Ιnto the London Fog: Eerie Tales from the Weird City

Title: Into the London Fog: Eerie Tales from the Weird City

Writer: Various, edited by Elizabeth Dearnley

Publishing House: British Library Publishing

Date of Publication: August 20th 2020

Rating: 5 stars

‘’Like London fog itself, the power of the weird tale lies in its potential to suddenly shift from benign to baleful as the light changes. The stories in this collection all invite you to make your way through the smoke to take a closer look at some of the more uncanny corners of the city, just out of sight – but all you need to do is turn into a sidestreet, or look up, or down.’’ 

‘’What dangers linger just outside the apparent safety of an ordinary London terrace, hidden by fog, darkness, or simply the anonymity of the city? And what happens when the safe and sinister sides of London meet?’’

                    Elizabeth Dearnley

Through the fog and the dim glow of the streetlamps, the full moon glimmering on Father Thames, London rises. The metropolis in all its haunting, haunted, eerie glory. Its history, its mythology, its folklore, its secrets. Yes, Jack the Ripper gets all the twisted glory but what about Spring-Heeled Jack, the haunted houses, the eerie gardens, the moments that are frozen in the past only to be experienced by unaware passers-by? In this mesmerizing collection, beautifully edited and introduced by Elizabeth Dearnley, London rises from the fog and the mist. Don’t be afraid to answer its call…

Special mention to Elizabeth Dearnley’s introduction and summary before each story that not only enlighten us as to the particulars of every author but educate us on the problematics behind each tale. The stories are viewed through the prisms of gender issues, race and social circumstances and this is a generous, invaluable gift for each reader.

Temple

The Telegram (Violent Hunt): A charismatic socialite faces the world alone after the death of her mother. Fervently hostile to marriage yet attracted to flirting, she has a faithful admirer that refuses to give up. And then something changes…Bottom line? Don’t toy with people’s feelings.

Regent’s Park

In the Séance Room (Lettice Galbraith): A prominent doctor cannot escape the wrath of a revenant that exposes a cruel injustice. Séance stories always exert an eerie power on the reader and this one is no exception. 

‘’It was late August; it had been a steamy, showery day:At the moment the trees down the pavement glittered in an escape of humid yellow afternoon sun. Against the next batch of clouds, already piling up ink-dark, broken chimneys and parapets stood out. In her once familiar street, as in any unused channel, an unfamiliar queerness had silted up; a cat wove itself in and out of railings, but no human eye watched Mrs. Drover’s return.’’

Kensington

The Demon Lover (Elizabeth Bowen): A married woman receives a strange message. A return from the past, a jealous lover is about to find her. A meeting she has reasons to dread…An atmospheric, quintessentially British Gothic tale. 

Mayfair

The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth (Rhoda Broughton): All Cecilia wanted was to find a Mayfair house. And she did find one. An opportunity too good to be true…

Soho

War – Extract from London in my Time (Thomas Burke): A problematic when viewed by today’s standards yet no less enticing account of Limehouse and its mysteries during the First World War blackouts.

‘’No one perhaps has ever felt passionately towards a lead pencil. But there are circumstances in which it can become supremely desirable to possess one; moments when we are set upon having an object, an excuse for walking half across London between tea and dinner.’’

‘’The hour should be the evening and the season winter, for in winter the champagne brightness of the air and the sociability of the streets are grateful. We are not then taunted as in the summer by the longing for shade and solitude and sweet airs from the hayfields. The evening hour, too, gives us the irresponsibility which darkness and lamplight bestow. We are no longer quite ourselves.’’

The Strand

Street Haunting (Virginia Woolf): The great writer composes an acute, haunting, even sad observation of the residents of the metropolis during the 1920s and an ode to the secret lives of readers. Where can the search for a pencil bring you? What secrets are lurking during the tender and mystical evening hour? London! Oh, London of mysteries!

Holborn

Pugilist Vs Poet – Extract from A Long Way from Home (Claude McKay): McKay narrates a moving account of the racism and cruelty within the bounds of the modern city. 

Stoke Newington

N (Arthur Machen): An exciting story about a vanishing landscape, the visions created by a foggy winter’s night and the eerie phenomenon of spectral urban areas.

Whitechapel

The Lodger (Marie Belloc Lowndes): Well, it is Whitechapel, people. And what does come to mind when we stumble upon the word ‘’Whitechapel’’? Yes, exactly. Who is the Lodger of our story? How can you know the secrets your neighbour is harbouring most successfully?

Waterloo

My Girl and the City ( Sam Selvon): The relationship between two youths becomes a metaphor for the city that nurtures and deprives, the beehive that shelters and exposes.

‘’He was waiting for her; he had been waiting an hour and a half in a dusty suburban lane, with a row of big elms on one side and some eligible building sites on the other – and far away to the south-west the twinkling yellow lights of the Crystal Palace. It was not quiet like a country lane, for it had a pavement and lamp-posts, but it was not a bad place for a meeting all the same; and farther up, towards the cemetery, it was really quite rural, and almost pretty, especially in twilight. But twilight had long deepened into night, and still he waited.’’

Crystal Palace

The Mystery of the Semi-Detached (Edith Nesbit): The eerie Crystal Palace becomes the setting for mysterious omens and ominous visions that may or may not come to fruition…

Vauxhall

The Old House in Vauxhall Walk (Charlotte Riddell): A homeless young man finds refuge in a house which has an eerie reputation. His life will be altered in mysterious ways…

Putney & Bloomsbury

The Chippendale Manor (E.F.Benson): Bohemian Bloomsbury hides quite a lot of treasures. However, antiques can become dangerous and mirrors should always be approached with caution. 

Peckham

Spring-Heeled Jack (Anonymous): In 1838, the first Victorian urban legend found its representation in the mysterious (and numerous) accounts of citizens who had witnessed the annoying (to put it mildly…) presence of Spring-Heeled Jack a.k.a. The Devil. 

Others can keep their Rome and Paris. I’ll have my foggy, smoggy, eerie, haunting London and its mysticism until I die.

‘’One must have a thought – where buildings and the shadows of them encroach the railway tracks. Now the train crawls across the bridges, dark steel in the darkness: the thoughtful gloom of Waterloo: Charing Cross Bridge, Thames reflecting lights, and the silhouettes of the city buildings against the sky of the night.’’