Sunday, April 13, 2008

An unnerving book

By now most of you know I am addicted to horror movies and scary books.
Thought I would take a moment to discuss one of my favorite frightning stories.
The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill, is a chilling portrait of one man's descent into fear and the unknown.

Susan Hill - The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story

Arthur Kipps is working his way up in his law firm, and is given the task to settle the affairs of the recently deceased Mrs. Drablow, who lives in a remote estate - The Eel Marsh House - on the mostly unaccesible salt marshes near the town of Crythin Gifford. Apparently she has no family left to claim the home or her effects, so it is up to Mr. Kipps to attend the funeral and put her affairs in order.

He travels from London to the small town, meeting the friendly Mr. Daily - a well-to-do business man who for one reason or another, seems surprised that Arthur has been assigned this morbid task. Once reaching Crythin Gifford he settles in at the Gifford Arms. He finds no one, however, that is willing to talk about or even acknowledge the passing of the reclusive Mrs. Drablow.

At the funeral the next day, he notices a gaunt, pale-faced woman near the back of the church. Sickly looking and dressed in a faded black dress, he wonders if the deceased did indeed have a long lost relative who has come to pay her respects and claim the residence and holdings. After seeing her again in the cemetery, he is unable to find her again to speak to her.

The Eel- Marsh house is located across a misty causeway, which at high tide is completely shut off to outside influence. His driver takes him there and leaves, promising to return at low tide.

Once at the eerie home, Arthur begins sifting through Mrs. Drablow's mounds of pointless papers and property. He is slightly on edge, and yet he does not know why.
He then sees the aforementioned Woman in Black several more times, and her presence shakes him to the core. On top of that, he hears what is apparently a horrific accident involving a horse and carriage. It seems they have fallen into the marsh. He rushes outside and there is nothing there.

The horror of this book is evident in the reason for the woman's appearance, which you eventually discover. The hauntings become more and more harrowing and ultimately Mr. Daily is truthful in his explanation of the reason for the woman's appearance. But by this time, Mr. Kipps is unsure if he can be released from the foreboding ghost's hold over him.

It is a suspenseful book (a short one, at only 138 pages) that is a quick read, but even I had some apprehension reading it late at night. It does give you the chills, and can induce rather odd and sometimes frightening dreams.

It was also made into a rather good movie in 1989, but it is exceedingly difficult to find on DVD. I bought my copy on Ebay and was more than thrilled to have it in my collection.
It was adapted to film quite successfully, though a bit tv-like in nature - and has also been made into a very successful play in the UK - still hugely popular. It is the story that holds everything together, so I suggest picking it up and giving it a try.

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