Not only does it unspool like Dickens was making it all up as he went, I’m convinced that its author died having never read the finished text. It’s rambling and schizophrenic, bloated with introductions and descriptions of characters that never factor in the plot.

And that’s a shame because several of the individual sections here are awesomely haunting. I’ll highlight one that comes early in the story – the local rumors surrounding the house. They are both scary and ridiculous, perfect to send a shudder through the reader while also making dubious comment casting doubt upon the townspeople propagating the myths.

I wish the story would’ve drawn out more along these lines; that kind of scary and silly combination is a classic trope of ghost-story fiction. And that’s quite a trick on Dickens’s part.

The selection:

“‘Ooded woman with a howl,” said Ikey, in a state of great freshness.

“Do you mean a cry?”

“I mean a bird, sir.”

“A hooded woman with an owl. Dear me! Did you ever see her?”

“I seen the howl.”

“Never the woman?”

“Not so plain as the howl, but they always keeps together.”

“Has anybody ever seen the woman as plainly as the owl?”

“Lord bless you, sir! Lots.”

“Who?”

“Lord bless you, sir! Lots.”

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