Tuesday Terror! They Found My Grave by Marjorie Bowen

Is there anybody there?

This week’s story is another from The Night Wire, a British Library Tales of the Weird anthology that takes as its theme the new technologies at the turn of the last century that were inspiring both science fiction and horror writers of the day. The technology here is the gramophone, complete with horn, which is used by a medium to provide a conduit from the spirit world…

They Found My Grave
by Marjorie Bowen

Marjorie Bowen

Ada Trimble was bored with the sittings. She had been persuaded to attend against her better judgment, and the large dingy Bloomsbury house depressed and disgusted her; the atmosphere did not seem to her in the least spiritual and was always tainted with the smell of stale frying.

Miss Trimble has been persuaded by her friend, Helen Trent, to come with her to visit a fashionable medium…

The medium named herself Astra Destiny. She was a big, loose woman with a massive face expressing power and cunning. Her garments were made of upholstery material and round her cropped yellowish curls she wore a tinsel belt. Her fat feet bulged through the straps of cheap gilt shoes.

Both women claim to be cynics, but Ada suspects Helen is getting sucked in to what she believes is a fraud…

….‘I haven’t seen anything yet I can’t explain, the woman is a charlatan, making money out of fools. She suspects us and might get unpleasant, I think.’
….But Helen Trent insisted: ‘Well, if you’d been going as often as I have, and noticing carefully, like I’ve been noticing…’

So despite her own boredom, Ada continues to go along…

Ada Trimble respected her friend’s judgment; they were both intelligent, middle-aged, cheerful and independent in the sense that they had unearned incomes. Miss Trimble enjoyed every moment of her life and therefore grudged those spent in going from her Knightsbridge flat to the grubby Bloomsbury Temple. Not even Helen’s persistency could induce Ada to continue the private sittings that wasted money as well as time. Besides, Miss Trimble really disliked being shut up in the stuffy, ugly room while Madame Destiny sat in a trance and the control, a Red Indian called Purple Stream babbled in her voice and in pidgin English about the New Atlantis, the brotherhood of man and a few catch phrases that could have been taken from any cheap handbook on philosophy or the religions of the world.

The spirits that turn up at these sessions are often easily traceable through historical records, which the gullible think proves them to be real, but Ada thinks is more likely to be proof of fraud…

….‘I can’t think why you are interested,’ said Ada Trimble to Helen Trent as they drove home together. ‘It is such an easy fraud. Clever, of course, but she has only to keep all the stuff in her head.’
….‘You mean that she looks up the references first?”
….‘Of course.’ Ada Trimble was a little surprised that Helen should ask so simple a question.

But one day while Ada is feeling particularly bored and disgusted by the proceedings, something rather odd occurs. Madame Destiny had been going through the usual nonsense with the gramophone when…

….Suddenly a deep masculine voice said:
….‘Beautus qui intelligit super egenum et pauperem.’
….Ada was utterly startled; she felt as if another personality was in the room, she sat forward and looked around; she felt Helen’s cold fingers clutch hers; she had not more than half understood the Latin; nor, it seemed, had anyone else.

This personality gradually becomes a regular visitor. He calls himself Gabriel Letourneau, and is boastful and arrogant, and, unlike the others, there’s no trace of him in obvious records despite his claims that he was a prominent citizen in France in his day. Ada is the only one of the regulars who speaks French, so the personality always chooses to speak to her in that language. Can it be fraud? Can Madame Destiny really be fluent in French?

Ada Trimble detested this pompous, insistent personality; she felt odd, a little dazed, a little confused; the orange glow of the gas fire, the red glow of the lamp, the metallic gleams on the horn fused into a fiery pattern before her eyes. She felt as if she were being drawn into a void in which nothing existed but the voice.

Ada’s cynicism is not proof against this voice, this personality she slowly grows to hate…

He hated her, too. When she spoke to him he told her in his rapid French that Helen could not follow, his scornful opinion of her; he called her an ‘ageing woman’; he said she was pretension, facile, a silly little atheist while ‘I am in Heaven’. He made acid comments on her carefully chosen clothes, on her charmingly arranged hair, her little armoury of wit and culture, on her delicate illusions and vague, romantic hopes. She felt stripped and defaced after one of these dialogues in which she could not hold her own.

But the one thing the personality will not reveal is the location of his grave. So Ada determines to find it…

* * * * *

The porpy and I thought this was a really excellent story, which works both as a ghost story and as a commentary on the vulnerability to charlatans and fraudsters of lonely, single women with money. The writing is great, and the personality’s cruel taunting of Ada feels like an exposé of the rather worthless lives of ladies of leisure, desperately seeking ways to fill their empty days. And yet all our sympathy is with Ada – she is sucked in through her good intentions of looking out for her friend. If you’d like to know what happens, here’s a link. The porpy and I didn’t think it was super scary, but we found it odd, effective and quite sad…

(The porpy felt the need for his snuggle rug after this one…)

Fretful Porpentine rating:   😮 😮 😮

Overall story rating:            😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Amazon UK Link

54 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! They Found My Grave by Marjorie Bowen

  1. This sounds very intriguing – it reminds me of a Christie short story actually, one of the Labours of Hercules ones, where Poirot is called in to investigate a cult that seems to be mostly composed of older single women with money (who then die at an alarming rate).

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know, I don’t think I’ve read The Labours of Hercules – thanks for the reminder! I must add it to my list! I always find these books where single women with money get sucked into things a bit discombobulating, because it always makes me realise how empty their lives were. Makes me almost glad we all work ourselves half to death now! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It sounds like a really interesting exploration of what makes people visit spiritualists like that, FictionFan. And the writing style in the bits you’ve shared kept me interested, and painted a clear portrait. Even if it wasn’t really scary, it sounds good!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, although it’s a ghost story, it reads more like mainstream fiction because of the great portrayal of that class of woman, and very well written. It’s made me want to explore more of her writing. (Aargh!)

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hmm, I can’t think of the Margaret Rutherford link – I really only know her from her Miss Marple films! But this one is very good – these spinster ladies who get sucked into spiritualism always make me feel sorry for them.

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    • It’s an odd ending and left me quite discombobulated – I hope you enjoy it if you find time to read it! Ha, isn’t he adorable? I want a snuggle rug too now… 😀

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    • It’s very well written and I thought it read more like mainstream fiction because of the portrayal of that class of women, although it obviously has the ghostly element too. Hope you enjoyed it if you found time to read it! 😀

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    • Oh, I’m glad you enjoyed it! I thought the ending was very effective – it threw me off balance a bit. Yes, I see what you mean, I think – it’s not clear for a long time whether the ghost is real or a sort of offshoot of Ada’s mind.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I read a fab one recently – it might be in this same anthology in fact – about a haunted TV. A family had bought a TV with a legacy they’d got from their uncle, but one of them had actually bumped him off, and whatever they watched, he would appear in the background as an extra… deliciously spooky! Never come across a haunted iPad though… although I did read one about a haunted laptop once… 😀

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    • Ha, I could only imagine it was one of those band women wore round their heads, with a feather stuck in it! I’m not sure about the Mr Quin stories – he was never a favourite so it’s decades since I read them. But Christie write one of the most terrifying horror stories of all time – The Séance in The Hound of Death collection – and I tend to judge all spiritualism stories against it. It still haunts my memory!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh Porpy, you look so comfy! I hope you’re permitted to take your snuggle rug with you when hibernation calls? As for the story, it does sound rather intriguing. I’m going to give it a go this evening as the light fades. Ready with my snuggle rug. Which happens to be covered in Porpy’s spiny little friends 🦔

    Liked by 1 person

    • Porpy loves his snuggle rug so much I don’t know if he’ll agree to go into hibernation this year! Which is just as well, since he has many more stories to read… 🦔 I hope you enjoyed the story if you found time to read it. Ada is a great character study, I think, and there’s just the right amount of ghostliness.

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  4. I found the story online and read it. I think your description of odd, effective and quite sad also captures the feeling it left me with. Ada really did fit into the stereotype of lonely old women whose worlds were a little narrow, though she did start well with her scepticism, once hooked she couldn’t break free.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, despite it undoubtedly being a ghost story, I felt it was really more a powerful depiction of that particular type of woman at a point in time. I found it sad when her friend, whom she’d started out supporting, managed to break free leaving her caught. I must read more Bowen, I think – this is the second story of hers I’ve come across in anthologies and thoroughly enjoyed.

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  5. I like the sound of this one, and I always enjoy learning more/reading about these seances/spiritualist gatherings, it’s always a bit creepy just thinking of this stuff back in the day. The darkness back then just seemed so much darker, if you know what i mean…

    Liked by 1 person

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