|At The End Of The Passage
||[Jan. 31st, 2010|03:33 pm]
"At The End of the Passage" regularly turns up in anthologies of great ghost stories. Like many of the best in the genre- "The Turn of the Screw" for example- it leaves us with questions. Were there really spooks involved or was everything in the mind? And if the spooks are real why exactly is Hummil being haunted? I have never been able to decide whether Kipling's decision to leave all the doors open and idly flapping is a strength or a weakness. |
Rating it purely for scariness- and how else should you judge a ghost story?- I give it no more than 4 or 5 out of 10. "Things in a dead man's eye?" No, I don't believe in that either. The most unsettling moment comes when- having always observed Hummil from the outside- we are suddenly jolted into his shoes and see what he sees- as he sees it.
The true horror is existential. Four men gather to play cards once a week, in choking heat, in a bungalow with a torn ceiling cloth, not because they particularly like one another, but because they'd otherwise go mad from boredom and stress. If I don't rate this as one of Kipling's masterpieces it's because I feel it might have been even better- by which I mean more frightening- without the ghosts.