Short Story Monday: The Botathen Ghost by Robert Stephen Hawker

I don’t read many ghost stories, but “The Botathen Ghost” caught my eye today. It was written by Robert Stephen Hawker, published in 1867. Hawker (1803-1875) was a poet and an eccentric Anglican Clergyman, who chose to make the main character in this story a Cornish minister.

Pastor Rudall is requested by an older man to come to his home in Botathen. The man’s son has become moody and withdrawn and the man is concerned. Upon arrival, Pastor Rudall learns that during his daily walk, the young man sees a ghost, a young woman he knows has been dead three years. The Pastor also sees the ghost.

The aspect of the woman was exactly that which had been related by the lad. There was the pale and stony face, the strange and misty hair, the eyes firm and fixed, that gazed, yet not on us, but on something that they saw far, far away; one hand and arm stretched out, and the other grasping the girdle of her waist. She floated along the field like a sail upon a stream, and glided past the spot where we stood, pausingly.

Pastor Rudall gets permission to perform some kind of exorcism and this is where I kind of lost the story. Apparently the woman’s spirit was hanging around due to some sin, but I’m not sure what that sin was. There were several Latin phrases, but from the quick translations I found, they don’t spell it out. Apparently it had something to do with the young man’s father, who expresse4d remorse, but I wish I knew what had happened. Did they have an affair, did the man kill her, I don’t know. Maybe I’m just stupid. If you happen to read the story, which you can find here, and understand it better than I did, let me know.

To be honest, I didn’t enjoy it. Because of when it was written, the language can be a bit tough, and I didn’t really get a feel from any of the characters. Overall, it was just rather blah for me. There are better ghost stories out there, scarier, moodier ones I’m sure.

John hosts Short Story Monday at The Book Mine Set. Head over there to see what he and others have been reading.


5 Comments

  1. Warren Malach

    I consider this to be one of the very best “Jamesian” (for M.R. James) ghost stories every written. Such ghost stories ask of the reader an interest in history as well as of supernatural fiction, and a willingness to have the supernatural elements understated rather than emphasized, in order to leave such elements to the reader’s imagination. As pointed out, with this particular story, it helps to know some Latin! There is another version of this same legend–for that is what it appears to be–by another ghost story writer with the interesting name of Oliver Onions. For those who appreciated this story, there are many others in this genre, starting with the ghost stories of Montague Rhodes James himself. The authors tend to be English clergymen and university professors, hence the antiquarian forcus. For more information on this genre of ghost story, search online for GHOSTS AND SCHOLARS.

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