I found Ghost Gleams (1921) thanks to a post by Tim Prasil, the hunter of occult detectives. It’s a collection of fifteen stories written by William James Wintle, an Oblate (lay brother) at the Abbey of Caldey Island, off the coast of Wales. Presumably he was a teacher there as well; the stories were originally composed as campfire entertainment for the boys who attended the Abbey school.
The stories are delightful. Many of them have an M.R. James-ish feel to them, with their scholarly bachelor protagonists who are sometimes a little too curious or a little too skeptical for their own good… .
Truth be told, Wintle (in these stories) has some of the shortcomings that James is also accused of. The stories are “merely” ghost stories: not too deep, a bit short on explanation. More than once, I got to the end of a story and thought “that’s it? But why? How? Tell me more!” James’s stories have additional layers, thanks to James’ antiquarian and church history background, not to mention his love and appreciation for folklore, and for its “rules”. I come away from a James story wanting to hunt things down, look things up — what was he referring to in this story? What did it mean? Wintle’s stories, unfortunately, don’t have that extra layer.
But they’re still cracking good stories, and lots of fun. They come in a variety of scariness levels, from creepy to not scary at all; though as Wintle writes in the preface, “the gruesome ones met with the best reception. Boys like highly flavoured dishes.” I don’t need my ghost stories to be scary, and I liked the sweet “Father Thornton’s Visitor”. I also got a chuckle out of “The Ghost at the ‘Blue Dragon'”, a comedic cross between James’ “Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, my Lad” and “The Seventh Voyage” chapter of Stanislaw Lem’s The Star Diaries. I won’t tell you which was my favorite creepy story, because I’m saving it for Winter Tale season… .
So if you are looking for some pleasantly shiversome bedtime reading, or for fun old-school ghost stories, check this one out. You can find free ebook versions in three formats at the Mystery and Imagination blog (which is a cool blog, so thanks to Tim for that pointer, too!).