Tuesday Terror! The Judge’s House by Bram Stoker

Asking for trouble…

The fretful porpentine and I were full of good intentions to read an Irish horror story every week during March as part of Cathy’s Reading Ireland Month. But then we were attacked by plagueophobia and you know what they say about the best laid plans! However, here we are, sneaking one in on the very last day of the event, and just as the porpy goes off into hibernation for the summer…

The Judge’s House
by Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker

Student Malcolm Malcolmson is looking for somewhere where he can study in peace without the distraction of friends or family, so he heads randomly for the little town of Benchurch. Putting up for the night at the only inn, the next day he looks around for a house that he can rent for a few weeks…

There was only one place which took his fancy, and it certainly satisfied his wildest ideas regarding quiet; in fact, quiet was not the proper word to apply to it – desolation was the only term conveying any suitable idea of its isolation.

Oh dear! When will people learn that isolated houses are never a good idea? You’d think the words of the house agent would have warned Malcolm…

“To tell you the truth,” said he, “I should be only too happy, on behalf of the owners, to let anyone have the house rent free for a term of years if only to accustom the people here to see it inhabited. It has been so long empty that some kind of absurd prejudice has grown up about it, and this can be best put down by its occupation – if only,” he added with a sly glance at Malcolmson, “by a scholar like yourself, who wants its quiet for a time.”

The good landlady of the inn seems to share that “absurd prejudice”…

“Not in the Judge’s House!” she said, and grew pale as she spoke.

This would be quite enough for normal people, but Malcolm pressed for more information…

She told him that it was so called locally because it had been many years before – how long she could not say, as she was herself from another part of the country, but she thought it must have been a hundred years or more – the abode of a judge who was held in great terror on account of his harsh sentences and his hostility to prisoners at Assizes. As to what there was against the house, itself she could not tell. She had often asked, but no one could inform her; but there was a general feeling that there was something, and for her own part she would not take all the money in Drinkwater’s Bank and stay in the house an hour by herself.

Naturally, this decides Malcolm, and paying the rent for three months in advance, he prepares to move in, reassuring the landlady he’ll be fine…

“… my dear Mrs. Witham, indeed you need not be concerned about me! A man who is reading for the Mathematical Tripos has too much to think of to be disturbed by any of these mysterious ‘somethings,’ and his work is of too exact and prosaic a kind to allow of his having any corner in his mind for mysteries of any kind.”

Yeah. Well. We’ll see.

Malcolm hires Mrs Dempster to “do” for him and she’s of a more prosaic turn of mind about the horrors of the house…

“I’ll tell you what it is, sir,” she said; “bogies is all kinds and sorts of things – except bogies! Rats and mice, and beetles, and creaky doors, and loose slates, and broken panes, and stiff drawer handles, that stay out when you pull them and then fall down in the middle of the night. Look at the wainscot of the room! It is old – hundreds of years old! Do you think there’s no rats and beetles there! And do you imagine, sir, that you won’t see none of them? Rats is bogies, I tell you, and bogies is rats; and don’t you get to think anything else!”

Hmm, personally I’m not sure Malcolm wouldn’t be better off with bogies than rats and beetles! Especially when it’s late at night and he’s all alone in the dark, and suddenly all the noise of scampering rats behind the wainscot ceases and in the sudden silence he looks up from his books…

There on the great high-backed carved oak chair by the right side of the fireplace sat an enormous rat, steadily glaring at him with baleful eyes. He made a motion to it as though to hunt it away, but it did not stir. Then he made the motion of throwing something. Still it did not stir, but showed its great white teeth angrily, and its cruel eyes shone in the lamplight with an added vindictiveness.

Ooh, I say! But is the rat simply a rat? Or is it something more malevolent, something to do with the picture of the old judge hanging on the wall? And why does the rat always run up the rope that hangs down from the alarm bell in the roof?

“It is,” said the doctor slowly, “the very rope which the hangman used for all the victims of the Judge’s judicial rancour!”

And yet still our brave but foolish hero is determined to stay in the house…

* * * * *

Goodness, this is a good one! The porpy and I were proper scared, both by the rats and by the… other stuff! It has touches of humour in the early stages but it gradually descends into something very dark indeed. A warning to us all not to rent a house that’s full of rats… or the ghosts of hanging judges…

If you’re brave enough to want to read it, here’s a link…

NB The two great illustrations are by Walt Sturrock.

It’s a fretful porpentine!

Fretful porpentine rating:   😱 😱 😱 😱 😱

Overall story rating:           😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

48 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! The Judge’s House by Bram Stoker

  1. Well, last chance and you picked quite a good ‘un, FictionFan! Trust Stoker to give you a good, proper scare. It does sound like a great horror story, and there’s nothing like an old house to serve as the perfect setting. Hope the porpy has a good hibernation…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sometimes Stoker goes a bit too dark for me but this one had just the right amount of horrid! Where would the horror genre be if the world wasn’t full of people who insist on living in houses the locals warn them against… 😉 Porpy’s all tucked up in his nice box now till autumn – I’m seriously thinking of crawling in beside him… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The trope of the unimaginative rational scholar or other professional being forced to confront something irrational beyond his ken (and it’s almost always a man, is a woman ever shown as a rational scholar in this horror sungenre?) is so well worn that it’s nearly merely a case of seeing how it’s accomplished, as far as I can see.

    I stalled on the M R James collection of ghost stories for that very reason. I wonder if I’m just peculiar in not being a fan of having the bejabers squeezed out of me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Goodness, no – women can’t be rational scholars – too hysterical! All that fainting and swooning prevents them from concentrating, plus they have all the cooking and cleaning to be getting on with… 😉 Haha – yes, where would horror be if all these supercilious men would just listen to the warnings of the locals?

      I find reading a whole collection of one author’s stories rarely works for me – they do tend to all feel the same after a bit. But I enjoy mixed anthologies or just stumbling across individual stories on the internet – the different styles keep it fresher for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Poor Porpy! Probably still jumps at shadows. Sounds like a great story to read in a comfy chair before a roaring fire with the wind whistling outside. (Hopefully in a rat-proof dwelling.) 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha – the rats definitely scared me more than the bogies in this one! I’d have been out of that house long before the ghostly happenings happened – and the porpy would have been right behind me… 😉

      Like

    • I’m hardly reading either at the moment, which I must say is making it quite hard to sustain a book blog! I do like classic horror – even though this is quite a dark story, it doesn’t have all the horrible gore and gruesomeness that modern horror seems to depend on for effect. And, of course, Bram Stoker knows how to write! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • I must admit I always enjoy short horror stories more than novels – I think horror is particularly difficult to sustain over a long period. Glad I got at least one in – although the porpy wasn’t best pleased at all those rats… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Porpy looks like he’s seen a ghost for sure! This sounds like a delightful tale, but not one I’d want to read at night … or even right now during this plague-thingy. Most of us are already shivering in our boots, what with all the fretful videos on TV, and I for one don’t need more to rattle my nerves!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Considering we had to dispatch a mouse in the bathroom cabinet quite recently, I don’t think this is one I need to be reading at the moment. It does sound really good and scary, though! (I finally read Dracula not long ago, so I know Stoker tells a good tale)

    Love the cover on that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha! My current cats don’t hunt thankfully, but my last pair were always bringing in live rodents and releasing them around the house – urghhh!! They’d probably have enjoyed this story more than the poor porpy did! I usually enjoy Bram Stoker’s stories though very occasionally he goes too dark for my mild taste in horror – this one was just about right for me though.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Haha – there’s nothing quite like rodents for chilling the spine… except maybe spiders!! Hope you enjoy this one if you get the chance to read it, and thanks for popping in and commenting. 😀

      Like

  6. Oh, I had shivers just reading this. Put me in mind of an old shack I stayed in once that was being eaten by carpenter ants. You could hear them chewing away in the dark. But rats! Yikes! I’m not sure I could read this before bedtime. Perhaps in the morning, once I’ve had sufficient coffee, and knowing that I won’t need to sleep for many hours.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Arghhh! Ants terrify me! Actually almost everything terrifies me, I’ve come to realise, after reading all these horror stories! But rats are the worst – my previous cats once brought in a live rat and released it in my bedroom. I’ve never really recovered… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I see we’re back to rodants, there have been a few of them in your current Tuesday Terror series. Stoker is certainly a good storyteller, and great at creating sinister atmosphere, so I might keep this in mind and read it in the Autumn. Sleep well, Porpy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, yes, I think horror writers know that a few rats always rattle the reader! I do like Stoker’s style though occasionally he gets a bit too dark for me, but this one stopped just short of my limit. The porpy is tucked up safe and sound now till autumn, and I’m seriously thinking of squeezing into his box beside him… 😉

      Like

  8. OOhh I want to read this one! This sounds aboslutely perfect, and I love the fact that it has a bit of humour in it to get us started 🙂

    It sounds alot like Woman in Black-where the academic goes to a house to get some work done, people warn him off it, he insists anyway yadda yadda yadda

    Liked by 1 person

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