Another fantastic 1950s wraparound dust jacket (see Ghosts and Witches below) – this time by the wonderful Felix Kelly. I just love this cover: the colour palate, though muted, is so true to the 1950s, as are the elongated perpendiculars on the buildings. The black scrap of a ghost drifting through the landscape is more effective because it’s so low-key, I think. Beautiful and creepy all at the same time.
This is from the 1956 first edition, which was published by Batsford – the same publisher as Ghosts and Witches from 1954 and Christina Holes’ ‘Haunted England’ from 1940 (the first book I featured in my Book Club). Not only did they have an editor who appreciated the value of a good ghost book, Batsford must have had a superb art editor as well. There are some effective interior illustrations by Kelly, too, one of which I’ll feature as a forthcoming ‘Uncanny Pic’.
‘Haunted Houses’ is another ‘standard work’ that deserves its place in the ghost-lovers’ library. There is quite a lot of borrowing from earlier sources: an entire chapter is given over to Gef, the ‘talking mongoose’, for example, but I guess unless you have a copy of Harry Price’s scarce book on the subject, this is the best summary you can find. There are a fair few less well-known stories culled from newspapers and overall it’s a thoroughly readable book with a bias towards the outre: weird cloudy entities that kill livestock, mysterious invisible barriers and a ghost that allegedly killed a baby. Scary stuff!