I've been struggling to recall the name and author of a short British ghost story. I have an idea it was a prewar tale, possibly from the 1920s or 1930s, and it was reminiscent of E.F. Benson in its general tone, but I am fairly sure it's not one of his.

Brief synopsis: the story is told in the third person. The protagonist is visiting a large old house, where the couple who own it tell him that they have their very own ghost, a 16th/17th century spirit who likes to play the harpsichord, and they take our hero up stairs to see the spook, who is seated with his back to them. They say that there is a tradition or legend that no living person can see the ghost's face....

That night our protagonist is in bed when he becomes aware that the ghost has entered the room and is standing at the foot of the bed, and promptly pulls the covers up over his head in terror. Eventually he gives in and looks the spook in the face, and mentions the legend, and....

the ghost tells him he died some hours ago.


1 Answer 1


This sounds very like the delightful semi-comic short "Ghost of Honour" (1936) by Pamela Hansford Johnson. Though the ghost - who is named Jeremiah Dunbow - plays the organ, not the harpsichord.

The owners of the haunted house are absurdly proud of having their very own ghost and tell the protagonist (Robertson) Jeremiah's story, including his last words:

Only one grain of mercy will I leave with you: never shall living soul behold my face

At the very end of the story Robertson is wakened in the early hours by the ghost trying to attract his attention, and sees his face without anything untoward happening. He says to Jeremiah:

"Mr. Dunbow," he said calmly, triumphantly, "you are not, I fear, a man of your word. I think you promised that never should living soul behold your face. I have you, as I believe they said somewhere around your day or a little before, on the hip."

To which the ghost replies:

Then Jeremiah spoke, "So I did," he said, and he smiled happily, for he was dramatizing the moment. "So I did, in truth," he lisped, offering his arm, "and I have not broken it. You died of fright—let me see, some fifteen minutes ago. Shall we proceed, sir?"

I can't find the story itself online but there is a podcast here


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