Sunday, July 6, 2014

"The Terror by Night"

"The Terror by Night"
by E.F. Benson

The story of a ghostly phenomenon demonstrates how people's sensitivities and perceptions differ.

My Reaction (with a chance of SPOILERS):
Benson evidently was very fond of this type of set-up.  He (or rather his narrator) tells you one of his theories regarding ghosts, etc., then provides a story to back it up.  That might not be a problem if you're just happening across a tale now and again in a magazine, but that literary device gets a bit repetitive when you're reading a collection of his stories.

-- "...They may appeal to any of the senses.  Some ghosts are seen, some heard, some felt, and though I know of no instance of a ghost being tasted, yet it will seem in the following pages that these occult phenomena may appeal at any rate to the senses that perceive heat, cold, or smell."  Very clinical, aren't we?

--  "The following story, however, to my mind, is interesting because it shows how different pieces of what no doubt was one message were received and recorded by several different people simultaneously."  I've already read this exact premise (that different people perceive a ghost differently) in Benson's own "The Dust-Cloud".

--  "Ten years have elapsed since the events recorded took place, but they were written down at the time."  Why ten years?  It seems that the passage of a certain length of time is required, in these cases.  It's very rarely, "Oh, hey, let me tell you about this ghostly experience I had two days ago."

--  "'Oh, don't look so woebegone, Jack,' his wife had said; 'you'll see me again before long.'"  (~shivery-chuckle~)

--  "...I remember going to sleep feeling quite cheerful, but I awoke in some dark still house and It, the terror by night, had come while I slept.  Fear and misgiving, blind, unreasonable, and paralysing, had taken and gripped me."  I know this is supposed to be something more than just that horrible feeling you can get when you wake at 3 a.m. and can't stop thinking about every little worry and fear lurking in the corners of your mind-- but it reminds me of it, anyway.  What is it about three o'clock in the morning?  It's the worst hour of the whole twenty-four for lying awake and worrying.