St. John D. Seymour
& Harry L. Neligan,
True Irish Ghost Stories
(1914; Parragon, 1998)

In 1913, St. John D. Seymour realized that Ireland had folklore and fairy-tale collections a-plenty, but the country's rich tradition of ghost stories was for the most part untapped. So, working with Harry L. Neligan, he set out to gather a few. The resulting book, first published in 1914 and revised with additional stories in 1926, is back on the market for a new generation of curiosity seekers.

True Irish Ghost Stories doesn't try to be horrific or to shock its readers with gruesome or frightening tales. The editors published a request for anecdotes in the newspapers of the day and waited for the stories to roll in. They got a lot of responses, but there isn't much detail or depth, and there's very little effort made to explain the background or cause of the events described.

The resulting book is conversational in tone. These aren't the sort of ghost stories to be told around a campfire; they read more like some polite parlor discourse over a pot of tea or a bit of gossip down at the pub. There's a hint of embarrassment, too, as if a ghostly experience isn't something you'd want linked to the family name -- in fact, most of the names and locations are not revealed.

I like ghost stories that cause a bit of a shiver. True Irish Ghost Stories isn't scary, or even unnerving, but it does provide the occasional shiver and it is, on the whole, entertaining. If nothing else, it's a peek at late 19th- and early 20th-century Ireland, the superstitious natures of its people and the gleeful but hushed manner in which they approach the supernatural.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 20 July 2002

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