This is an excellent, unique haunted house story written back in 1907 and lately resurrected by the gentlemen over at Valancourt Books.
This haunted house tale is quite unique in not only its telling, but in how the house is haunted and how it affects people. Another two wonderful things about it, are the beautiful writing and the astute observations of human behavior. For instance this quote about the beautiful but oh so shallow woman, Maude:
Maude meant nothing that she said. She knew how pretty she looked in furs. She was a rattle, not understanding her own noise; but the scholar hung upon her words, and believed them inspired, and did not know they were murmurings from a shell.
Regarding the house-It's called the Strath. All the local villagers know about it. Sometimes the Strath makes people very happy, causing them to laugh uncontrollably or causing them to go into a type of giddy, dream-like state. At other times, it rocks people to their very souls. The Strath holds terrible secrets, the mysteries of comedy and tragedy, which take the faces of the age old masks from back in the day. The discovery of the story behind the masks was truly horrific.
As an example of the gorgeous writing, I submit this quote concerning the master (?) of the Strath and a book he was reading:
There the book fell, and it seemed to Conway that an invisible hand had struck it out of his. He rose, leaving the journal lying open as it had fallen, and hurried from the room. A gloom filled the passage and the house was full of horror, resounding with the sufferings of its past inhabitants and dripping with their tears. His hand closed upon the damp balustrade, and the rotten wood exuded moisture like a sponge. A minute later the owner, but not the master, of the Strath was speeding through the garden, his being reaching out to find an affinity, as embryonic life must grope into the darkness for its promised soul.
Now, there were also some literary and fancy mythology references in this book. I'm not going to lie, I didn't get all of them...in fact, I probably missed most of them, however that did not take away from my enjoyment of this tale. I Wiki'd Dionysus, (God of wine) and Bacchus, (another God of wine), and that enhanced my understanding enough for me to enjoy the story even more. (As someone who has ALWAYS gotten my Greek and Roman mythologies confused, this was about as much as I could handle.) I'm sure someone more familiar with these mythologies would get even more out of this cleverly told tale.
Overall, I enjoyed this book quite a lot. It has convinced me that I should still seek out older works of horror because there was a lot on offer back in the day, and I don't want to miss out.
Recommended for fans of literary horror and haunted houses!