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Please help me find this short story that I read about 20 years ago:

The story is set in the late 1800 / early 1900 in an American / English city, where a young man rents an apartment whose former tenant has committed suicide.

From one of the windows he can look into another apartment, and he starts a strange game with the young girl who lives there: he makes a gesture, and she imitates it with uncanny speed and precision, as if the she were his mirror image.

Night after night, the game becomes ever more complex and the girl mimics even the most elaborate gestures; the main character starts to get suspicious when he writes down beforehand the gestures he intends to make, and discovers afterwards that he has completely ignored the list: it transpires that it was the girl who picked the moves, and in all these nights she was hypnotizing / training the main character to bend his will to hers.

The story ends with the girl mimicking the act of making a noose and hanging herself, thus explaining the suicide of the previous tenant.

I cannot remember whether the main character survives; I also have a dim memory of a spider theme - either the girl was compared to a Black Widow, or there was a spider web covering one of the windows, or the girl was actually an illusion cast by a spider.

Thanks for any hint!

  • 1
    I don't know it but I want to see it now! :) – Frhay Feb 14 '13 at 13:45
  • This rings a very loud bell for me, I just cannot place it. I have a feeling the one I'm being reminded of is an M R James story. Whether I'm being reminded of the same story /you/ are looking for is another question... – Rob Feb 14 '13 at 15:08
  • I think the story I'm thinking of is Number 13 by M R James, but that seems not to be related to your tale. – Rob Feb 14 '13 at 15:18
  • @Rob, I found "Number 13" at Gutenberg and it's not the story I'm looking for - but thanks for trying :-) – Vorbis Feb 14 '13 at 15:28
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It's The Spider by Hans Heinz Ewers. I read it in an anthology called The Weird edited by Anne and Jeff Vandermeer.

  • that was spot on. Damn my leaky memory - "I also have a dim memory of a spider theme" indeed: it was the title! :-) – Vorbis Feb 16 '13 at 22:38
  • Well done on identifying this one! – Rob Mar 5 '13 at 15:41
  • Maybe of interest: this story was base on another – The Invisible Eye by Erckmann-Chatrian (Émile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrian) – Undistraction Oct 26 '15 at 22:34
  • A better link for The Invisible Eye – mhhollomon Mar 31 at 20:31

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