My father-in-law sent us many boxes of books after he evicted a used bookstore from one of his properties. Barry said nobody wanted the old books and he was moving anyway. He rarely called us unless he wanted something. And, in this case, he wanted to dump the books on us – and if not – on Happy House Charity.
We said yes, we’d take them, not knowing what was in the collection. But we also had recently moved and we had a study with many empty built-in bookshelves. So, yes.
As you can imagine, as we unpacked the boxes, there were only a few what we’d call “valuable” books – first editions. There were mainly books by Irving Stone, Agatha Christie, Pearl S. Buck and so on.
I was, of course, drawn to the covers on some of the cloth books. The oldest books – from the late 1800s to early 1900s – had the most beautiful covers. And, there were about eight of these old books – including one that strongly attracted me to the point I couldn’t put it down. It was “Phantom Rickshaw” by Rudyard Kipling. I wasn’t in the mood to read it, so after I admired it for a while, I placed it on a shelf with the other antique books, and quite forgot about it – until now.
I’ve gone and retrieved it as part of my research into all things “ghostly”. And I see this book, published in 1888, includes a number of ghost stories. I read a few of them, but I found myself more intrigued by Rudyard than by his Phantom tales.
I wondered – was Kipling – like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – interested in Spiritualism and Mediums?
But unlike Sherlock’s author, a staunch supporter of Spiritualism, Kipling was a steadfast skeptic when it came to mediums. But maybe he had a slight interest in the paranormal?
Reportedly Kipling was “fascinated” by the supernatural and extra-sensory-perceptions. Many of his stories touch on the unexplainable, including “By Word of Mouth, At the End of the Passage, Wireless, The House Surgeon, The Dog Hervey, The Wish House,” and more. Many more. I have learned from research “The House Surgeon” at least – may have been a story about what ghost-hunters now call “imprints” – but surely Kipling, with his extreme sensitivity and writing gift, may have intuited the ineffable.
Kipling publicly expressed his antipathy towards Spiritualism during its heyday – possibly because his sister believed herself a psychic and a crystal gazer. Others thought her mad. But maybe Kipling “doth protest too much” – given all the metaphysical stories he wrote.
I’m not done with my research on apparitions and phantoms, but I’m left with the feeling that any author who writes compelling ghost stories must have had some traction with one or more Spirits.
As, in my case. It’s quite impossible to write a convincing ghost story, unless you’ve been convinced.
|Rudyard Kipling, author of “Phantom Rickshaw” and Other Tales.|