Boo

Standing on the step to receive them was an old woman, neatly dressed in black silk, with a white cap and apron. This was Mrs. Umney, the housekeeper, whom Mrs. Otis, at Lady Canterville’s earnest request, had consented to keep on in her former position. She made them each a low curtsey as they alighted, and said in a quaint, old-fashioned manner, “I bid you welcome to Canterville Chase.” Following her, they passed through the fine Tudor hall into the library, a long, low room, panelled in black oak, at the end of which was a large stained-glass window. Here they found tea laid out for them, and, after taking off their wraps, they sat down and began to look round, while Mrs. Umney waited on them.

Suddenly Mrs. Otis caught sight of a dull red stain on the floor just by the fireplace and, quite unconscious of what it really signified, said to Mrs. Umney, “I am afraid something has been spilt there.”
“Yes, madam,” replied the old housekeeper in a low voice, “blood has been spilt on that spot.”
“How horrid,” cried Mrs. Otis; “I don’t at all care for bloodstains in a sitting-room. It must be removed at once.”

The old woman smiled, and answered in the same low, mysterious voice, “It is the blood of Lady Eleanore de Canterville, who was murdered on that very spot by her own husband, Sir Simon de Canterville, in 1575. Sir Simon survived her nine years, and disappeared suddenly under very mysterious circumstances. His body has never been discovered, but his guilty spirit still haunts the Chase. The bloodstain has been much admired by tourists and others, and cannot be removed.

Oscar Wilde
The Canterville Ghost, 1887

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A window seat, a cup of tea, and thou…

“God will punish her. He might strike her dead in the midst of her tantrums, and then where would she go?  Come, Bessie, let us leave her.  Say your prayers, Miss Eyre, for if you don’t repent, something bad might come down the chimney and fetch you away.”  They left, shutting the door, and locking it behind them. 

The red-room was one of the largest and grandest bedrooms in the mansion, yet very seldom slept in. The bed rested on massive pillars of mahogany and was hung with heavy red curtains. The two large windows had blinds that were always drawn down; the carpet was red; the walls were a soft pink. A cushiony easy chair was white, like a pale throne.  The room was chilly because it seldom had a fire; it was silent, because it was remote from the rest of the house; it was solemn, because it was so seldom entered.  The secret of the red-room, the spell which kept it so lonely in spite of its grandeur, was this – here, in this chamber, my uncle, Mr. Reed, breathed his last breath.  Here his coffin was carried by the undertakers’ men.   And since that day, nine years ago, a sense of dreary respect had kept visitors away.  My seat, to which Bessie and the bitter Miss Abbot had left me riveted, was a low ottoman near the marble fireplace. I was not quite sure whether they had locked the door.  When I dared to move, I got up and went to see.  Alas, yes. No jail was ever more secure.

Returning to my seat, I passed by the mirror. I glanced at it, and the strange little girl gazing back at me, with a white face and arms and glittering eyes of fear, had the effect of a real ghost. It was like one of the tiny phantoms, half-fairy, half-imp, that Bessie’s evening stories described as coming out of the moors. I returned to my stool.

Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre, 1847

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Halloween isn’t just for children…but we start there

…Inside the house lived a malevolent phantom. People said he existed, but Jem and I had never seen him. People said he went out at night when the moon was down, and peeped in windows. When people’s azaleas froze in a cold snap, it was because he had breathed on them. Any stealthy small crimes committed in Maycomb were his work. Once the town was terrorized by a series of morbid nocturnal events: people’s chickens and household pets were found mutilated; although the culprit was Crazy Addie, who eventually drowned himself in Barker’s Eddy, people still looked at the Radley place, unwilling to discard their initial suspicions…

…The weather was unusully warm for the last day of October.  We didn’t even need jackets.  The wind was growing stronger, and Jem said it might be raining before we got home.  There was no moon.
The street light on the corner cast sharp shadows on the Radley house. I heard Jem laugh softly. “Bet nobody bothers them tonight,” he said. Jem was carrying my ham costume, rather awkwardly, as it was hard to hold. I thought it gallant of him to do so.
“It is a scary place though, ain’t it?” I said. “Boo doesn’t mean anybody any harm, but I’m right glad you’re along.”
“You know Atticus wouldn’t let you go to the schoolhouse by yourself,” Jem said.
“Don’t see why, it’s just around the corner and across the yard.”
“That yard’s a mighty long place for little girls to cross at night,” Jem teased. “Ain’t you scared of haints?”
We laughed. Haints, Hot Steams, incantations, secret signs, had vanished with our years as mist with sunrise…

Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960

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