PseudoPod 846: Ye Goode Olde Ghoste Storie
Ye Goode Olde Ghoste Storie
by Anthony Boucher
‘‘But there ain’t no sech thing!” said Jed Hoskins’ old man forcefully.
‘‘No such thing as what?” queried the stranger with the black bag, who had justed seated himself near the group.
“Ha’nts,” Jed hastened to explain. ‘‘Grandad Miller there, he says the old Lawrence home’s ha’nt-ed, and my dad, he says it can’t be, ’cause there ain’t no ha’nts.”
“Aren’t there, though?” said the stranger, half to himself.
“Ye believe there be, don’t ye?” asked Grandad Miller hopefully.
“Yes, I do. I had a horrible experience once over in England…”
“England?” (This from Jed, who thought it a place only geography teachers could be familiar with.)
“England it was. Would you like to hear about it?”
“Yes!” came a chorus of assent, even from old man Hoskins.
“All right.” And so he began.
“It must have been about two years ago that Lord Fantomheath invited me to spend the weekend at Fantomheath Fields, his ancestral domicile. I accepted with pleasure— and promptly forgot all about it. I was to have left London on the . . . on the . . . well, I don’t exactly remember the train, but it was somewhere about noon on Friday. I didn’t remember my engagement until about 6 Friday evening. Then I hurried down to mas pronto posible.”
“Low mass?” asked Grandad Miller, the only Catholic in Higginsville.
“Lo mas pronto posible. It’s a Spanish phrase meaning ‘as quickly as possible.’ ”
“Percy—that is, Lord Fantomheath”—a gasp of surprise went round—a man who could call a lord by his first name!—“was awfully angry at my being late. ‘Harry,’ he said, ‘if we weren’t such good friends, I’d cut you altogether.’
“‘Well, Perce,’ said I, ‘as long as you don’t cut me all apart, it’s all right.’
“‘But that’s just what might happen,* he explained. ‘If you stay, you will have to sleep in the Chilling Chamber, otherwise known as the Bloody Bedroom. It was there that my revered ancestor, Lord Felix of Fantomheath, committed suicide by slitting his throat with a razor. Since then, every guest that has slept in the Beastly Boudoir has been found next morning with his throat cut!’ ”
A shiver ran around the little circle, even though the fire was blazing gayly away. “Didja sleep there?” asked Bob Hill.
“Of course. Would I be afraid of the ghost of a long-dead Englishman? Never! So Percy had Barracks, the butler, show me upstairs to the Horrible Haunt of the Suicidal Spirit.
“Feeling marvelous, I began to dress for dinner. Now, if it hadn’t been for Percy’s sister, Alicia, it might never have happened. But I was hopeful of persuading her some day to marry me. She was pretty, rich, and of one of England’s best families. Can you blame me?
“I’d already shaved once that day, but the thought of Alicia inspired me to shave twice in one day for the first time in five years. I had lathered my face, and was all set to begin. Then [ saw in the mirror a horrible form at the other end of the room. It was absolutely and indescribably horrible. It was one of those things that are unmentionable, that should not be. It had a slight semblance of human form, but it was horribly distorted. It was unholy, sacrilegious. … It is not healthful for a man to seE such things. . . .
“Slowly it advanced on me. I was helpless, spellbound, standing there motionless with the razor in my hand. An arm appeared from nowhere on the shape, seemingly projected like the pseudopod of a protozoan.”
“Like the which of a what?” asked Jed.
“Never mind. Anyway, an arm appeared. The thing was now standing directly behind me. Slowly it reached out and seized my hand.- I could not move. Still more slowly it drew my own razor, in my own hand, across my throat!”
“But you’re not dead!” Bob Hill objected. “How come?”
“Wait a moment and you’ll see. I came to in Alicia’s arms. She was supporting me while Barracks poured brandy down my throat to revive me. ‘My hero!’ cried Alicia. ‘You’ve freed the family of its curse. It has been foretold that if anyone survived the Gruesome Ghost’s attack, he—I mean the Ghost, of course—would never be able to appear again.’
“ ‘Alicia,’ I said, ‘I claim but one reward. Will you marry me?’ And Barracks discreetly turned his head. And so we lived happily ever after.”
“But I don’t see,” Hill reiterated, “how come it didn’t kill you.”
“Very, very simple.”
“I was using a safety razor!
“Now, gentlemen,” he went on, opening the black bag, “I have here a very fine assortment of Burham-Triplex safety razors at very reasonable prices.”
About the Author
Anthony Boucher (1911 – 1968) was an American author, critic, and editor who wrote several classic mystery novels, short stories, science fiction, and radio dramas. Between 1942 and 1947, he acted as reviewer of mostly mystery fiction for the San Francisco Chronicle.and wrote mystery reviews for many years in The New York Times. He was also an editor, including science fiction anthologies, and wrote mystery reviews for many years in The New York Times. He was one of the first English translators of Jorge Luis Borges, translating “The Garden of Forking Paths” for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and he helped found the Mystery Writers of America in 1946. He was a founding editor (with J. Francis McComas) of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction from 1949 to 1958, and attempted to make literary quality an important aspect of science fiction. He won the Hugo Award for Best Professional Magazine in 1957 and 1958. Boucher also edited the long-running Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction anthology series, from 1952 to 1959. Boucher wrote short stories for many pulp fiction magazines in America, including Adventure, Astounding, Black Mask, Ed McBain’s Mystery Book, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Galaxy Science Fiction, The Master Detective, Unknown Worlds and Weird Tales. We here at PSEUDOPOD will always love him most for “They Bite”.
About the Narrator
Rish Outfield is a writer, voice actor, and audiobook narrator. He got his start co-hosting The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine and That Gets My Goat podcasts, where he and Big Anklevich attempt to waste time entertainingly. He also features his own stories on the Rish Outcast podcast. He once got a job because of his Sean Connery impersonation . . . but has lost two due to his Samuel L. Jackson impression.