REVIEW: “Was it an Illusion?: A Parson’s Story” by Amelia B. Edwards

Review of Amelia B. Edwards, “Was it an Illusion?: A Parson’s Story,” in Minor Hauntings: Chilling Tales of Spectral Youth, edited by Jen Baker (British Library, 2021): 139-164 — Order here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

Something that is incredibly interesting about reading an anthology like Baker’s is the way it allows you to compare styles of horror stories over time. Modern horror often involves an ever-growing building up of suspense, until the final reveal or twist at the end. Many of the 19th-century stories in this volume, however, are less horrorful and more horribly mundane, and Edwards’s is a perfect example of this: The parson’s retelling of his tale has little of suspense in it, and even less of building tension. Much of his report is taken up with the trivialities of being a Schools Inspector in the north of England, who passes his time examining grammar schools and being hosted by curates and squires. The few supernatural events that fill the story are deal with in such a cursory manner that even if the reader wanted to find them scare, they’re so mundanely told that it’s almost impossible.

(First published in Arrowsmith Magazine, 1881.)