Episode 24: Smee by A M Burrage

Alfred McLelland Burrage

Background

Alfred McClelland Burrage was an English writer who was born in London in 1889. Both his father and his uncle were professional writers and a relatively young age Burrage began to write fiction to support his family.

As  well as being a writer , Burrage was a soldier in the First World War. He served in the First World War as a member of the Artists Rifles which was originally founded as a volunteer light infantry regiments. As a point of interest, after Burrage’s time the Artist Rifles became 21 Special Air service regiment one of Britain’s elite forces.

Burrage wrote a lot of stories but is now primarily remembered for his series of  ghost stories in titled some ghost stories. No less and authority than MR James praised Burrage’s books. If we remember MR James had very distinct ideas about what makes a good

story. James believed that ghost stories should be terrifying as most of his in fact are. James was not such a believer in the amiable ghost story with a happy ending.

Burrage’s first ghost story collection  Some Ghost Stories was printed in 1927 and his next collection of ghost stories was Someone in the Room was published in 1931.

Smee

This story Smee comes from Burrage’s second collection Someone in the Room from 1931. I think it has all the necessary elements of a good ghost story. In line with M R James’s  edict the ghost here is very subtle. There are no screaming jump scares here.  Mainly because they protagonist doesn’t know he’s touched the ghost’s knee, though you of course do!

The description of wandering around in the dark is a staple of scary stories. In most scary stories you have to wonder why the protagonist is walking around in the dark on the road perfectly good nights. But A.M. Burrage has the craft to give us a very plausible reason why our protagonists are in the dark and unable to see but only feel the ghost.

The little twist at the end is one that we should have seen coming but Burrage cleverly misdirects us by giving us the cold dark haired girl whom the narrator Tony Jackson wonders about being one of those women who don’t have a high opinion of any men. As if such women exist!

We suspect that he’s got it wrong before he does of course.

Links

Website

Classic Ghost Stories Podcast

Music

Heartwood Institute

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