REVIEW: “The Curse of the Stillborn” by Margery Lawrence

Review of Margery Lawrence, “The Curse of the Stillborn,” in Minor Hauntings: Chilling Tales of Spectral Youth, edited by Jen Baker (British Library, 2021): 295-312 — Order here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

This story — featuring British missionaries living in Egypt — opened with a surprising commentary on colonialism and colonial practises:

“Dammit — why can’t you let ’em bury their dead in their own way?” (p. 295).

Mr. and Mrs. Bond cannot fathom why anyone would refuse the option of a good Christian burial for a child, which they are so generously willing to offer. And yet, Takkari and her daughter Mefren want nothing more than to be allowed to bury Mefren’s stillborn child according to their own practices and traditions.

While usually in western European ghost stories, the refusal of Christian burial is what dooms a tortured soul to walk the earth, in contradistinction here it is the performance of the Christian rite that traps Mefren’s child in ghostly limbo and invokes the curse of the stillborn. A rather surprising story to read, given the time it was published!

(First published in Hutchinson’s Mystery Magazine in 1925.)