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- Seventeen Supernatural Stories -

ISBN 0586059954
Panther Books (Granada)

‘These stories are dedicated to


who introduced me to M. R. James
and is no mean ghost writer himself’


The subtitle says it all really.  This was the first of three ghost story compilations Halliwell would write.





Some of these tales are written in the first person singular, but the 'I' is seldom the same person, and almost never me.  All are fancies, though I willingly admit that one is based on an extremely vivid dream of my youth, and that two others are elaborations of apparently supernatural moments from my waking experience.  Most of the rest spring from a feeling for places I have visited, though oddly enough none are based in Hollywood, where business takes me so regularly, and only one in California.  Perhaps that west coast civilisation is too new and too sunny to attract the other world, even to San José’s Winchester House of Mystery, which was built to a deliberately eccentric design for the specific purpose of baffling any evil spirits which might happen along, with doors that lead into brick walls and stairs rising only into the ceiling.
            The nearest I came to being scared by a monstrous apparition in California was on a brief visit south to La Jolla, a seaside resort pronounced in the Spanish fashion La Hoya.  Normally the sunniest of spots with the purest air, on this particular Saturday afternoon in January it was afflicted by fog which began to roll in as we drove through the San Juan Capistrano, and although patches of sun broke it up in spots, by the time I unpacked my overnight bag at Sea Lodge the ocean fifty feet away had disappeared behind a thick, grey, misty barrier.  Leaving my companion immersed in a television re-run of THE JOLSON STORY, I strolled on to the almost deserted beach and walked along it, just out of reach of the lapping waves, where strange little birds like miniature seagulls raced in and out of the thin layer of water.  A jogger overtook me and vanished into the gloaming.  An old man with a stick came the other way.  There was also a solitary dog.  The fog clammily embraced my hair and facial skin, and had brought with it tiny wisps of some black oily substance which attached itself to the pupils of my eyes and made me feel half-blind and dizzy.  As I took my glasses off to wipe them I heard a curious sound from the direction of the sea.  Bobbing about on the waves, maybe twenty yards out, was what I took to be an enormous black jellyfish, or perhaps the corpse of one.  As I watched, it seemed to grow larger, and began unmistakably to emerge.  I had the impression, out of focus without my glasses, of a single giant eye, a coloured proboscis… it was a little like the alien in IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE.  I backed away as it seemed to sense my presence and advanced clumsily towards me, its base still in the water through which it dragged its squat, ugly being.  I wanted to yell for help, but in accordance with tradition my voice had frozen in my throat, my eyes were hypnotised by what they saw and my feet seemed incapable of taking me anywhere.  The fog closed in round my back like a wall as the unspeakable thing lumbered with difficulty out of the water towards me, looking more misshapen every second.  Not until it stretched out a horrid black flipper in greeting did I recognise it at last… as a frogman in a wetsuit.
            Readers may wonder why a cinema encyclopaedist includes no stories set in cinemas.  I am inclined to say that I despair of producing frissons comparable with those achieved by Graham Greene in his story A LITTLE PLACE OFF THE EDGWARE ROAD.  But the truth is that cinemas are rather boring places, empty of detail and personality: all the emotion is up there on the screen.  I was once told an allegedly true story about a woman who was taken to the pictures and, because she had a stiff leg, chose the one single seat at the side of the circle where she could stretch out the deficient member by the wall without the likelihood of anybody falling over it.  Her husband sat across the aisle, and halfway through the feature noticed his wife signalling to him in some distress.  She was feeling very ill, sickly and breathless, and had to be escorted outside.  He got her into the open air, where she promptly recovered, and indeed couldn’t imagine what had been the matter; so after a little while they went sheepishly back to their seats.  Twenty minutes later the same thing happened again, so this time they went straight home and called the doctor, whom came but could find nothing wrong.  Next day the husband called on the cinema manager with the intent of finding out whether there was possibly a broken gas pipe near the seat his wife had occupied, in which case it would be well to take steps to prevent other patrons from being similarly afflicted.  The manager willingly went to look, but there was no such clue, and the husband sensed a hesitation in the man when he saw which seat it was.  It didn’t take long to get at the truth.  That had been the favourite seat of a youngish woman who had been sitting in it when her purse was snatched by a passing thief, who stabbed her when she screamed.  She died in hospital.  A little perplexed, the husband went straight to the local newspaper office to check the story.  When he saw the dead woman’s name he took a photocopy home and after some hesitation showed it to his wife, who half-collapsed when she read it.  The woman murdered in that seat was her own twin sister, from whom she had not heard for eight years.
            I suppose I never wrote up that story because, even if true, it was too coincidental to seem plausible.  Hopefully a few of the following pieces of fiction may strike the reader as more likely.

Leslie Halliwell
Kew, 1983


The stories are:


The Late Mr Llewellyn
The Beckoning Clergyman
House of the Future
The Centurion's Road
Blood Relation
The Temple of Music and the Temple of Art
Remembrance of Things Past
Brain Scan
The Blackamoor's Drum
The Girl by the River
Hands with Long Fingers
The Viaduct
Lady of the Midnight Sun
The Moving Rocks
The House on the Cliff
The Ghost of Sherlock Holmes


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