Twelve Medieval Ghost Stories

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Szerző: Montague Rhodes James • Év: 1922

During his research among old manuscripts, M. R. James made many important discoveries which opened up whole new areas of scholarship. Among the beautifully handwritten pages of these works in Latin he unearthed stories and accounts which fascinated fellow scholars and delighted antiquarians. From the point of view of this book, his most important find was a group of twelve medieval ghost stories, surely among the very earliest such tales on record. These he discovered in an old manuscript in the British Museum, and carefully transcribed them in the original Latin. A short while later he published them, still untranslated but with copious footnotes, in the English Historial Review (Volume XXXVII) of July 1922. Now they reappear here, specially translated for this volume by Pamela Chamberlaine. Quite deliberately she has maintained the naive style of the original Latin, and only the most minor editorial corrections and modernizations have been made. Although the stories are somewhat obscure at times and occasionally confusing, they make a fascinating addition to our ghost lore. And, as Dr James makes clear in his own introduction, they delighted him, too!

 

These stories were, I believe, first noticed in the recent Catalogue of the Royal Manuscripts, where a brief analysis of them is given which may well have excited the curiosity of others besides myself. All that Casley has to say of them in the old catalogue is ‘Exemplaria apparitionum spirituum (saec.) xv’.

I took an early opportunity of transcribing them, and I did not find them disappointing: I hope others will agree that they deserved to be published.

The source is the Royal MS 15 A xx in the British Museum. It is a fine volume of the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries containing some tracts of Cicero and the Elucidarium. It belonged to Byland Abbey (Yorkshire) and later to John Theyer.

On blank pages in the body of the book (ff. 140-3) and at the end (fo. 163b) a monk of Byland has written down a series of ghost stories of which the scenes are laid in his own neighbourhood. They are strong in local colour, and though occasionally confused, incoherent and unduly compressed, evidently represent the words of the narrators with some approach to fidelity.

To me they are redolent of Denmark. Any one who is lucky enough to possess E. T. Kristensen’s delightful collections of Sagn fra Jylland will be reminded again and again of traits which occur there. Little as I can claim the quality of ‘folklorist’ I am fairly confident that the Scandinavian element is really prominent in these tales.

The date of the writing cannot be long after 1400 (c. 1400 is the estimate in the catalogue). Richard II’s reign is referred to as past. A study of local records, impossible to me, might not improbably throw light upon the persons mentioned in the stories.

The hand is not a very easy one, and the last page of all is really difficult: some words have baffled me. The Latin is very refreshing.

 

I Concerning the ghost of a certain hireling of Ryevall who helped a man to carry some beans

 

A certain man rode on his horse which was also carrying a pack of beans. The horse stumbled on the road and broke its leg. Seeing this, the man took the beans on his own back, and as he was going along the road he saw before him what looked like another horse standing on its hind legs, with its forelegs raised high up. The man was terrified and begged the horse in the name of Jesus Christ not to harm him. After this the creature went along with him as a horse, and very soon afterwards it appeared in the form’of a rolling truss of hay with a light in the middle of it. The man said to it: “Go away, because you will bring me ill-luck.” But as soon as he said this the apparition turned into human form. Then the spirit told him his name and the reason for his haunting, and how he could be helped, and added: “Allow me to carry the beans and help you.” And so he did, as far as the river, but he would not cross over, and the man, without knowing how, found the bag of beans once again placed on his own back. After this he had the spirit absolved and masses sung, and thus freed him from his ghostly state.

 

II Concerning a marvellous discussion between a ghost and a living man in the time of King Richard II

 

It is said that a certain tailor by the name of Snawball was riding back to his home in Ampleforth on a certain night from Gilling, and on the way he heard what seemed to be the sound of ducks washing themselves in the stream. Soon after he saw what appeared to be a crow flying round his head and down to the ground, with its wings dragging on the ground as if it was about to die. The tailor dismounted to pick up the crow and as he did so he saw sparks of fire coming out of the sides of this same crow. Then he made the sign of the cross and begged the crow, in the name of God, not to bring him any misfortune along that road. At this it flew away with a great shriek, to a stone’s throw distant.

So the man mounted his horse again and shortly afterwards the aforesaid crow flew towards him and struck him in the side, knocking him off his horse, and flat on the ground. He lay thus stretched out on the ground in a sort of trance or faint, very frightened. At last he got to his feet, and with firm faith he fought the crow with his sword until he was weary, and it seemed to him as if he was striking a peat-stack in a marsh, so he held him off, and in the name of God said: “Protect me from whatever power this thing possesses to harm me, and make it go away.” And the crow flew off again with a dreadful shriek as far as an arrow could fly.

Then the ghost appeared for the third time to the same tailor, who made the sign of a cross on his breast with his sword. This time it stood before him in the form of a dog with a chain on its neck. When he saw this the tailor began to think about it, and with his spirit full of faith said: “What is to become of me? I will beg him in the name of the Holy Trinity, and by the power of the blood of Jesus Christ of the five wounds, to speak to me and not to harm me in any way, but to stand still and answer my questions and tell me his name and the cause of his trouble and a suitable remedy.” And so he did. The ghost when addressed gasped and groaned terribly, and said: “I did such and such a thing and for my deeds I was excommunicated.1 Go therefore to a certain priest and seek absolution for me. And I must have nine times twenty masses celebrated for me, and you shall choose one of two things. Either you return to me alone on a certain night, bringing back the reply from those of whom I have spoken, and I will tell you how you can be healed, and do not fear the sight of a wood fire in the meantime.2 Or your flesh will putrefy and your skin will weaken and fall away from you completely in a short time. You shall know, therefore, that because you have not heard mass nor the gospel of John ‘In the beginning . . . ‘ and have not seen the consecration of the body and blood of Christ, I have been able to appear to you now, otherwise I would not have the power so to do.”

As he spoke with the tailor, the ghost appeared as if burning with fire, and the man could see through its mouth into its inside, as it formed its words in the intestines, and did not speak with its tongue. The tailor asked permission of the spirit to have another companion with him on his return, but the spirit replied: “No, but you shall have above you the four evangelists and the triumphal name of Jesus of Nazareth because there are two other ghosts who dwell here, one of whom cannot speak, being bound by an oath, and appears as a fire or a thorn-bush, and the other has the form of a huntsman, and they are very dangerous to meet. Furthermore you shall promise by this tomb-stone that you will not reveal my bones except to the priests celebrating mass for me, and to others to whom you will be sent on my behalf who may be able to help me.” The tailor promised by the stone not to reveal this secret as explained above. Finally, he begged the spirit to go away as far as Hoggebek until he returned. But he replied, “No, no, no,” with a howl. The tailor said to him: “Then go to Bilandbank.” And it was agreed.3

Now the same man was taken ill for some days, but as soon as he was well he went to York to the aforesaid priest who had previously excommunicated the ghost, and begged absolution. The priest refused to absolve him, and called another chaplain to him for consultation. Then he called in a second, and the second a third to consider the subject of his absolution. And the tailor said to the priest at once, “Father, you know the sign which I whispered in your ears?” And the priest replied, “Yes, my son.” At last, after various discussions between the two sides, the tailor satisfied them, and paid five shillings, and received the absolution, written on a scroll, having sworn that he would not harm the dead man, but secretly bury the scroll in his tomb beside his head. When he had received it he went to a certain Friar Richard of Pikering to ask the noble confessor if this absolution was sufficient and legitimate. The friar said that it was. Then the tailor went round to all the orders of friars in York, and arranged for all the agreed masses to be celebrated for two or three days, and returning home he buried the aforesaid absolution as he had been ordered in the tomb.4

Thus, with all these things duly accomplished he went home, and a certain, officious neighbour of his, hearing that he had to inform the same ghost what he had done in York on that night, declared to him: “You shall not go to this ghost unless you forewarn me of the day and hour of your departure.” Being thus constrained, the tailor, in order not to displease the Lord, did forewarn him, waking him up from sleep and saying: “I am going now. If you wish to come with me, let us go, and I will give you some of my documents which I carry on me against fear of the night.” But the other replied: “Do you want me to go with you?” and the tailor answered: “You seemed to want to go, but I do not want to hurry you.” Then in the end the other said: “Go then in the name of the Lord, and may God help you in all things.”5

When this was said, the tailor went to the agreed meeting place and made a great circle with a cross, which had over it the four gospels and other sacred words.6 Then he stood in the middle of the circle, placing four reliquaries in the form of a cross on the edges of the same circle, and on the reliquaries were written healing words such as Jesus of Nazareth, etc., and he awaited the arrival of the same ghost. And at last the ghost came in the form of a goat, and went three times round the aforementioned circle, saying “Ah, ah, ah.” Whereupon he fell prone on the ground, and rose up in the form of a man of great size, horrible and skinny, like one of the painted dead kings.7 When the tailor asked if his labour had been at all successful, the spirit said: “God be praised, yes, and I was standing behind you at the ninth hour when you buried my absolution in my tomb and were afraid. And no wonder, for three devils were also present, who were punishing me with all kinds of torments after you had summoned me for the first time, expecting that they would shortly have me in their keeping to torment. You shall know therefore that next Monday I, with thirty other ghosts, will go into everlasting joy. You therefore shall go to a certain river and will find a broad stone which you will lift up, and under that stone you will pick up some sandy rock. Then you will wash all your body with water and rub it with the rock, and within a few days you will be healed.”8

The tailor then asked the spirit the names of two of the other ghosts and was told: “I cannot tell you their names.” But when he was asked again about their situation the ghost declared that one of them was worldly and warlike and not of this country, and had killed a pregnant woman and would not be cleared till the day of judgement. “You will see him in the form of a bullock with no mouth, eyes or ears, and in no way will he be able to speak however much he is asked. And the other is a priest, who is in the shape of a hunter blowing his horn, and he will be questioned and cleared by the Lord thanks to a certain boy not yet grown up.”

Afterwards the tailor asked the same ghost about his own position, and the spirit answered: “You are keeping unlawfully the hood and gown of your friend and ally in the war overseas. Therefore you will either return them to him or suffer seriously.” The man answered: “I do not know where he is.” And the ghost replied: “He lives in a certain village near Alnwick castle.” When further asked: “What is my greatest fault?” the spirit answered: “Your greatest fault is because of me.” At which the living man said: “How and why?” and he replied: “Because the people are lying about you and spreading scandal about other dead men, and say: ‘Either this man or that man or the other who was friendly with you is dead.’” So the tailor asked the ghost: “What is to be done then? Shall I reveal your name?” But he answered: “No, but if you reside in such and such a place you will be rich, and in another you will be poor, while here you will always have some enemies.”9

At last the ghost said: “I cannot stay longer talking to you.” As they were parting from each other, the predicted deaf, mute and blind spirit like a bullock went with the living man as far as Ampleforth, and he tried to make him speak in all the ways he knew, but the ghost could not answer. Finally, the other ghost who had helped him advised him to put all his documents of value under his head while he slept. “Do not say more or less than I advised you, look always on the ground, and do not look at the fire for tonight at least.” And on returning home the man was seriously ill for several days.

 

III Concerning the ghost of Robert, the son of Robert de Bolteby of Killeburne, who was captured in a cemetary

 

It is worthy of recall that the aforementioned Robert junior died and was buried in the cemetery, but he used to leave his grave at night and disturb and frighten the townsfolk, causing the dogs of the town to follow him and bark at him furiously. At last, some youths of the town discussing the matter, proposed to catch him if they could find a way to do so, and so they met at the cemetery. But when they saw him they all fled except two, one of whom, called Robert Foxton, caught this figure as he was going out of the cemetery and held him on the lych gate, while the other shouted bravely: “Hold him fast till I get to you.” At this his companion replied: “You had better go to the parish priest and bring him, for with the help of God, whatever it is I have I will hold on to fast until the priest comes.” And indeed the parish priest hurried with all speed, and conjured him in the holy name of the Trinity and by the virtue of Jesus Christ to answer to his questions. Being thus compelled the ghost spoke in his entrails and not with his tongue, as if in an empty jar, and confessed his various misdeeds. When he heard these, the priest absolved him, but he ordered the captors not to reveal anything of the ghost’s confession, and ever afterwards he rested in peace, God willing.

It is said, however, that before the absolution the ghost would stand under the windows of houses, as if listening. Perhaps waiting to see if someone came out, so as to beg that person to help him in his need. Somerelate, however, that he assisted and connived at the killing of a certain man, and he did other evil things of which at present we may not relate the details.

 

IV About a ghost that put out the eye of a concubine.

 

The old men relate that a certain Jacob Tankerlay, for merly Rector of Kirby was buried in the presence of his favourite Bellelande, but thereafter used to go out by darkness and one night he put out the eye of his concubine. And it is said that the abbot had his body removed from its grave complete with its coffin, and ordered Roger Wayneman to convey it to Gormyre. While this man was throwing the coffin into the river the oxen almost sank into the water in fear. May I not be in any danger for writing this, for I have written it just as I heard it from the elders. May the Almighty have mercy on Jacob Tankerlay, if indeed he was one of those predestined to salvation.

 

V The story of a woman with a ghost on her back

 

Here is another marvel to relate. It is said that a certain woman seized a ghost and carried it into her home on her back in the presence of some men, one of whom related that he saw the woman’s hand sink deeply into the ghost’s flesh, as if the flesh of the said ghost was rotten, and not solid, but an illusion.10

 

VI Concerning a certain canon of Newbury, seized after his death

 

It happened that a man of Newbury was taking with a head ploughman as they were walking in a field. And suddenly the ploughman fled in stark terror, as the other struggled with a certain ghost which tore his clothes shamefully. But at last he got the better of it and compelled it to speak. And when thus constrained the ghost confessed that it had been a canon of Newbury and had been excommunicated for stealing some silver spoons which it had hidden in a certain place. the spirit therefore made the living man promise to go to this place and fetch the silver spoons, and take them to his prior and seek absolution for it. The man did as he was asked and found the spoons in the place indicated. Thereafter the ghost was absolved and rested in peace. But the aforesaid man was taken ill and languished for many days, and ever after declared that the ghost had appeared to him in the robes of a canon.11

 

VII Of a ghost which begged indulgence for its misdeeds

 

This story concerns a certain ghost who declared when invoked that he was harshly punished because, being the servant of a certain householder, he used to steal sheaves of corn which he gave to his cattle so that they should appear fat. And he said another thing which weighed heavily on him was that he ploughed his land not deeply but very shallowly, wishing his oxen to remain plump. He also declared that there were fifteen ghosts in one place, all harshly punished for the misdeeds they had done. Therefore, he begged that his master should be asked to show indulgence, so that by some sort of absolution he might obtain relief from his torment.

 

VIII Concerning the ghost that followed William of Bradeforth and howled for three nights

 

This story is about another ghost which followed William of Bradeforth and shouted why, why, why three times over. It happened that on the fourth night at midnight he moved to a new place from the town of Ampleforth, and while returning on the road he heard a terrible voice shouting a long way behind him on the hill, and soon after it shouted again in the same way, but much nearer. And a third time it shouted at the crossroads ahead of him, and at last he saw a white horse. At this his dog barked a little, but was terribly frightened and hid between his legs. Upon which William enjoined the same ghost in the name of the Lord and by virtue of the blood of Jesus Christ to go away and not block his road. On hearing this the ghost took the form of a revolving wine-vat with four angles and rolled away. From which it was assumed that the ghost longed dearly to be questioned and effectively helped.12

 

IX A story about the ghost of a man from Aton in Clyveland

 

It is told that a ghost followed for eighty miles a man who might conjure and help him. And when he had been addressed, the spirit confessed that he had been excommunicated for a certain matter of six denarii, but after he was absolved and had made amends he rested in peace. In all these God showed himself, since he who justly makes amends is not punished and no harm comes to him, and on the contrary no good comes to him who has not made amends.

It is said that the same ghost, before he was helped, threw the man over the hedge and caught him coming down on the other side. When questioned he replied: “If you had helped me at the start, I should not have harmed you. But you were terrified, and so I did this.”13

 

X How a penitent thief after his confession vanished from the sight of the devil

 

It happened once in Exon that a certain miner, a great worker and eater, lived in a room adjoining a house which had several store rooms. Now this man, being hungry, used to go quite often up a certain ladder to the store rooms and cut down the carcasses hanging there and cook and eat them, and they lasted him forty days. But the master of the house, seeing his carcasses had been cut down, asked his servants who had done this. And they all denied it and swore their innocence under oath. The master warned them that he intended to go to a certain wicked wizard and find out from him about this strange deed. When he heard of this, the miner was very frightened and went to the friars in secret and confessed his misdeed, and was absolved by the sacrament. But the master of the house, as he had threatened, went to the wizard, who anointed the finger nail of a certain child and by means of his incantations inquired of the child what he saw.14 And he replied: “I see Garcio with his head shaved.” Then the wizard said to him: “You will enjoin him to appear to you in the most beautiful form he can.” After he had done so the child declared: “I can now see a very beautiful horse.” And after that he saw a certain man looking like the miner going up a ladder and cutting down carcasses with the horse following likewise. And the cleric asked: “What are the man and horse doing now?” And the child replied: “He is cooking and eating those carcasses.”

When he was questioned further as to what was happening, the child said: “They are going together to the church of the friars. But the horse waits outside the doors and the man enters and kneels and talks to a certain friar who puts his hand on the man’s head.” And once again the cleric asked the boy: “What are they doing now?” But the child could only answer: “They have both vanished at the same time from my sight and I cannot see them any more, and naturally I do not know where they are.”

 

XI Of a marvellous work of God who can call up things that do not exist

 

It is worth recalling that a certain man from Clyveland, named Richard Rountree, leaving his pregnant wife, went to the tomb of St Jacob with a large number of others, and one night they spent in a certain wood near the king’s highway. So it was that one of the number kept watch for a certain part of the night for fear of night prowlers, and the others could sleep more easily.

And it happened that on the particular watch that the aforesaid man was on guard, he heard a great sound of passing travellers along the highway, and some were riding on horses, sheep and oxen and some on other animals; and all of them were on the creatures which provided their mortuaries when they died.15 At last he saw what looked like a baby rolling along in a sort of shoe over the ground. And he questioned the child: “Who are you, and why are you rolling along thus?” And it replied: “You should not ask me, for you are my father and Lam your son born prematurely, buried without baptism and without name.” When he heard this, the traveller took off his shirt and put it on his son, and christened him in the name of the holy Trinity, and took with him that old shoe as a testimony of this incident. And indeed the child, when thus named, rejoiced greatly and even stood upright on his feet instead of rolling on the ground as before.

Now, having ended his journey, the man called together his neighbours and asked his wife for his shoes. She showed him one, but could not find the other. Then the husband held out to her the shoe in which the boy had been rolling along, and she marvelled at this. At which the midwife confessed the truth about the death of the boy and his burial in the shoe. And thereafter the husband and his wife were divorced, because she was the sponsor of her son who had been born prematurely. But I believe that this divorce greatly displeased God.16

 

XII Concerning the sister of old Adam de Lond, seized after death according to the account of the ancients

 

It is said that this woman was buried in the cemetery at Ampleforth, and shortly after her death was seized by William Trower the elder, and when questioned confessed that she herself walked the earth at night because of certain documents which she handed over wrongly to her brother. The fact was that one day, after a quarrel had arisen between her husband and herself, she had given over to her brother the aforesaid documents, to the prejudice of her husband and her own sons. So after her death, her brother violently drove her husband out of his home which was a plot with a house in Ampleforth. And he also had in Heslarton some grazing land with appurtenances.

Therefore this woman begged William to suggest to her brother that he should return those documents to her husband and sons, and restore their land to them. Otherwise she could in no way rest in peace until the judgement day. And so William, following her order, approached Adam. But he refused to return the documents, saying that he did not believe these sayings. So William said: “My words are true in all respects, so you will very soon, by the will of God, hear your sister speak about this matter.” And the next night he again caught her and took her to the room of Adam, and she talked with him. But according to some, the hard-hearted brother replied: “If you were to walk for ever I would still not give back those documents.” And she replied with a groan: “Let God judge between you and me on this matter. You shall know therefore that I cannot rest until your death, but after your death you will walk instead of me.” It is said that after that his right hand hung down and was quite black, and when asked the reason he replied that he strained it when fighting, which was a lie. At last the sister was constrained to lie at peace because the people of the town were frightened at night by these terrors. And it is said that Adam de Lond the younger partly satisfied the heirs after the death of Adam the elder by making restitution.

 

1 Great pains are taken thoughout to conceal the name of the ghost. He must have been a man of quality, whose relatives might have objected to stories being told about him. M. R. J.

2 At the end of the story we have ‘ne respicias ignem materialem ista nocte ad minus’. In the Danish tales something like this is to be found. Kristensen, Sagn og overtro, 1866, no. 585: After seeing a phantom funeral the man ‘was wise enough to go to the stove and look at the fire before he saw (candle- or lamp-) light. For when people see anything of the kind they are sick if they cannot get at fire before light.’ Ibid. no. 371: ‘he was very sick when he caught sight of the light.’ The same in no. 369. In part ii of the same (1888), no. 690: ‘When you see anything supernatural, you should peep over the door before going into the house. You must see the light before the light sees you.’ Collection of 1883, no. 193: ‘When he came home, he called to his wife to put out the light before he came in, but she did not, and he was so sick they thought he would have died.’ These examples are enough to show that there was risk attached to seeing light after a ghostly encounter. Does ignis materialis mean simply a fire of wood here? M. R. J.

3 I suppose, in order that the ghost might not haunt the road in the interval before the tailor’s return. M. R. J.

4 The reluctance of the priest at York to absolve, and the number of advisers called in, testify to the importance of the case. M. R. J.

5 The conduct of the officious neighbour who insists upon being informed of the tailor’s assignation with the ghost and then backs out of accompanying him, is amusing. M. R. J.

6 Whether a circle enclosing a cross or a circle drawn with a cross I do not know. M. R. J.

7 I think the allusion is to the pictures of the Three Living and Three Dead so often found painted on church-walls. The Dead and Living are often represented as kings. M. R. J.

8 The need of a prescription for healing the tailor was due to the blow in the side which the crow (raven?) had given him. M. R. J.

9 This does not seem to follow logically upon the prohibition to tell the ghost’s name. I take it as advice to the tailor to change his abode. ‘If you take up your abode—reside—in such a place you will prosper; if in such a place you will be poor; and you have some enemies (where you now are).’ M.R.J.

10 This is most curious. Why did the woman catch the ghost and bring it indoors? M. R. J.

11 A daylight ghost, as it seems. The seer and the head ploughman are walking together in the field. Suddenly the ploughman has a panic and runs off, and the other finds himself struggling with a ghost. Probably the prior had excommunicated the stealer of the spoons ‘whoever he might be’ without knowing who he was, as in the case of the Jackdaw of Rheims. M. R. J.

12 For three nights William of Bradford had heard the cries. On the fourth night he met the ghost. And I suspect he must have been imprudent enough to answer the cries, for there are many tales, Danish and other, of persons who answer the shrieking ghost with impertinent words, and the next moment they hear it close to their ear. Note the touch of the frightened dog. M. R. J.

13 ‘Aton’, the catalogue suggests, may be Ayton. The ghost throws him over the hedge and catches him as he falls on the other side. So the Troll, whose (supposed) daughter married the blacksmith, when he heard that all the villagers shunned her, came to the church on Sunday before service when all the people were in the churchyard and drove them into a compact group. Then he said to his daughter, “Will you throw or catch?” “I will catch,” said she, in kindness to the people. “Very well, go round to the other side of the church.” And he took them one by one and threw them over the church, and she caught them and put them down unhurt. “Next time I come,” said the Troll, “She shall throw, and I will catch—if you don’t treat her better.” Not very relevant, but less known than it should be. M. R. J.

14 The wizard ‘anoints’ the nail of the child, not the palm of the hand. He, I suppose, and not the master of the house, is the clericus who asks the questions. M. R. J.

15 There are multitudinous examples of the nightly processions of the dead, but I do not know another case in which they ride on their own ‘mortuaries’ (the beasts offered to their church, or claimed by it, at their decease): it is a curious reminiscence of the pagan fashion of providing means of transport for the dead by burying beasts with them. M. R. J.

16 Evidently the wife was not accessory to the indecent burial of the child, and sympathy of the writer is with her. The divorce does seem superfluous, since, though sponsors were not allowed to marry, here was but one sponsor: but I know not the canon law. M. R. J.

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Howard Phillips Lovecraft:
Cthulhu hívása

Ez az egyetlen történet Lovecraft részéről, amelyben jelentős szerepet kap a szörnyisten, Cthulhu. 1926 későnyarán, kora őszén íródhatott. A dokumentarista stílusban megírt történet nyomozója, Thurston, a szemita nyelvek egyetemi kutatója darabkáról darabkára rakja össze a rejtélyes kirakóst. A fiatal kutató egyre több tárgyi és írásos bizonyítékát leli a hírhedt Cthulhu-kultusz létezésének. A kultisták a Necronomicon szövege alapján a nagy szörnyisten eljövetelét várják. A történetek a megtestesült iszonyatról beszélnek, ami átrepült az űrön és letelepedett a Földön sok millió évvel ezelőtt. Most hosszú álmát alussza tengerborította városában: Ph’ngluimglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn, vagyis R'lyeh házában a tetszhalott Cthulhu álmodik. A Csendes-óceán déli részén néhány bátor tengerész megtalálta a várost és felébresztette a Nagy Öreget. Ennek hatására őrülethullám robogott végig a Földön, több ember lelte halálát ezekben az időkben. A találkozást csak egy tengerész élte túl, de ő is gyanús körülmények között halt meg. A fiatal kutató érzi, hogy ő is erre a sorsra juthat... A novellát nagy részben Lord Tennyson Kraken című költeménye inspirálta: Cthulhu is egy csápos, polipszerű szörny, egy alvó isten (ez a gondolat nagyban Lord Dunsany műveinek Lovecraftra gyakorolt hatásának köszönhető). S. T. Joshi felveti, hogy számottevő hatást váltott ki Lovecraftra Maupassant Horlája és Arthur Machen A fekete pecsét története című története is. Maga Lovecraft e történetet roppant középszerűnek, klisék halmazának titulálta. A Weird Tales szerkesztője, Farnsworth Wright először elutasította a közlését, és csak azután egyezett bele, hogy Lovecraft barátja, Donald Wandrei bebeszélte neki, hogy más magazinnál is érdeklődnek a sztori iránt.

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Howard Phillips Lovecraft:
Őrület hegyei, Az / Hallucináció hegységei, A

Egy déli sarki kutatócsoport, köztük a narrátor, William Dyer a Miskatonic Egyetemről az Antarktiszra indul 1930/31 telén. A fagyott környezetben 14, a hideg által konzerválódott idegen lényre bukkannak. Miután a kutatók több csoportra oszlanak, és az egyikről nem érkezik hír, a megmaradt tagok felkeresik az eltűntek táborát, ahol szétmarcangolt emberi és állati maradványokat találnak - néhány idegen létformának pedig mindössze hűlt helyét... Legnagyobb döbbenetükre azonban a kutatás során feltárul előttük egy évmilliókkal régebben épített, hatalmas kőváros, amely a Nagy Öregek egykori lakóhelye lehetett. A kisregényt szokás Poe Arthur Gordon Pym című kisregényének folytatásaként tekinteni, az enigmatikus és meg nem magyarázott jelentésű kiáltás, a "Tekeli-li!" miatt. Eredetileg a Weird Talesbe szánta Lovecraft, de a szerkesztő túl hosszúnak találta, ezért öt éven át hevert a kisregény felhasználatlanul a fiókban. Az Astounding végül jelentősen megváltoztatva közölte a művet, több bekezdést (nagyjából ezer szót) kihagyott, a teljes, javított verzió először 1985-ben látott napvilágot.

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Howard Phillips Lovecraft:
Suttogás a sötétben

A vermonti hegyekben állítólag különös, nem a Földről származó lények élnek, és az 1927-es áradások során számos idegen testet is magával sodort a víz. Albert Wilmarth, a Miskatonic Egyetem tanára különös levelet kap az Ördöghegy közelében élő magányos embertől, Henry Wentworth Akeleytől, aki a szkeptikus tanárnak azt bizonygatja, hogy a mendemondák igazak, sőt, földönkívüli szörnyek titkos szervezetéről rántja le a leplet a fiatal tudós előtt. Amikor Wilmarth megérkezik Akeleyhez, a férfit leromlott állapotban találja, és hátborzongató események veszik kezdetüket. A bujkáló, félelmetes humanoidok ötlete egyértelműen Arthur Machen hatása, akinek A fekete pecsét története című írása is ember előtti, rejtőzködő életmódot folytató lények létezését sugallja az elhagyatott, vadregényes dombokon. Lovecraft a Weird Talestől 350 dollárt kapott érte, amely rekordfizetésnek bizonyult, hiszen semelyik más írásáért nem kapott ennyit.

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