Monday, August 30, 2010

THE GHOST OF GUIR HOUSE by Charles Willing Beale

The last of Bleiler's "Five Victorian Ghost Novels" collection, this is a standout largely because it's the only one set in the U.S. And it's less about the supernatural as it is about occult philosophy.

Paul Henley, living in New York of 1893, receives a letter meant for another P. Henley who passed away, but is intrigued enough to read it. It's from a Dorothy Guir, asking P. Henley to visit her family at Guir House in Virginia. Henley, having time on his hands and possessed of an adventurous spirit, decides to go down and see if he can help.

Once he arrives, he finds Guir House in a dilapidated state, and its inhabitants, the lovely Dorothy and the elderly Ah Ben, both welcoming and secretive. Henley tries to probe the house's mysteries, but the reader soon knows that Dorothy and Ah Ben are not what they seem, and get annoyed with Henley when he's so slow on the uptake. Especially when Ah Ben gives interminable lectures on Theosophy, and even gives me a vision of the mystical city of Levachan that exists in the year 3000 when the world is full of spiritually advanced people.

It's all a muddle of occult woo-woo mumbo-jumbo that frequently doesn't make sense. There are some genuinely creepy and atmospheric bits when Henley explores the crumbling house, but the book is ultimately done in by its didactic content.

Not recommended! And I couldn't find a decent illustration of the author or the book cover, so this will have to do.

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