Every year, from the beginning of December until Epiphany, I like to share some winter tales — stories to tell or to read around a warm fire on a cold dark night, preferably with a steamy hot drink to wrap your hands around. I’m a bit late getting started this year, but I’m starting with a classic: a haunted house story by Irish writer Bithia Mary Croker (1848-1920).
For a period extending over some years, a notice appeared periodically in various daily papers. It read:
“To let furnished, for a term of years, at a very low rental, a large old-fashioned family residence, comprising eleven bed-rooms, four reception rooms, dressing-rooms, two staircases, complete servants’ offices, ample accommodation for a Gentleman’s establishment, including six-stall stable, coach-house, etc.”
This advertisement referred to number ninety.
I knew better. I knew that it would never, never find a tenant. I knew that it was passed on as a hopeless case, from house-agent to house-agent. I knew that it would never be occupied, save by rats-and, more than this, I knew the reason why!
John Hollyoak, skeptic, agrees to spend the night in Number Ninety, a house of “such a desperate reputation, that even the adjoining mansions stood vacant.” Does it change his mind? Of course it does.
A list (with links) of the winter tales I’ve shared in previous years is on my Winter Tales page.
Ms. Croker lived in British-occupied India for 14 years with her husband, and much of her fiction is set there. To Let is the tale of a haunted bungalow in the Himalayas. It’s a good one.
Image: Haunted Mansion by Jailem, some rights reserved.