Ghost stories are not my bag. They just aren’t. I generally find them more silly than scary. However, once in a while, the style of the story can transcend the content. That’s the case in these stories by Francis Marion Crawford. Crawford was a hugely popular writer in his day, but like fellow success Robert W. Chambers, most of his work is (justifiably), forgotten. He is mostly known for this collection of horror stories, published two years after his 1909 death.
His subject matter reminds me of classic Vincent Price movies, semi-Gothic fortresses housing old family secrets, unsavory supernatural elements on cross Atlantic ships, that sort of thing. In spite of that, Crawford’s writing is quite good, and often feels almost modern.
‘Man Overboard!’ has some good ‘slice of life’ stuff about sailing, which was quite cool. And ‘The Upper Berth’ gets into the spirit of transoceanic travel. While ‘By the Waters of Paradise’ definitely has the vibe of a Hammer Horror.
If you’re looking for excellent mood work, and a bit of pre-Lovecraft horror, track this collection down. I think it would make a good companion to Robert W. Chambers’s The King in Yellow. I would argue that Crawford’s writing style is easier to take for a modern reader.
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