Friday, 20 July 2012

Mr Tilly's Séance

Fiction ~ short story
First published December 1922¹
Collected in Visible and Invisible (1923)
5,875 words
(First read 20/07/2012) 

Mr Tilly's Séance, which is firmly in the comic vein, stands out among the massed ranks of E. F. Benson's spook stories in being² the only one that tells a tale from the point-of-view of the ghost.  Mr Teddy Tilly is a gentleman of indeterminate age, obviously a seasoned bachelor, a tad prissy and tetchy.  On the way to a séance one day he slips under an oncoming steamroller and is comprehensively killed.  Having (as it were) gained his bearings 'on the other side' he decides to go ahead and attend the séance, which is
presided over by his favourite medium, a lady pleased to go by the preposterous name of Mrs Cumberbatch³.  Like all EFB's other mediums, Mrs C isn't just a fraud: she's a fraud who turns out genuinely to have 'the gift'⁴.  He makes contact ~ or whatever it's called ~ but finds to his horror that her mind is something like a swimming-pool full of mud: any message he may want to pass on has to be filtered through her ... and comes out sounding like all her usual fraudulent mediumistic guff.
I'm sure Fred set out to make mock of mediums ... but couldn't quite bring himself to go all the way.  Still, it's a fun story.  It's available online here.

¹ I'm not sure where this first saw the light of day ~ possibly in the American Munsey's Magazine.
² As far as I can remember / As far as I know.
³ Really you couldn't make names like this up, could you?
⁴ Because, in the immortal words of whoever-it-was-who-said-it, Benson wanted to believe.

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