By in Sci Fi & Paranormal

Ghost Story Review: "The Superstitious Man's Story" by Thomas Hardy

This is a short little tale, narrated by an anonymous man who listens to the “seedman’s father” explain why there was something strange about William’s death.

The seedman’s father tells of a number of occurrences up until the poor man died while taking a break from mowing Mr. Hardcome’s meadow with John Chiles. For example, one Sunday while the bell was ringing for church, and William appeared to be in good health, the bell went heavy. The sexton said it was just that the gudgeons needed oiling, even though the bell had never gone so heavy before.

William’s wife thinks she sees him go out one night for a smoke and doesn’t feel like waiting up for him so leaves him a note to lock to the door. She finds him already asleep. He couldn’t have come in without her knowing.

I found it puzzling: were these stories meant to amuse the reader? It struck me as all just sad and a little silly. But maybe there was something I was missing.

Author Thomas Hardy is better known for his novels such as Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Far from the Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge , he also wrote poetry and short stories. His ashes are interred in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey.


Title: “The Superstitious Man’s Story” first published in Harper’s Monthly March 1891

Author: Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

Source: ISFDB



© 2015 Denise Longrie

Image Credit » by Maxiline

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Gossamer wrote on July 1, 2015, 4:30 PM

I was going to suggest that he was just writing something short to make a little pocketmoney while he worked on a much longer novel, but then I noticed it wasn't published until 1981. Perhaps it was a literary scrap, never meant for publication, but found in his attic well after he died?

msiduri wrote on July 1, 2015, 4:42 PM

ARGH... Actually, what you noticed was me fat-fingering the date. It was 1891. But it might was well be something for pocket money, but I'd like to think he's still trying to communicate with the reader.

CalmGemini wrote on July 3, 2015, 1:05 PM

I have read many of the novels of Thomas Hardy.His'' Return of the native '' was a book I had to study in college.Well, about this story? Narration of different incidents in connection with William's death.I do not know what I am missing either. By the way,I did read the story.

Last Edited: July 3, 2015, 1:06 PM

msiduri wrote on July 3, 2015, 1:18 PM

OK, so it wasn't just me. Maybe it meant something more to a 19th century Englishman.

Shellyann36 wrote on July 6, 2015, 5:09 AM

They both sound as if they will leave the reader guessing. The publishing date is very old. Perhaps it was meaningful then or based on events that happened then?

msiduri wrote on July 6, 2015, 9:11 AM

Could be. I'm at a loss. Or maybe, it was just meant to show the foolishness of superstition. I guess it would take a Hardy expert to explain.

Shellyann36 wrote on July 6, 2015, 5:34 PM

Perhaps an interesting subject to study.