The Best Ghost Stories of H. Russell Wakefield

Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 11/13/2002
Buy from one of these Booksellers: | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon IT |
17 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Wednesday, November 13, 2002
In ghost-story circles, Wakefield may not be as well known as M. R. James or E. F. Benson, but his best stories rank with theirs among the great horror tales. "The Red Lodge" is a nasty little haunted-house tale full of half-seen horrors and threats of real tragedy; "Blind Man's Buff" is a claustrophobic fable that had me turning on all the lights late one night. Other stories have a variety of tone and theme. I don't have a release copy of this one, but Wakefield's best stories may be found in many of the top ghost or horror anthologies. Recommended.

Journal Entry 2 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Saturday, September 20, 2003
Wahoo! I found another (affordable!) copy of this one! Since it's hard to find I thought I'd offer it for a bookray.

Participants, in mailing order:

h3yd00 (NC)
Morgail (KY)
kymberlie (TX)
tish2002 (MO)
caligula03 (CA)
mojosmom (IL)
jamieh2003 (WV)
CasualReader (FL)
mellion108 (MI)
arugh48187 (MN)
Guinneth (NH)
Fofum (UK) [skipping, no response - no longer active?]
Maddog1404 (GA) [skipping, no response - no longer active?]
BruceAlexander (LA)

I'll ask each of you to journal the book when you receive it, PM the next person on the list for their mailing address, read the book relatively promptly, and journal with your comments when you're ready to pass it along.

Note: even if you've sent books to that person before, please PM them before mailing this one, to confirm that the address is correct and that they're able to take on a bookring book at this time.]

Hope you enjoy the book!

Journal Entry 3 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Controlled release:

I'm sending this to BCer h3yd00 in NC, to kick off the bookray. Hope you enjoy the book!

Journal Entry 4 by h3yd00 on Saturday, September 27, 2003
Received in the mail today. I can't wait to read this one, I loooove ghost stories! Will read and have ready to go within the week! I am pm'ing Morgail right now.

Thank you so much for including me!!

The bookplate is beautiful, by the way! :-)

Journal Entry 5 by h3yd00 on Thursday, October 02, 2003
What a creepy, enjoyable little book! I really enjoyed these stories, it's always refreshing to read some older ghost stories. Many thanks once again for including me. :)

This book is heading out to Morgail, release planned for Friday.

*Book was released by usps on Friday. Enjoy the spooky stories!

Journal Entry 6 by Morgail from Louisville, Kentucky USA on Monday, October 06, 2003
Just got this in the mail today. Can't wait to start reading it! Looks like it'll get me in the mood for Halloween:)
I adore the stamp on the inside front cover...

Journal Entry 7 by Morgail from Louisville, Kentucky USA on Tuesday, October 14, 2003
These are some great spooky stories! I especially liked "Professor Pownall's Oversight" and "Damp Sheets." I also liked "Blind Man's Buff"--short, yet creepy. Wakefield had a good storytelling style. Right from the beginning of the story he grabs your attention and doesn't let it go until the last sentence. I can picture people reading these stories aloud (especially "The Red Lodge" and "Blind Man's Buff") in front of a roaring fireplace or around a campfire.

10-16-03-- I will send the book on to Kymberlie today. Enjoy!

Journal Entry 8 by kymberlie from Spring, Texas USA on Thursday, October 23, 2003
Received today - thanks, Morgail! Going to get to it as soon as I can so I can send it to the next reader. Thanks for the opportunity to read this book!

Journal Entry 9 by kymberlie from Spring, Texas USA on Wednesday, April 21, 2004
I finished this book a while back, but I'm just now getting around to journaling it (I know, I'm a bad BXer).

While I liked the book, I didn't like the stories as much as I expected to. I think a lot of them kind of lost their punch over the years. My favorites were 'He Cometh and He Passeth By,' Damp Sheets, A Black Solitude, Death of a Bumble-Bee, and Blind Man's Buff which was exceptional.

Journal Entry 10 by tish2002 on Thursday, May 06, 2004
I received this from Kymberlie. I will try to read this soon and keep it moving.

Journal Entry 11 by tish2002 on Friday, May 28, 2004
I enjoyed A Black Solitude, He Cometh and He Passeth By, The Red Lodge, Blind Man's Buff and The Triumph of Death the most.
I am sending this on to caligula03.

Journal Entry 12 by caligula03 from Hayward, California USA on Thursday, June 03, 2004
The book arrived safe and sound. I will read it as soon as I can.

Journal Entry 13 by caligula03 from Hayward, California USA on Thursday, August 19, 2004
I really enjoyed these ghost stories. The first story, "The Red Cottage" nearly gave me nightmares. Interestingly, some of the descriptions Wakefield uses for his ghosts show up in another ghost story I'm reading, Affinity and I'm enjoying the synchronicity between these two books. The introduction to the story collection says that Wakfield was a contemporary with Lovecraft and it shows in his stories, in the subtle way he turns the oridinary into the extroridinary and ultimately into the horrific. I find that his shorter stories pack more of an emotional punch than his longer ones. His best stories are the ones that stay under twenty pages. The longer ones lose their pacing. He doesn't throw in enough smaller scares in to compell rapid page turning. Nonetheless, stay with the longer stories and enjoy the endings. They all do satisfy at their conclusions.

Journal Entry 14 by caligula03 at on Thursday, August 19, 2004
Release planned for Saturday, August 21, 2004 at mojosmom in n/a, n/a Controlled Releases.

Mailing on Saturday.

Journal Entry 15 by mojosmom from Chicago, Illinois USA on Monday, August 30, 2004
Another bookring that Gory sucked me into! I'll read it promptly, but, considering the previous comments, I'd better not start it tonight.

Journal Entry 16 by mojosmom from Chicago, Illinois USA on Thursday, September 16, 2004
I read this as I do most short story collections, slowly and intermittently. Like a box of Godiva chocolates, it's better tasted one piece at a time, no gorging!

These stories reminded me very much of M.R. James, but out of academe ("He Cometh and He Passeth By" strongly echoes Casting the Runes). The same suggestiveness, the same lack of explanation, that gives James' tales a miasma of evil. Not for Wakefield (or James) the benevolent ghost. Only malignant spirits need apply.

Wakefield is a more contemporary ghost story teller, however, and it is very interesting to see how he introduces the new disciplines of psychiatry and psychology into his work. Writing after World War I (and in at least one story, World War II)*, he nods in a few of his stories to what was then called "shell shock", and we now call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, with the then popular idea that a shock would cause a lesion in the brain which, under stress, would cause delusions. And one story, A Kink in Space-Time, begins by sounding like a description of paranoid schizophrenia, but of course there's more to it than that.

The Red House and Damp Sheets were my favorites here. I thought Death of a Bumblebee the least successful.

* I really wish the copyright page had given the dates of the first publications of these stories, or that the otherwise excellent Introduction had dated them.

Journal Entry 17 by mojosmom at on Saturday, September 18, 2004

Released 14 yrs ago (9/18/2004 UTC) at



On to the next lucky reader!

Warning: Don't read in the dark, at night, alone.

Journal Entry 18 by jamieh2003 from Wiley Ford, West Virginia USA on Sunday, September 26, 2004
The book arrived in yesterday morning's mail. Thanks mojosmom!
I am so looking forward to reading this. I consider it auspicious that this arrived in the first week of Fall, with leaves starting to turn colors, and hint of a chill in the air it should be completely appropriate reading for the season:) I do plan to follow mojosmom's advice and read this during the daylight hours:)

Journal Entry 19 by jamieh2003 from Wiley Ford, West Virginia USA on Monday, September 27, 2004
First, thanks GoryDetails for allowing this book to make the rounds. I enjoyed it very much.
The Red Lodge was a story I had read first many years ago and I still find that it has the same emotional impact on me now that it did originally. That all encompassing sense of dread that pervades the story made me feel claustraphobic at times.
Perhaps my favorite previously unread tale in this collection was, The Triumph of Death, with the odious Miss Pendleham. With little inferences to other gothic style tales throughout the story it was amusing to find them and try and identify them. One question though. Was it The Upper Berth by F. Marion Crawford or a tale by M.R. James that had the bedclothes coming to life and strangling the man in the tale?
Other ones I enjoyed were: Blindman's Buff, Look Up There, Damp Sheets and A Black Solitude.

I will get this out to CasualReader as soon as I receive his mailing info.

Journal Entry 20 by jamieh2003 at by mail in To the next participant, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases on Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Released 14 yrs ago (9/28/2004 UTC) at by mail in To the next participant, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases



it's off to CasualReader via media mail. Hopefully, things will have calmed down hurricane-wise by the time this arrives to his area.

Journal Entry 21 by CasualReader on Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Arrived safely in Orlando today. Boy has this one taken a long time to make the rounds. I'll try to get through it pretty quickly and pass it along. Stay tuned...

Journal Entry 22 by CasualReader on Saturday, August 06, 2005
I'm be sending this off to mellion108...finally.

Sorry for the delay...moving is so much fun!

Journal Entry 23 by mellion108 from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan USA on Saturday, October 08, 2005
Perfect timing! It's October. The crisp leaves are on the ground. The air is chilly. I'm SO looking forward to Halloween, and I want to read only creepy, spooky books for this month.

I picked this up today, and I'll start it just as soon as I finish the book I'm currently reading.

Thanks for sharing!
Trade paperback, 232 pages

Introduction by Richard Dalby

From the back cover:
Herbert Russell Wakefield (1888-1964) was one of the greatest writers of ghost stoires in this century. He has been described by August Derleth as perhaps the "last major representative of a ghost story tradition that began with Sheridan Le Fanu and reached its peak with Montague Rhodes James". His work was admired by, among others, M.R. James, H.P. Lovecraft, and John Betjeman, who once wrote: "M.R. James is the greatest master of the ghost story. Henry James, Sheridan Le Fanu and H. Russell Wakefield are equal seconds."

Yet Wakefield has long been inexplicably ignored by American publishers. The fourteen stories in this volume, including the classic, The Red Lodge, now will provide American readers with the work of a master too long unavailable.

"The editor believes Wakefield to be the equal of England's great ghost-story writers, among them Le Fanu. Onions and M.R. James. These 14 stories are written with economy and wit; they are for the most part short, simple, and effective. "The Red Lodge" is the story of a haunted house in which the protagonist and his family stay on nearly to the point of tragedy. "He Cometh and He Passeth By" features a man who is ultimately undone by his own evil. "Professor Pownall's Oversight" is a well-done character study of a man obsessed with chess and his own second-rateness. "Blind Man's Bluff," almost a paradigm of the horror story, is very brief and chilling...Wakefield's stories are...always eerie; they are charming tales that readily involve the reader. Wakefield (1888-1964) has been published previously in this country in only two limited-edition, now out-of-print collections. This volume is long overdue." ~Publisher's Weekly

  • The Red Lodge
  • 'He Cometh and He Passeth By'
  • Professor Pownall's Oversight
  • The Seventeenth Hole at Duncaster
  • 'Look Up There'
  • Blind Man's Buff
  • Day-Dream in Macedon
  • Damp Sheets
  • A Black Solitude
  • The Triumph of Death
  • A Kink in Space-Time
  • The Gorge of the Churels
  • 'Immortal Bird'
  • Death of a Bumble-Bee

Journal Entry 24 by mellion108 from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan USA on Saturday, October 22, 2005
Ooops! Sorry for holding on to this one for so long. There hasn't been nearly enough reading time this month! I plan on mailing this one to arugh48187 today!

Overall, I liked this collection. Some of the stories devolved into the tried and true theme of "person sees a ghost/monster/demon/weird something and dies in his own panic while trying to escape." But I really enjoyed reading about the culture and customs of the day. It was especially interesting to see the changes in technology as Wakefield ages. And was it just me, or did Wakefield seem to not like women very much? I can't tell if his derogatory depictions of women throughout his story is due to his own feelings or if this is a tongue-in-cheek poke at the way women were treated in his day. Hmmmm...

I really enjoyed 'He Cometh and He Passeth By' (shades of Aleister Crowley?); "Look Up There"; and "Death of a Bumble-Bee."

Anyway, thanks SO much for sharing this, GoryDetails. I really enjoyed it!

Journal Entry 25 by arugh48187 from Edina, Minnesota USA on Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Holy Moley! This ring has been going on for ages. I think I signed up for this when I was just getting started with bookcrossing. Anyway, it's here now and has only one bookring in front of it, so it shouldn't be too long. You can keep track of its progress via my bookshelf.

Journal Entry 26 by arugh48187 from Edina, Minnesota USA on Saturday, January 14, 2006
Well, this one took longer than I thought it would. With preparations for my trip to India and the actual journey, I didn't have that much time to read. I did take this book to India with good intentions, but never did get to it.

I liked most of the stories. It is hard to pin down one of them as my favorite. I did think that most of them were rather benign, but maybe I am just over sensationalized. Some of the longer ones seemed to go on forever, and I agree that Wakefield does a much better job if he keeps it short.

Anyway, I have an address for Guinneth and it will go in the mail in the next few days. Thanks for sharing and sorry it took so long to make it through my pile.

Journal Entry 27 by Guinneth from Manchester, New Hampshire USA on Monday, January 23, 2006
Received this in the mail today - finally, finally! :-) Like arugh, I think this was one of the earliest bookrings I signed up for when I first found Bookcrossing. I'm so very glad that it continued to travel along and at last made its way to me.

Journal Entry 28 by Guinneth from Manchester, New Hampshire USA on Monday, January 30, 2006
I'm sad to say that despite the fact that ghost stories are my very favorite genre (especially in short story form), Mr. Wakefield just isn't my cup of tea. There's something about his overall tone or narrative voice that puts me off, and it is present in nearly all of the stories here. I would almost characterize it as contempt - certainly towards women, but I get the feeling he really didn't like anyone very much! If this is a writing device and not simply a facet of his personality then I'd have to say it simply didn't work for this reader.

My other problem was the sheer amount of detail and digression he goes into. In most cases I just didn't feel like all of this "stuff" moved the story forward in any way, or if it did it was in such a roundabout, wordy manner that by the time we got moving again I'd either lost the thread or lost interest. This was particularly frustrating because the premise would often be very intriguing and spooky. The ones in particular that stand out as examples of this are "Look Up There", "A Black Solitude", and "Immortal Bird" (loved the early description of the event at the cemetery fence).

"The Red Lodge" was one of the best because it contained relatively little extraneous material, and the house was scary as hell. I loved that it was based on a real place visited by Wakefield, too. Again, though, somehow the tone of the narrator really annoyed me, specifically in regard to his wife and child. If this is truly indicative of late-nineteenth/early-twentieth male sensibilities than I'm quite glad I wasn't there.

One very notable exception to both my quibbles is "Blind Man's Buff". This little gem is neat, trim, and very, very frightening. I fervently hope it never springs into my mind as I enter a dark room!

I'm still glad that I read this book, and without the ring I may not have had the opportunity - so thank you, GoryDetails!

I will send this off as soon as I get an address; I'm still awaiting word from Fofum.

Journal Entry 29 by Guinneth from Manchester, New Hampshire USA on Saturday, February 04, 2006
I really wish I'd begun contacting the next people in line as soon as I received this, as suggested in the instructions. (Especially since the book has been circulating for so long.) I've never had this problem before, but most folks did sign up for this a loooong time ago...guess it stands to reason that they aren't all still bookcrossing.

I never got any response from Fofum, and I have now sent two PM's to Maddog1404 and one direct email via his website. I'll give him another day or two and then I am going to try BruceAlexander.

Journal Entry 30 by Guinneth from Manchester, New Hampshire USA on Monday, February 13, 2006
Of course, I heard from BruceAlexander the day after I offered this up on the forum (with Gory's blessing) as another bookray!

I mailed this today via Media mail, but forgot to get delivery confirmation. Sorry! Hopefully it will make it to Louisiana without any problems.

BruceAlexander, if you are unable to mail this book to the UK for any reason (see below), please let me know. If you send it back to me, I'll be happy to forward it on to platypussj. -Guinneth


BruceAlexander (LA)
platypussj (UK)
wolfprincess (OH) (prefers US only)
Cinnamon-Girl (NC) (prefers US
bakerwhencan (CA) (prefers US))
- book is here

Journal Entry 31 by BruceAlexander from Ruidoso, New Mexico USA on Tuesday, February 21, 2006
In the words of Homer Simpson, "Woo hoo!" I can't believe this long-awaited book is finally in my hot little hands! I had practically given up on it ever reaching my doorstep. Thanks, Guinneth and GoryDetails, for both sending it my way, and starting it on its way initially. I shall attempt to tackle it in a hasty fashion and send it in an expeditous manner to its next bloodthirsty reader!

Journal Entry 32 by BruceAlexander from Ruidoso, New Mexico USA on Thursday, March 30, 2006
I don't mean to find fault, but I don't care for Mr. Wakefield's style of writing, nor his contemptuous outlook on people in general, women in particular. I honestly didn't find the stories I read all that scary, although I didn't read all of them as I found myself disliking the ones I DID read. Indeed, he goes into far too much detail and loses the reader time and time again. The book's author made me conjure up an image of a sour and whiskered old man, hunkered over his typewriter (or scribbling in long hand), writing by candlelight (perhaps because he's too thrifty to use an oil lamp, although I realized he lived during the age of electricity!), and trying vainly to write spooky ghostly tales --- all the while crabbing at the newspaper boy or his housekeeper and bemoaning his sorry lot in life. Step aside Ebenezer Scrooge, here comes Herbie!

However, I do appreciate the opportunity to have received the book and given it my two cents' worth, GoryDetails, and I thank Gwinneth for being so patient in tracking down this wind-blown Hurricane Katrina survivor! I think the book is happy to be on its way; hurricane season here (for 2006) starts in approximately 60 days!

Journal Entry 33 by Guinneth from Manchester, New Hampshire USA on Wednesday, April 19, 2006
This book is now on its way to platypussj in the United Kingdom. Please scroll up to my other entry for the mailing order of this second leg of GoryDetails' original bookray. Thanks and enjoy!

Journal Entry 34 by platypussj from Colchester, Essex United Kingdom on Tuesday, May 02, 2006
It's here, thank you Guinneth, and GoryDetails.

Journal Entry 35 by platypussj from Colchester, Essex United Kingdom on Wednesday, June 21, 2006
An extraordinary talent is needed to write a really good short story, especially one concerning the supernatural. Wakefield's stories were enjoyable to me but nothing special. Some of the mannerisms and references are quite obscure now but would probably have been common at the time - his writing becomes more contemporary the further through the book you get. I'm glad that I read this but wasn't bowled over! Awaiting address from wolfprincess and will journal when I post.

Journal Entry 36 by wolfprincess from Newton Falls, Ohio USA on Friday, July 14, 2006
The book arrived a week ago sorry I could not post when it came but my internet service has been down in the area where I live and everyone around here has said the same thing. Now it is up and running again so I can post I got the book! I did try and read it. I do have a hard time reading English style books I did get the first few stories of the book and they were good but that is as far as I could read due to writting style. As soon as I get the next persons name on the list I will mail the book out on my normal day I go to the post office.

Journal Entry 37 by Cinnamon-Girl from Sharpsburg, Georgia USA on Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Well, I was very pleasantly surprised to have this arrive in the mail today - and just in time for Hallowe'en! I will read and pass along asap.

On a side note, I love the bookplate - very much suited to the subject matter.

Thanks for sending!

Journal Entry 38 by Cinnamon-Girl from Sharpsburg, Georgia USA on Friday, November 17, 2006
Well, I tried a few times to get into this book, and although I read a few stories, it just didn't appeal to me and I kept mentally wandering off. Since I've had it longer than I should and I know I won't finish it, I'm going to go ahead and mail off to bakerwhencan today.

I'm glad I joined up for the ring though, as I feel sometimes it's just as important to read something you don't like as it is to read something you enjoy - helps define your reading tastes. Thanks for including me in the ring, Guinneth!

Journal Entry 39 by bakerwhencan from San Francisco, California USA on Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Arrived in San Francisco-- thank you Cinnamon-Girl!

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