December 30, 2022

#08-271: The Canterville Ghost

"I really must insist on your oiling those chains..."
(from the book on Gutenberg)

Note: A "modern" American family deals with a ghost in the house; the ghost loses, but "wins" in the end.

Get Ready: How would you deal with a ghost in the house?

I remember checking Oscar Wilde's "The Canterville Ghost" out of the library when I was a boy, and have never forgotten the excitement of reading it. It was the first story of Wilde ever published, in 1887.

Hiram B. Otis was appointed the American ambassador to the Court of St James's: England. He and his family bought and moved into an English country house named Canterville Chase, even though its owner, Lord Canterville, warned them that the house has been haunted for 300 years.

Mr. Otis jokingly said he would buy the furniture as well as the ghost as part of the deal! As a modern American, he thought belief in ghosts was old-fashioned.

He arrived at the house with Mrs. Otis; their eldest son, Washington; their 15-year-old daughter, Virginia; and their twin boys. There they met the housekeeper, Mrs. Umney, who informed them that a stain on the library floor was actually blood. It had been there since 1575, when Sir Simon de Canterville had killed his wife, Lady Eleanore de Canterville, on that spot. It would not come out, even after young Washington seemed to have successfully scrubbed it away!

Sir Simon himself disappeared nine years later, under mysterious circumstances. (In fact, he had been locked in a secret room and starved to death by his wife's brothers; his body was never found.)

A few nights later, the ghost himself appeared, clanking down the hallway in chains. Mr. Otis simply offered him some oil to quiet the clanking, and returned to bed. As the bewildered ghost moved back up the hallway, the twins came out and threw a pillow at his head! He had never been so insulted, after all the many people he had terrified over the years.

Another few nights later and he appeared again, causing a suit of armor to crash while trying to put it on. Mrs. Otis said he looked unwell, and offered him some medicine, which enraged him. A few weeks later he planned a night of unrestrained terror for each family member--which ended with him being terrified of a "ghost" made up by the Otis twins!

After suffering more indignities--tripwires, butter slides, and falling buckets of water--the ghost gave up. To his surprise, the girl Virginia found him in his solitude and spoke kindly to him. She later found his bones, which she helped lay to rest in the estate's cemetery.

With the proper disposition of his remains, the hauntings came to an end, and from the experience Virginia learned "what Life is, and what Death signifies, and why Love is stronger than both."


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. ambassador
  2. appointed
  3. bewildered
  4. clanking
  5. enraged
  6. hauntings
  7. indignities
  8. scrubbed
  9. solitude
  10. unrestrained

  1. appearances of ghosts
  2. cleaned vigorously
  3. an official representative of one country to another
  4. extremely angry
  5. confused
  6. named; designated
  7. unlimited; without holding back
  8. loneliness
  9. insulting treatments
  10. a noise made by metal striking metal

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for December 30, 2022

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. c; 2. f; 3. e; 4. j; 5. d; 6. a; 7. i; 8. b; 9. h; 10. g