Monday, December 24, 2012

Reader's Diary #925- John Kendrick Bangs: The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall


Well, I hope your Christmas Eve shapes up to be drier than this guy's. "The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall" visits at midnight, usually scaring guests, always getting them wet.

When we were very young, one of the ghost stories/ jokes we used to tell was "The Ghost with the One Black Eye." It's not remotely funny so I'll give you the gist and forgo a proper telling. Basically the members of a family take turns going up into the attic where they are subsequently frightened away by a ghost who moans, "I'm the ghost with the One. Black. Eye." Finally the youngest kid (that's what supposedly made it so funny) has his turn, but instead of running off screaming, he turns to the ghost and says, "if you don't shut-up, I'll give you 2 black eyes!" See? Not funny. Unless you're 7. Or John Kendrick Bangs.

After years of terrorizing Harrowby Hall, the Water Ghost eventually meets her match. Unfazed by this ghost (who in all honesty has done nothing except give people a shower, one hour of one night in a whole year), the latest master of the hall comes up with a plan. It rests on the fact that water freezes. I wouldn't have thought that ghost water would freeze, but that shows what I know.

I'd also like to note that it's finally revealed why she's haunting the place. It's not by choice, but as punishment for a suicide, and the punishment has been placed upon her not by God but by a sea nymph. Why the sea nymph doles out suicide punishments, sticks some pretty weird clauses in the contract, and clearly has a thing against Christmas, we're never told. Nor, do I think, are we supposed to have much sympathy for the water ghost.

Yay! Happy Christmas!

Seems like the theme of my short story posts this past month, has been whether or not Christmas makes a big difference to the tale, despite the Christmas setting. Again, I'm not sure it does with this one. Maybe it's a little more inconvenient to get soaked on Christmas eve, while the rest of the world is in nightcaps dreaming about sugar plums? Or how about this: maybe it's about people who bring us down on Christmas. Gloomy Gusses. Debbie Downers. Or, wait... I've got it... wet blankets! Maybe it's Bangs' subtle way of saying, it's Christmas. Shut the hell up and let me celebrate.

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