Monday, October 1, 2012

Mysterious Mondays: "The Southwest Chamber" by Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman

Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman (from Bran's Island)

It's that spooky time of year again, when the temperatures and leaves begin to drop and Halloween is just around the corner.  This month I thought I would feature the ghostly short tales of Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman (1852-1930), an American writer who was born on Halloween and whose body of work includes some excellent supernatural fiction.  She is often considered one of the best New England regionalist authors, and although the "feminine" topics in her stories caused her writings to be overlooked for a time, she is now critically acclaimed for the insight her tales bring into women's lives during this turn-of-the-century period of American history.  For more information about Freeman and her literary works, check out The Literary Gothic site.

"The Southwest Chamber", which can be read here, is a perfect example of how Freeman depicted the hardy pragmatism of New England women in the face of baffling supernatural events.  In this story, two middle-aged sisters inherit a house from an estranged aunt and decide to set up a boarding establishment.  The only problem is the space known as the southwest chamber, which is the room in which the elderly aunt passed away.  Every time someone attempts to enter or occupy the room, frightening occurrences take place, and each incident seems uniquely suited to inspire terror in the individual to which it is directed.  In the end, the sisters are forced to admit defeat, but even this is faced with a strength and fortitude most would find difficult to maintain under the circumstances.

Enjoy this spooky tale -- I hope it sets the mood for the upcoming Halloween festivities!

"She saw instead of her own face in the glass, the face of her dead Aunt Harriet!"

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