Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

At The End Of The Passage

"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.

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