Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, March 16, 2018


Best Psychic Stories edited by Joseph Lewis French (1920)

I've been rereading an anthology I first read when in junior high school, Best Psychic Stories, and was surprised how well many of the stories held up.

Joseph Lewis French (1858-1936), as well as being a novelist, poet, and journalist,  might have been "The most industrious anthologist of our time," according to the New York Times.  He was known for his themed anthologies about ghosts, pirates, the sea, detection, and the west, among others.  Despite his productivity, French struggled financially and in 1927 wrote an article entitled "I'm Starving -- Yet I'm in Who's Who as the Author of 27 Famous Books."

I still remember the thrill of finding this book in the stacks of my local library and the musty smell of its yellowed pages when I opened the book.  I remember wondering if I could read all of its thick pages -- only 299 pages, it turns out, but at the time it seemed as if they went on forever.  And all the stories were new to me back then!  Now I know that many of the tales are familiar.  Some are well-dated, others still provide a frisson of excitement.  Probably the best story in the book, IMHO, is Fiona Macleod's "The Sin-Eater," a tale of revenge gone wrong.  There are a number of others well worth reading.

The contents:

  • "Preface" by Joseph Lewis French
  • "Introduction:  The Psychic in Literature" by Dorothy Scarborough
  • "When the World Was Young" (1910) by Jack London
  • "The Return" (1911) by Algernon Blackwood
  • "The Second Generation" (1912) by Algernon Blackwood
  • "Joseph:  A Story" (1920) by Katherine Rickford
  • "The Clavecin Bruges" (1920) by George Wharton Edwards
  • "Ligeia" (1838) by Edgar Allan Poe
  • "The Sylph and the Father" (1920) by Elsa Barker
  • "A Ghost" (1889) by Lafcadio Hearn
  • 'The Eyes of the Panther" (1897) by Ambrose Bierce
  • "Photographing Invisible Beings" (1920) by Wm. T. Stead
  • "The Sin-Eater" (1895) by "Fiona Macleod" (William Sharp)
  • "Ghosts in Solid Form' (1920) by Gambier Bolton
  • "The Phantom Armies Seen in France" (1920) by Hereward Carrington
  • "The Portal of the Unknoen" (1920) by Andrew Jackson Davis, "The Seer"
  • "The Supernormal Experiences" (1920) by St. John D. Seymouor (mistakenly given as "St. John B. Seymour" in the book)
  • "Nature-Spirits or Elementals" (1920) by Nizida (full or real name unknown)
  • "A Witches' Den" (1920) by Mme. Helena Blavatsky
  • "Remarkable Psychic Experiences of Famous People" (1920) by Walter F. Prince, PhD
(Although listed as fiction in ISFDb, a number of these "stories" are obviously articles of supposedly true events.  I remain skeptical about that whole "true" bit.)

Best Psychic Stories is available online at Internet Archive.  Give it a whirl.

1 comment:

  1. JHS reading featured in my post this week as well, driven in part by desperation and also by cooling out after dealing with the worst bits of sudden middle-of-the-night crisis. I certainly used to be annoyed by the notion that True Accounts were That much more engaging than horror ficiton...particularly as I have been utterly skeptical about all that is genuinely supernatural since jump.