OK I am cheating a bit tonight as I am going to revisit Susan Hill's The Woman in Black which I read a few years ago and which reduced me to a quivering wreck. I have just watched the last ever Great British Bake Off and I had a post planned but am in no fit state to produce it after waving goodbye to Bezza, Mel and Sue. I am ignoring Paul.
Now, the Woman in Black is a seriously scary book and I would not recommend that you do what I did, which was to prop myself up in bed one night, cup of chocolate and dunking biscuits on bedside table, curtains drawn and book in hand. It's not very long I thought to myself, I can read this straight through and then snuggle down in bed and go to sleep. Those of you out there who have read this book are no doubt already sniggering and you will be right to do so.
This is one of the scariest books I have ever read. Fact. Why? There are no dead bodies, there are no ghouls, no vampires, no bats, no blood, no Pits and definitely no Pendulums, but what there is, and in abundance, is ATMOSPHERE. Susan Hill creates the atmosphere and then hands over to you, the reader, to scare yourself witless.
So what do we have? A young lawyer, Arthur Kipps (sorry simply cannot imagine Daniel Radcliffe in this role), comes to a little town on the fens to attend the funeral of one of his clients who lived and died alone in a house on the marshes. He is engaged to be married and hopes to be promoted soon and that carrying out this assignment well will do him nothing but good. He arrives at the funeral and sees an emaciated, dreadfully ill looking Woman in Black in the graveyard. When asking who she is his companion goes white, will not answer, shakes and drags him away. So, we know straight away that she is a ghost.
At this stage, all is set fair and the reader is thinking O goody this is going to be creepy. Well, just how creepy it is going to be is VERY creepy. Arthur sets off to Eel Marsh House to go through the papers and blithely announces that it makes no sense to be driven backwards and forwards each day and it will be much more convenient to stay in the house until he finishes his task. Oh the arrogance of youth.
He is driven across a causeway to the house 'we went on in silence save for a hissing silky sort of sound...I looked up ahead and saw a tall gaunt house of grey stone ...the most astonishingly situated house I had ever seen, or could conceivably have imagined, isolated, uncompromising..."
Ok the scene is set and now over to you do reader and go ahead and go into a blind panic. All I am going to say about this book is that Kipp's stay at Eel Marsh house reduces him to terror and panic, the wind howls at night, he hears a thudding noise in an empty room, he hears a child crying in the darkness and the sounds of a carriage with its passengers being sucked down into the marshes surrounding the house.
"I had never known my knees to tremble and my flesh to creep and then to turn cold as stone, never known my heart to give a great lurch as if it would leap into my dry mouth, and then begin pounding in my chest like a hammer on an anvil....never know myself gripped and held fast by such dread and horror and apprehension of evil"
Just remember my earlier warning, do NOT read this book as I did, late at night. I can tell you now you will not be able to go to sleep afterwards. Should you decide to make a hot drink to help you nod off, that too is impossible. You will be too afraid to go to the kitchen.....