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Ghost Stories

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Introduction Nowadays, if someone were asked to give a definition of a ghost story, or to think of words related to such stories, then I suspect they would probably use the following terms; gore, blood, violence, grotesque inhuman figures, etc. No more than 150 years ago, all one needed for a successful horrific tale was the use of odd happenings and religious references. The realism of the tales created a mental thought process; the reader believed the events were possible. This increased the tension. Religious beliefs made imaginations run wild. In the ghost stories of today, the horror is all created on the page, hardly leaving anything to the imagination. In the 19th Century, however, all the horror was created in the head; metaphorically speaking, the writer provided the bones, and the reader added the flesh. Generally, all a ghost story needs is a spectre, visible or invisible, or a haunting of some sort. The phantom need only be sensed, or at the very least, supposed. The writer must also build up a successful atmosphere: a mood, setting, and time, all of which must comply with the basis of the story. Not all ghost stories need to be horrific or violent; that is what many modern horror tales have at fault. A ghost story can be sad or poignant. Sometimes they can even be humorous. Well written ghost stories have a decipherable, clear storyline, with an introductory problem being stated or hinted, a focal section showing the problem, with a concluding section with an understandable solution, or a cliff-hanger leaving the readers on the edge of their seats, anticipating a sequel. That is what most great ghost stories consist of; of course there are some exceptions. On the other hand, a 'trashy' anecdote is most likely to consist of direct gore and violence; no storyline, nothing to follow. Although description may be impeccable, it still lacks the crucial aspect that every story piece of fiction needs, a plot. ...read more.


It's your own choosing'. More than once the old woman says - 'This night of all nights'; implying that that particular night of all nights was especially dangerous. The old man with the terrible cough does not contribute much to the conversation; the only relevant thing he says is - 'And are you really going'. This indicates that he does not really believe that the young man is genuinely going to risk the endeavour. These are all features of gothic horror. The disfigured people increase the tension, as they seem rather ghostly and subhuman. In the Withered Arm, Rhoda Brook and her son are discussing Gertrude Lodge, and how Rhoda is planning to send her son to find out what she looks like - 'You can give her a look, and tell me what she's like'. From first impressions, I suspect Rhoda despises Gertrude, from the way she regards her with disgust - 'If you do see her ... and if she seems like a woman who has ever worked for a living, or one that has been always well off, and has never done anything, and shows marks of the lady on her, as I expect she do'. This may lead the reader to believe that Rhoda is planning to harm Gertrude in some way. In the beginning, there does not seem to be a problem present. Later on, Rhoda meets Gertrude, and befriends her due to the benevolence Gertrude shows to Rhoda's son. This is rather ironic, as she had once despised the woman for supposedly stealing her husband. Rhoda next notices the handprint-like marks on Gertrude's arm, as she did in the dream, leading the reader to believe that this dream could well have been a premonition. This is the first hint of supernatural behaviour in the story, and also questions the innocence of Rhoda. Gertrude seeks advice, and hence visits a conjurer to find a cure. ...read more.


The door continued to knock. As he heard the bolt ease back, he found the talisman and 'breathed his third and final wish'. The knocking ceased, the door opened, and a long wail of disappointment came from Mrs White's lips. This is similar to a number of other classic horror stories, where the author makes the reader predict what is to come and then change it drastically; all the horror occurs in the head, unlike in some modern day tales where all the horror is in words on the page. The Withered Arm also has a climax, but as the story is longer, it takes longer to reach. In the mean time, tension is built, as Gertrude watches the gallows being erected and the ropes being tightened. She is increasingly dreading the task she must perform, and is definitely having second thoughts. The executioner puts Gertrude's hand on the neck of the recently hung man, and she cried - 'The turn o'the blood' just as the conjurer said would happen. Little did she know that the man was actually Rhoda and Lodge's son until another shriek rang through the air - 'rent the air of the enclosure... You are like her at last', meaning she resembles the apparition Rhoda saw in her dream. Gertrude is horrified to see her husband and Rhoda Brook. As in Rhoda's vision, she grabbed Gertrude by the arm and flung her to the side, leaving her unconscious in a crumpled heap. This was not a predictable end to the story, as the author gave added a twist to the end for effect. The end was very striking and different. Conclusion All three stories are different, yet they contain many similarities, for example, they all have features of gothic horror. My reason for this is because they were all written around the same era - late 19th Century. At the time when these stories were written, there was a very strong belief in supernatural powers, hence the stories all contained aspect concerned with the supernatural; darkness, and shadows. These are added for extra effect. ...read more.

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