Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, July 10, 2020


The Big Book of Ghost Stories edited by Otto Penzler (2012)

833 pages...78 stories...from 1824 to 2011,,,classic authors -- Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain, O. Henry, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Saki...pulp writers -- H. P. Lovecraft, Henry S. Whitehead, Victor Rousseau, Wyatt Blassingame, Arthur J. Burks...contemporary writers -- Ramsey Campbell, Chet Williamson, Joyce Carol Oates. Michael Reaves, Albert E. Cowdrey...forgotten writers -- R. Murray Gilchrist, A. M. Burrage, Dick Donovan, Edgar Jepson, Erckmann-Chatrian...

For close to two decades, Otto Penzler -- award-winning editor, publisher, bookseller -- has been issuing what George Kelley would call "big, fat books" with such titles as The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps, The Big Book of Adventure Stories, The Vampire Archive, and The Big Book of Female Detectives.  These large anthologies, collecting (mainly) old and often unknown stories from the pulps and other magazines of the past, are a very small but significant output of his work.  the stories are fast-paced, exciting reading; and if some are not of the highest literary quality, all provide a doorway to the popular fiction that so enthralled our parents and grandparents.

The ghost stories has been with us forever and is ingrained in our collective psyche.  As animals capable of contemplating our own death, we humans. to help grapple with the concept and to relieve our anxieties, have developed a varied mythology of what lies beyond -- an afterlife.  Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces must enter the realm of death and return -- who's to say that they actually returned alive?  Christianity is founded on a ghost story.  The concept of reincarnation -- so vital to several of the world's main religions -- is just a twist on the ghost story, embracing the concept of life after death.  Spiritualism became a major fad just over a century ago.  Even today, a good number of people earn their living by communicating with the dead for gullible people.  It is any wonder that ghost stories have been so popular?  And remain so today?

In this large volume we meet all types of spirits -- both vengeful and sorrowful.  A ghost of an embryo reaches out influence its parents.  A watery ghost survives on the breath of others.  Ruins places become whole as ghosts descend on their victims.  A ghost becomes a witness in a legal proceeding.  A ghost gets a transfer from the place it had been haunting.  A ghost apologizes and gives a treasure to a young girl.  A ghost from the past saves a soldier fighting for her country.

There is something for everyone in this smorgasborg of horror and not so horrible tales.  A perfect anthology for dipping into on a cold, rainy, lonely night.

The contents:

  • Otto Penzler, Introduction


  • Conrad Aiken, "Mr. Arcularis"  (from Harper's, March 1931)
  • William Fryer Harvey, "August Heat" (from his collection Midnight House and Other Tales, (1910)
  • Ellen Glasgow, "The Shadowy Third" (Scribner's Magazine, December 1916)
  • Ellen Glasgow, "The Past" (Good Housekeeping, October 1920)
  • David Morrell, "But at My Back I Always Hear"  (from Shadows 6, edited by Charles L. Grant, 1983)
  • "O. Henry" (William Sydney Porter), "The Furnished Room"  (from New York Sunday World Magazine, August 14, 1904)
  • Paul Ernst, "Death's Warm Fireside" (from Dime Mystery Magazine, March 1936)
  • Andrew Klavan, "The Advent Reunion" (from Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, January 2011; originally written as an online video)
  • R. Murray Gilchrist, "The Return" (from The National Observer, date unknown)
  • Rudyard Kipling, "The Phantom Rickshaw" (from his collection The Phantom Rickshaw and Other Tales, 1888)
  • Ambrose Bierce, "The Moonlit Road" (from his collection Can Such Things Be?, 1893)
  • Lafcadio Hearn, "The Story of Ming-Y" (from his collection Some Chinese Ghosts, 1887)
  • Lafcadio Hearn, "Yuki-Onna" (from his collection Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things, 1904)
  • Amyas Northcote, "Brickett Bottom" (from his collection In Ghostly Company, 1922 [actually released in 1921])
  • E. F. Benson, "How Fear Departed from the Long Gallery" (from The Windsor Magazine, December 1911)
  • "G. G. Pendaves" (Gladys Gordon Trenery), "Thing of Darkness" (from Weird Tales, August 1937)
  • Edward Lucas White, "The House of the Nightmare" (from Smith's Magazine, September 1906)
  • "Dick Donovan" (Joyce Emmerson Preston Muddock), "A Night of Horror" (from his collection Tales of Terror, 1899)
  • Vincent O'Sullivan, "The Burned House" (from The Century Magazine, October 1916)
  • Rosemary Timperley, "Harry"  (from The Third Ghost Book, edited by Cynthia Asquith, 1955)
  • Michael Reaves, "Make-Believe"  (from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March/April 2010)
  • A. M. Burrage, "Playmates" (from his collection Some Ghost Stories, 1927)
  • Ramsey Campbell, "Just Behind You"  (from Poe's Progeny, edited by Gary Fry, 2005)
  • A. E. Coppard, 'Adam and Eve and Pinch Me"  (from his collection Adam and Eve and Pinch Me Tales, 1921)
  • Steve Friedman, "The Lost Boy of the Ozarks"  (from Backpacker, November 2009)
  • "Mark Twain" (Samuel L. Clemens), "A Ghost's Story"  (from Werner's Readings and Recitations, 1888)
  • Donald E. Westlake, "In at the Death"  (from The Thirteenth Ghost Book, edited by James Hale, 1977)
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne, "The Ghost of Dr. Harris"  (although written in 1876, this was first published as a chapbook in 1900)
  • "Ingulphus" (Arthur Gray), "The Everlasting Club"  (from Cambridge Review, October 27, 1910)
  • Isaac Asimov & "James MacCreigh" (Frederik Pohl), "Legal Rites"  (from Weird Tales, September 1950)
  • Albert E. Cowdrey, "Death Must Die"  (from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November/December 2010)
  • Frank Stockton, "The Transferred Ghost"  (from his collection The Lady or the Tiger? and Other Stories, 1884)
  • Oscar Wilde, "The Canterville Ghost" (from The Court and Society Review, 1887)
  • August Derleth, "Pacific 421" (from Weird Tales, September 1944)
  • Robert Weinberg, "The Midnight El"  (from Return to the Twilight Zone, edited by Carol Serling, 1994)
  • Frederick Cowles. 'Punch and Judy" (from The Star Book of Horror No. 1, 1975)
  • Henry s. Whitehead, "The Fireplace"  (from Weird Tales, January 1925)
  • H. F. Arnold, "Night Wire"  (from Weird Tales, September 1926)
  • Fritz Leiber, "Smoke Ghost"  (from Unknown, October 1941)
  • Wyatt Blassingame, "Song of the Dead"  (from Dime Mystery Magazine, March 1945)
  • Wilkie Collins, "The Dream Woman"  (from Household Words, Christmas 1855)
  • Washington Irving, "The Adventure of the German Student"  (from his collection Tales of a Traveller, 1824)
  • "Joseph Shearing" (Gabrielle Margaret Vere Long), "They Found My Grave"  (from her collection Orange Blossoms, 1938)
  • Edgar Jepson, "Mrs. Morrel's Last Seance"  (from The London Magazine, February 1912)
  • Joyce Carol Oates, "Night-Side" (from her collection Night-Side, 1977)
  • M. R. James, " 'Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad' "  (from his collection Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, 1904)
  • W. W. Jacobs, "The Monkey's Paw"  (from Harper's Monthly. September 1902)
  • W. W. Jacobs, "The Toll House"  (from The Strand, April 1907)
  • Edith Wharton, "The After House"  (from The Century Magazine, January 1910)
  • Willa Cather, "Consequences"  (from McClure's Magazine, November 1915)
  • Lady Cynthia Asquith, "The Follower"  (from her anthology My Grimmest Nightmare, 1935)
  • Lady Cynthia Asquith, "The Corner Shop"  (from her anthology The Ghost Book, 1926)
  • H. P. Lovecraft, "The Terrible Old Man"  (from The Tryout, July 1921)
  • "Erckmann-Chatrian" (Emile Erckmann & Alexandre Chatrian). "The Murderer's Violin"  (from Histoires et Contes Fantastiques, 1849)
  • "Saki" (H. H. Munro), "The Open Window"  (from The Westminster Gazette, November 18, 1911)
  • "Saki" (H. H. Munro), "Laura" (from his collection Beasts and Super Beasts, 1914)
  • Fitz-James O'Brien, "What Was It?"  (from Harper's Magazine, March 1959)
  • Alexander Woollcott, "Full Fathom Five" (from The New Yorker, June 22, 1929)
  • H. R. Wakefield, "He Cometh and He Passeth By"  (from his collection They Return at Evening, 1928)
  • Perceval Landon, "Thurnley Abbey"  (from his collection Raw Edges:  Studies and Stories of These Days, 1908)
  • Algernon Blackwood, "The Woman's Ghost Story"  (from his collection The Listener and Other Stories, 1907)
  • "Victor Rousseau" (Victor Rousseau Emanuel), "The Angel of the Marne"  (from Ghost Stories, July 1929)
  • Olivia Dunbar Howard, "The Shell of Sense"  (from Harper's Magazine, December 1908)
  • "Marjorie Bowen" (Gabrielle Margaret Vere Long), "The Avenging of Ann Leete"  (from her collection Seeing Life! and Other Stories, 1923)
  • Greye La Spina, "The Dead-Wagon"  (from Weird Tales, September 1927)
  • "Urann Thayer" (most likely a pseudonym; possibly for William Rollins, Jr,), "A Soul with Two Bodies"  (from Ghost Stories, February and March 1928)
  • Arthur J. Burks, "The Ghosts of Steamboat Coulee"  (from Weird Tales, May 1926)
  • Thorp McClusky, "The Considerate Hosts"  (from Weird Tales, December 1939)
  • "Cyril Mand" (George R. Hahn & Richard Levin), "The Fifth Candle"  (from Weird Tales, January 1939)
  • August Derleth & Mark Schorer, "The Return of Andrew Bentley"  (from Weird Tales, September 1933)
  • M. L. Humphreys (may be a pseudonym), "The Floor Above"  (from Weird Tales, May 1923)
  • Manly Wade Wellman, "School for the Unspeakable"  (from Weird Tales, September 1937)
  • A. V. Milyer (may be a pseudonym), "Mordecai's Pipe"  (from Weird Tales, June 1936)
  • Julius Long, "He Walked By Day"  (from Weird Tales, June 1934)
  • "Dale Clark" (Ronal Kyser), "Behind the Screen"  (from Weird Tales, April 1934)
  • M. Rickert, "Journey Into the Kingdom"  (from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, May 2006)
  • H. R. F. Keating, "Mr. Saul"  (from The Thirteenth Ghost Book, edited by James Hale, 1977)
  • Chet Williamson, "Coventry Carol"  (from Ghosts, edited by Peter Straub, 1995)


  1. Quite a collection. Hard to hold up.

  2. I'm a fan of Otto's massive anthologies, but Patti is right: these giant books are had to hold. I have to lay them flat on a table to read them--not ideal. But, as you point out, there's something for everyone in this anthology. Nice review!