Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Bagnell Terrace

Fiction ~ short story
First published in Hutchinson's Magazine, July 1925
Collected in Spook Stories (1928)
5,000 words
(First read 19/06/2012)

One of EFB's London spook stories.  Unidentified Narrator lives in Bagnell Terrace, a place so tranquil that ...
even the cats [...] have caught something of its discretion and tranquillity, for they do not hail each other with long-drawn yells of mortal agony like their cousins in less well-conducted places, but sit and have quiet little parties like the owners of the houses in which they condescend to be lodged and boarded. [this is the high point of the story]
U.N. lusts after the end-terrace house, which is occupied by a mysterious recluse, a man neither young nor old but, in the words of neighbour and intimate friend Hugh Grainger*, 'timeless'.  Well anyway, the long and the short is that after a purely coincidental trip to Egypt, U.N. takes ownership of the house, which, almost forgot to mention, has a 'garden room' exactly like EFB's in Rye, and the place turns out to be haunted ... or possessed ... by the previous owner ... or EFB's Egyptian cat souvenir ... or something.  As usual good old Hughie comes to the rescue and exorcises the place merely by invoking God's name once or twice.
I can't imagine it took Benson more than about 35 minutes to write this garbled twaddle.  Hardly his finest hour.
You can read it online here.

* Renamed Hugh Abbot for this particular outing. 


In several of [Benson's spook] stories, the lust to possess a particular house forms the fulcrum of the plot (as in Bagnell Terrace) and the unassuaged anger and revengefulness of the dispossessed owner is often what creates the haunt. Reconciliation and Naboth's Vineyard are two of his most successful stories, especially the latter, which has a really blood-curdling climax.
~Joan Aiken in foreword to The Collected Ghost Stories of E. F. Benson 1992


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