REVIEW: “Walnut-Tree House: A Ghost Story” by Charlotte Riddell

Review of Charlotte Riddell, “Walnut-Tree House: A Ghost Story,” in Minor Hauntings: Chilling Tales of Spectral Youth, edited by Jen Baker (British Library, 2021): 113-136 — Order here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

Riddell’s story of Walnut-Tree House, haunted by the spectral grandson of a previous owner, seems in many respects to be a fairly tame, ordinary sort of ghost story: The house lies vacant for many years before a new owner takes it up; he sees the ghostly child; he seeks out the story of the child. What Mr. Stainton finds out about all seems perfectly ordinary, full of all the familiar tropes of 19th-century society: an imprudent marriage, an orphaned brother and sister, a dour grandfather who wants to be rid of them. The story was also strangely unscary, despite the haunting child — the ghost gets a happy ending, the missing will turns up, and the orphan girl, now grown up, becomes an heiress and a bride. It’s almost too many tropes to bear.

(Originally published in Illustrated London News, 1878.)