Okay, after last week's story (that I even revisited), I decided that I needed something light and frivolous for this week's ghost story. Is there such a thing as a light and frivolous ghost story you ask? There is when James Thurber writes it. I read one of his stories earlier this year, and really enjoyed it. When I saw "The Night the Ghost Got In" in The Mammoth Book of Modern Ghost Stories, I figured it wouldn't be too taxing to read, and I was right.
According to the introduction Thurber's interest in ghosts "stemmed from his mother's fascination with the occult and living in a haunted house, 77, Jefferson Avenue, from 1912, which inspired the story." People tended to laugh off the story as just more Thurber humor, but Thurber really believed that what he experienced was a supernatural phenomenon. He later discovered that a previous occupant shot and killed himself in an upstairs room of the home.
It is set in Columbus, Ohio in 1915. The story begins in an amusing fashion.
"The ghost that got into our house on the night of 17 November 1915, raised such a hullabaloo of misunderstandings that I am sorry I didn't just keep on walking, and go to bed. Its advent caused my mother to throw a shoe through a window of the house next door and ended up with my grandfather shooting a patrolman. I am sorry, therefore, as I have said, that I ever paid any attention to the footsteps.'
And fooststeps is exactly what he heard at approximating 1:00 in the morning as the narrator was toweling himself off after bathing (odd time for a bath, don't you think?). He distinctly hears a man's footsteps downstairs. He wakes his brother, telling him, "There's something down there". When they both hear someone approaching on the stairs, madness ensues. They scramble back upstairs, doors are slammed in the hope of keeping whatever is coming, on the other side of them. Their mother, now awakened by the noise, tells them not to go back downstairs to the phone. Instead she pitches a shoe through the window into the neighbor's bedroom and yells for them to call the police. The police arrive thinking there is a burglar, who they don't find. Their slightly bewildered grandfather mistakes them for "deserters from Meade's army" and shoots a them. It's craziness! You gotta love James Thurber! This may not have been the scariest story I've read, but it has certainly been the most amusing.