The Shadows on the Wall by Mary Wilkins Freeman

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I like to read ghost stories in October. I’m sure I’m not alone in this predilection. I also like to read Paula Cappa’s weekly blog (linked in my blogroll) post titled “Tuesday’s Tale of Terror.” A lot of my ad hoc reading includes stories of a dark nature, but if none of my current reading fits that bill, I can always count on a quick fix from TToT. Paula is also good about including links to the stories if they are in the public domain – and also to other interesting and related material.

So this week, after discovering author Mary Wilkins Freeman via this blog, I followed one of the links to a different story, the ghostly tale “The Shadows on the Wall.”

(Below: Edward’s siblings look uncomprehendingly upon the shadow on the wall)

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I remember being fascinated with shadows early in my childhood, probably further than my average memory reaches. I remember having a terrible fright once playing outside the house after dark – maybe it was hide and seek – and running between our house and the neighbors’ to hide. I recall that the street lights soon cast a shadow of a man on the wall of the neighbors’ house. It looked like someone with arms outstretched to the side at right angles (kind of the pose of the famous “Christ the Redeemer” statue in Rio de Janeiro.) Mistaking this shadow as one of my brothers or friends’ in some triumphant “Aha! There you are!” victory stance, I walked to the front yard to find… NO ONE there. I think I was done playing for that night.

There are some other shadowy encounters in my life experience, but I won’t bore you with them here. Suffice it to say, a respect for the “power” of shadows helped me appreciate this story by Mary Wilkins Freeman.

The story (which may be read for free on line at http://www.litgothic.com/Texts/shadows.html ) deals with the Glynn family, specifically with the death of Edward Glynn and his surviving siblings, Henry, Rebecca, Caroline, and Emma. The latter is the only married sister and she has returned home and learns some troubling details about the death of her brother a couple days earlier. It seems that Edward and Henry had a spirited argument the night Edward died. Rebecca had overheard/eavesdropped the argument and related that when Henry shouted that Edward “had no business” living at the family estate, Edward replied that “he would stay here as long as he lived, and afterward too.”

The sisters are fearful to know the extent of Henry’s complicity in Edward’s death, and, to the surprise of Emma, seem afraid to light the lamp in the large front room when night falls. When she insists upon it, we meet for the first time a strange shadow on the wall… The rest of the story deals with how the siblings cope with this supernatural presence. It ended a little too predictably for me but was still a good ghost story.

Have you heard of this author before? What are some of your favorite ghost stories?

(Below: Rio de Janiero’s “Christ the Redeemer” overlooking the beautiful Guanabara Bay)

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4 Comments

  1. hkatz said,

    October 27, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Yes, I’ve read a bunch of her stories, and I still have to review several of them on the blog. (The collection I came across was A New England Nun and Other Stories.)

    But I haven’t read her ghost stories, so I’ll have to look into those.

    I like her depictions of 19th century New England village life, particularly the unconventional female characters who don’t quite fit the mold, who are in some way eccentric and marginalized. She’s also great at writing about interiors, and how the home we live in shapes us (and vice versa).

    Like

    • Jay said,

      October 28, 2013 at 7:39 am

      Thanks for the comment, HKatz. As I said in my post, this was my first experience with her, but I’m sure it won’t be the last. 🙂
      -Jay

      Like

  2. Paula Cappa said,

    October 28, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Wonderful post, Jay. There is a power in shadows and I always find them eye-catching. HKatz makes a good point that MWF’s depictions of New England village life are magnificently done. I look forward, HKatz, to your blog reviews of this author.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jay said,

      October 28, 2013 at 12:08 pm

      Thank you, Paula. I almost included another personal story, but realized it was more about reflections than shadows. Reflections are also a rich – and well-explored – source of literary inspiration.
      -Jay

      Like


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