I divide the people I know who are avid readers of ghost stories into two groups: Those who’ve read “Smee” by A.M. Burrage and those who have not. It’s not particularly horrible. It’s not graphic. It’s not violent or gory. It’s not necessarily the best written ghost story I’ve ever read either. But it never fails to turn the skin on my forearms into gooseflesh.
A party of twelve people in a large old English house with “lots of unnecessary passages and staircases” decides to turn out the lights and play a sort of grownup version of hide and seek. The rules of the game, Smee, are as follows (described by the author):
It’s much better than hide and seek. The name comes from “It’s me”, of course. Perhaps you’d like to play it instead of hide and seek. Let me tell you the rules of the game. Every player is given a sheet of paper. All the sheets except one are blank. On the last sheet of paper is written “Smee”. Nobody knows who “Smee” is except “Smee” himself – or herself. You turn out the lights, and “Smee” goes quietly out of the room and hides. After a time the others go off to search for “Smee” – but of course they don’t know who they are looking for. When one player meets another he challenges him by saying, “Smee”. The other player answers “Smee”, and they continue searching. But the real “Smee” doesn’t answer when someone challenges. The second player stays quietly beside him. Presently they will be discovered by a third player. He will challenge and receive no answer, and he will join the first two. This goes on until all the players are in the same place. The last one to find “Smee” has to pay a forfeit. It’s a good, noisy, amusing game. In a big house it often takes a long time for everyone to find “Smee”.
(I have no idea where the house pictured below is, but I do not doubt it could host a robust game of Smee…)
Sounds innocent enough, doesn’t it? Well it would be, if you weren’t playing in a house that also had a spectral inhabitant. In this story, the presence of the spirit becomes known by degrees – First by a seeming mis-count of the number of players in the game. Oh well, no problem, the counter must’ve just counted himself twice, right? Let’s try again. Twelve this time. That’s much better. Second, by the young son of the hosts, who thinks he found ‘smee’ in a large cupboard (‘touching a hand’) but when the lights come on, there’s no one there. Oh well, no problem, kids have such active imaginations – especially in a house with all the lights off. But when the narrator himself thinks HE has found ‘smee’ and sits with her on a window seat for some time, well… you can just read for yourself. It may be found on-line at: http://www.scaryforkids.com/smee/
Enjoy – and let me know what you think of “Smee.” Don’t be shy, it’s jus’mee…