A portion of the cover of a old and very battered Puffin/Penguin paperback (of the same title as this post) edited by Charles Molin, containing ghost stories by such familiar names as Dickens, Doyle, Wells, Thurber and Saki.
And Oscar Wilde, whose tale The Canterville Ghost is my favourite. It takes particular skill to meld a satire of stereotypes (both national and spectral) with sweetness.
The cover, however attractive, expresses several false conventions about apparitions and other goosebumpy things.
Apparitions of the non-literary kind -- those diligently recorded by folklorists and avid paranaturalists -- seldom show themselves in such wavery, misty, insubstantial shapes. Apparitions have usually proved to be quite apparent. That is, they appear real and totally visible. And just as frequently, they seem to prefer the light of day -- not midnight hours-- to trot about their business. Neither do the majority of them seem to prefer graveyards and similar lurky places. (Certainly, none ever hospitably showed up the last time I visited a graveyard at midnight.)
I have to wonder when the spook in a diaphanous sheet first became the automatic standard for phantoms.
Though the idea of "branding" makes the double moons of my wee behind clench reflexively and I have been known to emit an involuntary bovine bawl at the thought, I probably should begin to commit a portion of my posts to spectral things -- because of A Malignity of Ghosts and because we creep toward that otherworldly season of veils and mists and thin dimensions.