The Beckoning Fair One, by Oliver Onions
A writer takes rooms in a long-abandoned house, seeking peaceful surroundings in which to finish his current novel-- the work he hopes will finally give him a measure of recognition. However, strange occurrences soon lead him to wonder if the building has been inhabited-- by something-- all along...
I listened to Julie's (of Forgotten Classics) reading of this novella. The brevity and advertised creepiness reeled me in. ;o) So, my opinion? It felt a little slower getting started than I usually like in such a short work, but once it got going, there were some raised hairs. (You must read/listen to the end. It's the best part, by far.) I'd recommend this for anyone who loves creepy ghost stories. ...As for the rest of what I have to say, I don't think I can write it without spoilers, so...
-- I remember one of my high school (or was it middle school?) teachers recommending a very creepy ghost story in which someone hears the sweep and crackle of ghostly hair being brushed-- but I didn't remember the name of the story or author. How funny to just happen across it all these years later!
-- I was convinced that there would be a happy ending. Paul would drift away to la-la land for a while, Elsie would come and do no-nonsense battle with the feminine ghost of the place (or maybe she would come to help, but end up in such danger that Paul would finally be scared back into his wits and flee the haunted building), and Paul would realize that he did love Elsie, with a "happily ever after" soon to follow. So the actual ending came (needless to say) as something of a shock!
-- As I was saying in the last point, shocking ending! Definitely the creepiest part of the book, to me, was the discovery of Elsie's body and the realization that she'd been dead a while... with Paul lying in just the next room for days (?)... and that now he'll either be executed for her murder or locked up in an asylum for the criminally insane... And meanwhile, that house (or whatever is in it) is still just sitting there, waiting for its next victim. ~shudder~
-- This is one of those stories that seem to just get creepier and creepier the longer I think about them...
-- Apparently there's an argument that you can read the story not as a ghost story but as a description of Paul's mental breakdown. From that perspective, he is delusional regarding the haunting and actually kills Elsie himself. Personally, I think we're "supposed" to believe there's really a ghost, if for no other reason than that Elsie herself seems to sense (multiple times) that there's something wrong about the place and that it's antagonistic to her in particular. (Plus the house/ghost hurts her twice before she is finally killed. I don't see how Paul could be blamed for either of those incidences.)
-- I'll have to look out for more Oliver Onions!