People are surprised to find that the author of The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth and The Custom of the Country wrote ghost stories, but she did and frightfully well.
Today I read, The Triumph of Night, one of the eleven short stories within the collection. Wharton wastes no time in telling a ghost story. Right from the start, you get a strange sensation that some poor soul is going to experience a creepy or painful event.
It was clear that the sleigh from Weymore had not come; and the shivering young traveler from Boston, who had counted on jumping into it when he left the train at Northridge Junction, found himself standing alone on the open platform, exposed to the full assault of nightfall and winter.
As a reader…I’m already uncomfortable.
The train doesn’t arrive, a stranger shows up, the snow prevents the character from getting to his destination, he’s force to stay at the home of another stranger, etc. It’s the perfect set-up for a good ghost story.
All eleven stories offer varying degrees of tension with an omen or an unsettling word that sets the tone.
Thankfully, there is no gore. No horror. No terrorizing, hockey-mask-wearing characters. Just pure, unadulterated fiction with some extra tension and a smattering of the paranormal.