Today’s authoress of the fantastic is Henrietta Dorothy Everett (1851-1923), who wrote under the name Theo Douglas. Though mostly forgotten today, she wrote some 22 novels, at least half of which were fantastical or supernatural. There isn’t a lot known about her life, but from the descriptions in both the Encyclopedia of Fantasy and Wikipedia, her novels look worth digging up, if you are into quirky pulpish stuff [1].

The Death Mask book cover
Book cover for the first edition of The Death Mask (1920). Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC

Today, however, I’ll talk about Everett’s ghost stories, mostly collected in The Death Mask and Other Ghosts (1920), published under her real name. The Death Mask drew notice from both M. R. James (“of a rather quieter tone on the whole, but with some excellently conceived stories”[2]) and H. P. Lovecraft (“though adhering to very old and conventional models, [she] occasionally reaches singular heights of spiritual terror”[3]).

Everett wrote at least two other classic ghost stories. “The Pipers of Mallory” was first published in Pearson’s The Novel Magazine (May 1917), and reprinted in More Uncanny Stories (1918), an anthology of stories from The Novel Magazine [4]. “The Whispering Wall” was first published in The Novel Magazine, February 1916.

  • You can download The Death Mask and Other Ghosts from the Mystery and Imagination blog, here.
  • I’ve also put “The Pipers of Mallory” online, here.

I don’t have a copy of “The Whispering Wall,” but you can find it in the Wordsworth collection of Everett’s tales, The Crimson Blind and Other Ghost Stories.

The Wordsworth collection calls her “a Victorian novelist,” but looking at the dates of her supernatural novels, I would consider her more modern. The stories in The Death Mask were all written around the period of World War I, and “Over the Wires” and “A Perplexing Case” are specifically about the war. In particular, the horror in “Over the Wires” comes less from the supernatural, and more from real-life atrocities. The war forms the background of several other stories as well: women engaged in medical and other civilian war work, soldiers going away to the front, coming back from the front, invalided out of the front….

Like May Sinclair’s Uncanny Stories, the pieces in The Death Mask feel like a transition toward a modern variety of weird tale, where the supernatural reflects the emotional or other issues present among the characters. As James says, the collection is on the quiet side, but Everett comes up with twists that differentiate her tales from run-of-the-mill haunted houses, family curses and the other usual fare. I enjoyed reading them, not just as ghost stories, but for the distinct voices of the narrators.

The abovementioned “A Perplexing Case” is the most unusual tale: two soldiers who are injured by the same shell-burst somehow exchange consciousnesses. This was an interesting story, not just for the transmigration angle, but because of the modern, almost prosaic, way the “great doctor” cures them.

“The Death Mask” is another standout. It’s a jealous dead wife story, which is not my favorite trope. But it’s also legitimately creepy, probably the creepiest in the collection.

“Nevill Nugent’s Legacy” and “Anne’s Little Ghost” are both stories about maternal love reaching past the grave. “Anne’s Little Ghost” feels particularly modern.

“The Next Heir” feels like two types of ghost story put together, and Everett doesn’t tie the themes together until the end, but she does it cleverly. Parts of it reminded me a little of “Lost Hearts,” and a little of The Great God Pan. However, the plot is different from either.

Overall, The Death Mask was an enjoyable, inventive and varied collection of tales; “The Pipers of Mallory” was fun, too. Highly recommended.


Notes

[1] Since I’ve been posting about living vampires, I’ll call out Malevola (1914), the story of a psychic vampire who absorbs lifeforce via massage! I’m also a bit curious about One or Two (1907). More research projects….

[2] James. M. R. “Some Remarks on Ghost Stories”, The Bookman Special Christmas Number (1929).

[3] Lovecraft, H. P. Supernatural Horror in Literature, “Chapter IX: The Weird Tradition in the British Isles” (1927).

[4] Wildside Press has compiled both of the Novel Magazine anthologies into The Uncanny Stories Megapack. I recommend it.


Featured Image by Gerd Altmann. Source: Pixabay

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