Ghost Stories. ’tis the season. I had prepared some stories for reading out loud before a Women’s Institute in Tunbridge Wells. “The Wells Angels”. I’ve been working on material for a couple of weeks. Some of you have helped on Facebook. Thank you.
I wanted to try to find a good balance. I had a load of stories suggested on top of the ones that I was already considering. I listened to all of them. This last week involved a great deal of me playing weird YouTube readings of obscure ghost stories. My rule was that if I listened to it by randomer on YouTube and felt absolutely nothing then it was to be abandoned immediately. If there was a moment when I felt creeped out, it was worth considering. Some of the ones where I felt creeped out… – the reader was AWFUL. The stories too were often so firmly mired in ancient thinking. Without a good reader there was nothing left to hear but the actual words.
It’s kind of useful to have these atrocious readings on YouTube. If the story still works when it’s read by an alien then it’s a good story.
I had decided to do three tales over my 45 minute window. That allowed time for audience to refill drinks and to chat. It didn’t allow time for any story I told to last over fifteen minutes though.
I had been suggested a decent and spooky tale by Edith Wharton, but it would’ve taken the whole evening. I stuck with shorter ones, even if I wished that I could’ve found a short one by a woman. The fault, I’m sure, is as much in my search mechanism as in anything else. But these are the ones I chose:
I started with Poe. The Tell Tale Heart. It’s fifteen minutes and it really is delightfully creepy so long as the audience can ignore the wealth of double-entendre on the first page – which mine did. I then went more modern with a Lovecraft disciple grinding a child psychology axe via a creepy story called “The Thing in the Cellar.” It’s a lovely strange piece. I ended with a weird circular tale called “Midnight Express” that I had chosen after having it recommended and then hearing it on YouTube read by somebody as an exercise in overcoming multiple speech defects. There was still something creepy in the story – maybe just in the language. I figured if I can hear it read by somebody who would never be a public reader, and if I could still find something creepy – that speaks well of the story. Weirdly, I tried to find the weird version I played to myself just a day or so ago. It’s offline now it seems. Maybe I am stuck in a similar circular loop.
Twas a lovely night. What a good bunch. How lovely to contribute to their Halloween program. And an unusual experience, to be part of the entertainment and thus part of the group at a very active and forward moving Women’s Institute in Tunbridge Wells…