Victorian Ghost Stories: Selected and retold by Mike Stocks (Usborne Library of Fear, Fantasy & Adventure, 1997)
Illustrated by Adrian Chesterman & Lee Stannard Designed by Kathy Ward Edited by Felicity Brooks
[Mary Cholmondeley] - Let Loose Anonymous - The Cat [Fitz-James O'Brien] - The Beast From Nowhere [W. C. Morrow] - An Original Revenge Anonymous - One Silver Bullet Anonymous - The Head Of Jean Cabet
USBORNE LIBRARY OF FEAR, FANTASY AND ADVENTURE VICTORIAN HORROR STORIES The last thing I remember is the sight of the severed hand dragging itself across the floor to within inches of my neck. Its middle finger slowly extended, and a yellow, claw-like nail touched my skin.
I sank into unconsciousness in the expectation of death...
The very best Victorian horror stories have been gathered together in this classic selection. Not for the faint-hearted, these hair-raising tales with their superb illustrations will draw you into a world in which murder runs amok and evil reigns supreme.
Also available in this series:
Victorian Ghost Stories, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, Tales of King Arthur, Tales of Robin Hood
Long before the current Stephen Jones - M. R. James Paragraphgate scandal, there was a similar controversy surrounding the alleged dumbing down of classic ghost & horror stories to make them more accessible for children. For all I know, you probably can find txt versions of Dracula & Co, but Usborne haven't gone quite that far if Victorian Horror Stories is typical of their output. It's the easiest thing in the world to dismiss what you've never read and, must admit, am not sure I like the idea of anyone tampering with Mary Cholmondeley's Let Loose, but two stories in and Mike Stocks is playing a blinder.
Bishopsgate, London, 18--, and another grisly murder on the night of a full moon. The police warn Night-watchman Alex Collier against wasting their time when he insists the killer is a werewolf. Wife Jane is sympathetic, but otherwise nobody will believe him. The previous victim, Eric Baxter, a seventy year old street vendor and friend of Alex had his leg torn clean off (victim #2 escaped with a ripped torso and all his entrails spilling out), so the loup garou theory sounds plausible to us! Alex bones up and witchcraft and black magic, has a silversmith cast him a bullet and, despite Jane's pleas, heads off to Covent Garden which he's correctly marked as the man-wolf's likeliest hunting ground ....
The Head Of Jean Cabet: Martin Desalleaux, public prosecutor of Beaugency, is not a man to let "a sentimental attachment to justice get in the way of an effective legal process", so when a corpse is found floating in the village pond, he accuses the first farmhand to meet his eye and sets about fabricating evidence against him. The innocent Jean Cabot is duly executed as a notorious thief, spy, highwayman and serial killer before an appreciative Orleans crowd.
Six month's later, and M. Desalleaux is is a reformed character, noted for his impartiality, lenience, kindness toward humble peasants, and engaged to marry lowly Michelle, the baker's daughter. What could have brought about such a transformation? There he was, happily fitting up a vagrant with the murder of an old woman, when who should pay him a visit but Jean Cabet, or, to be more specific, Jean Cabet's severed head! The experience so unnerved the prosecutor that it caused him to take a long hard look at himself.
So now, the wedding night. M. Desalleaux draws aside the curtain of the four poster to find the lovely Michelle sleeping peacefully, and beside her on the pillow ......
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.
Let loose / from the stories by Guy de Maupassant and Mary Cholmondely -- The cat / from the story by Samuel Savage -- The beast from nowhere / from the story by Fitz-James O'Brien -- An original revenge / from the story by W.C. Morrow -- One silver bullet / from a story by an unknown British author -- The head of Jean Cabet / from a story by an unknown French author --