Sunday, September 23, 2012

"Mr Humphreys and His Inheritance"

"Mr Humphreys and His Inheritance"
from Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, Part 2, by M. R. James

Well, you know that anytime someone in a ghost story gets an inheritance, it's bound to come with something sinister, and this tale doesn't break with tradition.  Overall, a decent story...  There were some ends that I felt were not satisfactorily tied up, but to compensate, there were the requisite Creepy Moments. 

This was the last story in the book.  I heartily recommend it to anyone fond of old ghost stories. 

More Specific Comments (on this story only):

--  Thank you, story, for introducing me to the word "valetudinarian", which was purposely misspelled as "valentudinarian".  (Someone in poor health and generally obsessed with his/her health.)

--  Mr. Cooper is a male Mrs. Malaprop.

--  Something about the middle of this story-- the labyrinth?  the temple?  both?-- reminded me strongly of some other short story (I think) I've read in the past several years, but I can't figure out which one.  I thought it was in a volume of short stories by Daphne du Maurier, but I looked through that and can't find it... so I'm stumped.  All I can recall is a group of people hanging out around a temple/shrine-- possibly in the center of a maze-- and something ancient and evil coming into play.

--  The "hole in the paper" scene!  It had the vibe of some of the creepiest modern horror movies-- particularly Japanese films or remakes thereof.  (The Ring, maybe...)

--  So... what was up with the mysterious moving/changing shrubs/trees in the garden?  That could have used a bit more explanation, I think.  Or at least I would have liked a little more development on that point.  I guess it was just meant to suggest that there was something wrong about the maze-- and that it was slowly working its way toward the house.

--  Are the carvings on the globe more than a mishmash of figures to suggest Generic Evil?  If you're up for it, this article offers an interesting take on the story.