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A Shady Plot Summary, Explanation, Difficult Words - CBSE Class 10 English Lesson from NCERT Book


By Ruchika Gupta

A Shady Plot Class 10 CBSE English Chapter 4

 

A Shady Plot Class 10 English Chapter 4  detailed explanation of the story along with meanings of  difficult words. Also, the Summary is followed by explanation of the lesson. All the exercises and Question and Answers given at the back of the lesson, CBSE board questions have also been solved.

 

About the author:

 

 

Elsie Brown was an American writer.

She wrote short stories, mainly about ghosts.


 

A Shady Plot Summary

This story is about a writer who writes ghost stories. He is assisted by a ghost; named Helen. Helen is a member of “Writer’s Inspiration Bureau” which helps those writers who do not have any idea for stories. But the ghosts are annoyed at people who use the Ouija boards. They are threatening to go on strike so that people stop using the Ouija boards. Helen comes to the writer with this message. But the writer’s wife has recently bought an Ouija board. She drags her husband to participate in the Ouija board party.

The game does not reach its conclusion because it is disturbed by Helen, the ghost. Lavinia is quite angry with John as she suspects him of having an affair with a woman, Helen and threatens to leave him forever. Their cook also threatens to resign from her job because she is afraid of Ouija boards. Lavinia tells the cook to get rid of the Ouija board. After that all of them are happy and back to their normal life. The ghost also leaves them forever as Lavinia will not use the Ouija board.

Finally, the writer gets a strong inspiration to work as Helen the ghost helps him with a new idea and he sets on his next assignment.

 

A Shady Plot Explanation

 

So I sat down to write a ghost story.
Jenkins was responsible.

"Hallock," he had said to me, "give us another on the supernatural this time. Something to give 'em the horrors; that's what the public wants, and your ghosts are live propositions."

Ebook Img

Live propositions: suggest or indicate a real life occurrence

The narrator of the story, John Hallock introduces himself as a writer. He writes ‘ghost stories’ as the publisher Jenkins forces him to do so. Jenkins wants John to write another story on the ‘Supernatural’ powers, which should be very scary as the reader wants to read such scary stuff. Jenkins says that the ghosts in John’s stories are very close to real ghosts and so, his ghost stories are hot sellers.

 

Well, I was in no position to contradict Jenkins, for, as yet, his magazine had been the only one to print my stuff. So I had said, "Precisely!" in the deepest voice I was capable of, and had gone out.
John could not refuse the publisher as he was the only one to publish his work. So, he accepted his demand in a deep voice which indicates his reluctance.

 

 

I hadn't the shade of an idea, but at the time that didn't worry me in the least. You see, I had often been like that before and in the end things had always come my way--I didn't in the least know how or why. It had all been rather mysterious. You understand I didn't specialize in ghost stories, but more or less they seemed to specialize in me. A ghost story had been the first fiction I had written. Curious how that idea for a plot had come to me out of nowhere after I had chased inspiration in vain for months!


 

shade of an idea: slightest clue or idea
mysterious: strange
chased: ran after
inspiration: idea
vain: unsuccessful

John had no idea or plan on another story but he was not worried about it as earlier also, whenever he sat down to write a story, he would be clueless but, all of a sudden, a story would come into his mind out of nowhere. John feels that it was not he who specialized in ghost stories but rather the ghost stories which specialized in him as they came up in his mind all of a sudden, out of nowhere. He had no idea as to how all of a sudden a ghost story would come up in his mind while he had been without any idea all that while!

 

Even now whenever Jenkins wanted a ghost, he called on me. And I had never found it healthy to contradict Jenkins. Jenkins always seemed to have an uncanny knowledge as to when the landlord or the grocer was pestering me, and he dunned me for a ghost. And somehow I'd always been able to dig one up for him, so I'd begun to get a bit cocky as to my ability.

 

 

Healthy: here, suitable or favourable
uncanny: mysterious, strange
pestering: troubling
dunned: persistently ask for something that is overdue, pressurized
dig one up: to find something
cocky: overconfident

Whenever Jenkins called up John for another ghost story, John would be unable to refuse him. He feels that, Jenkins knew that he was being troubled by either the landlord for rent or the grocer for clearing the bill. As he would be in need of money, he was forced into writing another ghost story. Even John does not know how but he would be able to write one and so, he had started feeling overconfident about his writing abilities.

So I went home and sat down before my desk and sucked at the end of my pencil and waited, but nothing happened. Pretty soon my mind began to wander off on other things, decidedly unghostly and material things, such as my wife's shopping and how on earth I was going to cure her of her alarming tendency to take every new fad that came along and work it to death. But I realized that would never get me any place, so I went back to staring at the ceiling.

Wander: move away slowly
material things: here, refers to living things which are part of the world and are different from ghosts.
tendency: an inclination towards a particular behaviour
fad: fashion or trend
work it to death: to use till it gets finished due to overuse
never get me any place: he realized that by merely thinking of it, he could do nothing to cure it.
staring: look intently
ceiling: the upper interior surface of the room

Once again, he sat down to write a ghost story. He was waiting for an idea to strike him but none did! He started thinking of his wife’s craze for shopping. He wanted her to get rid of the habit of taking up any new fashion and continuing it till she got bored of it or till another new fashion came up. John realized that he could do nothing to cure her and so resumed thinking of an idea for the story.

"This writing business is delightful, isn't it?" I said sarcastically at last, out loud, too. You see, I had reached the stage of imbecility when I was talking to myself.

"Yes," said a voice at the other end of the room, "I should say it is!"

I admit I jumped. Then I looked around.

Sarcastically: someone or something that mocks the other
Imbecility: lack of intelligence

John was so irritated at the lack of ideas that he lost his mind and started talking to himself. He was shocked to get a reply as there was no one in the room. He jumped up in surprise and looked around to see the person.

 

It was twilight by this time and I had forgotten to turn on the lamp. The other end of the room was full of shadows and furniture. I sat staring at it and presently noticed something just taking shape. It was exactly like watching one of these moving picture cartoons being put together. First an arm came out, then a bit of sleeve of a stiff white shirtwaist, then a leg and a plaid skirt, until at last there she was complete,--whoever she was.

Twilight: half light, dusk
shirtwaist : a woman's blouse shaped like a man's shirt
plaid: long piece of cloth

It was getting dark and as he had forgotten to turn up the lamp, the room was dark. John looked intently and among the furniture and it’s shadows, he saw a shape moving and joining up in parts. He describes the appearance of the shape – first an arm appeared, gradually, the sleeves became visible and so on. Finally, the complete form of a woman appeared before him. She was a stranger to him.

 

 

 

She was long and angular, with enormous fishy eyes behind big bone-rimmed spectacles, and her hair in a tight wad at the back of her head (yes, I seemed able to see right through her head) and a jaw--well, it looked so solid that for the moment I began to doubt my very own senses and believe she was real after all.

Angular: sharp corners
Enormous: huge
Wad: rolled up

He describes the woman as being tall and having an angular body. She had huge questioning eyes, wore big spectacles in the shape of a bone. Her hair was tied tightly in a roll. Her head was transparent and he could see through it while her jaw was so solid that he believed there was a person standing in front of him.

She came over and stood in front of me and glared--yes, positively glared down at me, although (to my knowledge) I had never laid eyes on the woman before, to say nothing of giving her cause to look at me like that.
laid eyes on the woman before: never seen her before.

The woman stared at John and he defends himself by saying that he had not harmed her in any way and was seeing her for the first time! He did not know the reason for her stare.

I sat still, feeling pretty helpless I can tell you, and at last she barked: "What are you gaping at?"

I swallowed, though I hadn't been chewing anything.

Gaping: staring with the mouth wide open

He did not know how to react. The woman shouted at him.

I swallowed, though I hadn't been chewing anything.

This shows that John was very nervous. He was not able to breathe comfortably and so gulped the saliva which had collected in his mouth.

"Nothing," I said. "Absolutely nothing. My dear lady, I was merely waiting for you to tell me why you had come. And excuse me, but do you always come in sections like this? I should think your parts might get mixed up sometimes."

Sections: parts
Parts: here, body parts

John was confused about the woman and absentmindedly asked her that did she always appear in phases and wondered if her body parts would get mixed up with each other. He was in a shock after what he saw.

"Didn't you send for me?" she crisped.
Imagine how I felt at that!

"Why, no. I--I don't seem to remember----"

"Look here. Haven't you been calling on heaven and earth all afternoon to help you write a story?"

Crisped: spoke angrily

John’s confusion increased upon hearing that she had appeared on his call.He did not remember and she clarified that since he had been asking for help for writing a story from the heaven and the Earth, she was answering that call.

I nodded, and then a possible explanation occurred to me and my spine got cold. Suppose this was the ghost of a stenographer applying for a job! I had had an advertisement in the paper recently. I opened my mouth to explain that the position was filled, and permanently so, but she stopped me.

spine got cold: the backbone could not move due to intense fear
Stenographer: someone who types what people say

John thought her to be the ghost of a stenographer who was applying for a job that he had advertised. As he was scared, he wanted to tell her that the post had already been filled by someone and so she could not apply for it any longer. The woman did not let him speak.

"And when I got back to the office from my last case and was ready for you, didn't you switch off to something else and sit there drivelling so I couldn't attract your attention until just now?"

"I--I'm very sorry, really."
drivelling: speak nonsense

The woman says that she had just got back from another case when she was assigned his case. She had been trying to attract his attention all this while when he had been thinking of his wife. John apologises to her for this.

"Well, you needn't be, because I just came to tell you to stop bothering us for assistance; you ain't going to get it. We're going on strike!"

"You don't have to yell at me."

Assistance: help
Yell: scream

She tells him not to feel sorry as now they are going on a strike. John does not understand her and screams “What” to which the woman replies that he need not scream at her.

"I--I didn't mean to yell," I said humbly. "But I'm afraid I didn't quite understand you. You said you were----"

"Going on strike. Don't you know what a strike is? Not another plot do you get from us!"

John apologises again as he did not mean to scream at her but did that as he was surprised. He asks her to explain as he did not understand what she meant by saying that they were going on a strike. The woman replied that they were going on a strike meant that they would not give him another plot for a story.

I stared at her and wet my lips.

"Is--is that where they've been coming from?"

"Of course. Where else?"

"But my ghosts aren't a bit like you----"

"If they were, people wouldn't believe in them."

John is full of disbelief that all the ideas of the ghost stories came from real ghosts. He says that the ghosts in his stories are not at all like the one standing in front of him. He wants to say that the woman does not look like a typical ghost.

She draped herself on the top of my desk among the pens and ink bottles and leaned towards me. "In the other life I used to write."

"You did!"

She nodded.

draped: covered loosely in fold of cloth

The ghost sat on the top of John’s desk and bent towards him. She told him that she was a writer in her past life.

"But that has nothing to do with my present form. It might have, but I gave it up at last for that very reason, and went to work as a reader on a magazine." She sighed, and rubbed the end of her long eagle nose with a reminiscent finger. "Those were terrible days the memory of them made me mistake purgatory for paradise, and at last when I attained my present state of being, I made up my mind that something should be done.

reminiscent: with one's mind full of memories, tending to remind
long eagle nose: the shape of her nose
purgatory: a place or state of suffering
paradise: heaven
made up my mind: decided

The woman further says that her life of a writer has nothing to do with the cause of her death as she had given up that profession as she was unsuccessful at it. She had taken up work as a reader of a magazine. She recollects her days as an unsuccessful writer to be terrible. She says that her life as an unsuccessful writer was worse than her present state of being a ghost. When she became a ghost, she decided that something should be done to address the problem of unsuccessful writers.

I found others who had suffered similarly, and between us we organized 'The Writer's Inspiration Bureau.' We scout around until we find a writer without ideas and with a mind soft enough to accept impression. The case is brought to the attention of the main office, and one of us assigned to it. When that case is finished we bring in a report."

Scout around: go to look in various places for something you want
The case: here, a particular matter

She along with other ghosts who had suffered similarly in their previous lives had formed a Writer's Inspiration Bureau to help people who were stuck up in similar situations. They looked out for writers who did not have any ideas for a story but had a flexible mind which could be easily influenced. Such ‘cases’ were brought up in the Bureau and assigned to a ghost. The ghost would submit a report once the case was closed i.e. once the writer had been successfully helped with a story.

"But I never saw you before----"

"And you wouldn't have this time if I hadn't come to announce the strike. Many a time I've leaned on your shoulder when you've thought you were thinking hard--" I groaned, and clutched my hair. The very idea of that horrible scarecrow so much as touching me! And wouldn't my wife be shocked! I shivered. "But," she continued, "that's at an end. We've been called out of our beds a little too often in recent years, and now we're through."

Groaned: a deep long sound showing unhappiness or pain
Scarecrow:  an object made to resemble a human figure
Beds: here, graves

John says that he had not seen her earlier. The ghost says that she made herself visible to John as she had to inform him about the ‘strike’. John cries and pulls his hair when he comes to know that the ghosts leaned on him and even touched him when he thought that he was thinking hard about an idea. He is reminded of his wife who would be shocked to know this truth that he got the ideas of the ghost stories from ghosts. The ghost says that they have been called out of their graves very frequently and so, now they are on a strike.

"But my dear madam, I assure you I have had nothing to do with that. I hope I'm properly grateful and all that, you see."

 

 

"Oh, it isn't you," she explained patronizingly. "It's those Ouija board fanatics. There was a time when we had nothing much

 


to occupy us and used to haunt a little on the side, purely for amusement, but not any more. We've had to give up haunting almost entirely. We sit at a desk and answer questions now. And such questions!" She shook her head hopelessly, and taking off her glasses wiped them, and put them back on her nose again.

Patronizingly: to speak or behave with someone as if they are not important.
Ouija board: a device used to communicate with ghosts, a board on which are marked the letters of the alphabet. Answers to questions are spelt out by a pointer or glass held by the fingertips of the participants, and are supposedly formed by spiritual forces
Fanatics: person who is extremely passionate about something
Haunt: scare

John apologizes for the inconvenience to them and says that he had not intended to bother them. She says that it’s not him but the people who use ‘ouija boards’ to call them and seek answers to their questions. They are called so often that they do not get any time for recreational activities like scaring people for fun. All the time they have to sit on a desk and answer questions which gets irritating. She says that people ask such silly questions.

"But what have I got to do with this?"

She gave me a pitying look and rose.

"You're to exert your influence. Get all your friends and acquaintances to stop using the Ouija board, and then we'll start helping you to write."

"But----"

to exert: to put effort to do  something
acquaintances: a  person whom you have met but do not know well

John wonders that what does he have to do with this problem of the ghosts as he has never bothered them in such a way! The ghost pitied his sad face. It asks John to convince his friends and acquaintances not to use the Ouija board and only then would they help him with the stories.

There was a footstep outside my door.

"John! Oh, John!" called the voice of my wife.

I waved my arms at the ghost with something of the motion of a beginner when learning to swim.

"Madam, I must ask you to leave, and at once. Consider the impression if you were seen here----"

The ghost nodded, and began, very sensibly, I thought, to demobilize and evaporate. First the brogans on her feet grew misty until I could see the floor through them, then the affection spread to her knees and gradually extended upward. By this time my wife was opening the door.

"Don't forget the strike," she repeated, while her lower jaw began to disintegrate, and as my Lavinia crossed the room to me the last vestige of her ear faded into space.

"John, why in the world are you sitting in the dark?"

Demobilize: step back from action, discharge
Evaporate: disappear gradually
brogans: a heavy ankle-high work boot with laces
misty: unclear
affection: (here) condition; state of being affected
vestige: trace

Upon hearing his wife’s footsteps and her call, John panicked. He waved his hands frantically just like a person learning swimming who waves his hands out of the water as he fears drowning.He signalled and requested the ghost to disappear. The ghost was obedient and disappeared gradually in parts just as she had arrived. First the shoes became unclear, and gradually the transparency rose upward to her knees. Just then his wife opened the door. The ghost once again reminded him of the strike and at the same time her lower jaw started to dissolve. As his wife Lavinia walked up to him, the last trace  of the ghost’s ear faded. Lavinia asked John that why was he sitting in this darkness.

"Just--thinking, my dear."

"Thinking, rubbish! You were talking out loud."

I remained silent while she lit the lamps, thankful that her back was turned to me. When I am nervous or excited there is a muscle in my face that starts to twitch, and this pulls up one corner of my mouth and gives the appearance of an idiotic grin. So far I had managed to conceal this affliction from Lavinia.

Idiotic grin: smile broadly like a fool
Twitch: tremble, shiver
Conceal: hide
affliction: disorder

As John was nervous, a muscle in his face started trembling which pulled up his face from one side and it appeared as if he was smiling in a silly way. He did not want his wife Lavinia to see him like that and so, was happy that her back was towards him. Till now he had been careful to hide this problem of his from her.

 

"You know I bought the loveliest thing this afternoon. Everybody's wild over them!"

I remembered her craze for taking up new fads and a premonitory chill crept up the back of my neck.

premonitory chill: prior warning, foreboding
crept up the back of my neck: approached slowly and gave a shock

Lavinia tells him excitedly that she had bought the loveliest thing which was the latest trend and everyone was crazy for it. John knew that she had a craze for trying every new fashion. Her words were like a prior warning as he feared that the latest fad about which she was talking could be the Ouija board.

 

"It--it isn't----" I began and stopped. I simply couldn't ask; the possibility was too horrible.

 

John had a clue and wanted to ask her if that was what she was talking about but he could not continue his question as he feared the worse if she gave a positive reply.

"You'd never guess in the world. It's the duckiest, darlingest Ouija board, and so cheap!

I got it at a bargain sale. Why, what's the matter, John?"

I felt things slipping.

Horrible: bad dreaded
I felt things slipping: feeling that the situation is getting out of control

Lavinia’s new shopping was an Ouija board which she had purchased in a sale. John was shocked. He felt that the ghosts would get angrier as they had ordered him to stop his friends and acquaintances from using the Ouija Board whereas now, even his wife had bought one and he knew that he would be helpless in stopping her from using it.

"Nothing," I said, and looked around for the ghost. Suppose she had lingered, and upon hearing what my wife had said should suddenly appear----Like all sensitive women, Lavinia was subject to hysterics.

Lingered: to stay in a place for longer than expected
Hysterics: uncontrolled behaviour due to extreme fear or sadness.

John replied to her that he wasn’t thinking of anything. He looked around to see if the ghost was present in the room. He feared that if it had heard their conversation, it could appear before them and as Lavinia was a sensitive woman, her reaction would become uncontrollable.

"But you looked so funny----"

"I--I always do when I'm interested," I gulped. "But don't you think that was a foolish thing to buy?"

"Foolish! Oh, John! Foolish! And after me getting it for you!"

"For me! What do you mean?"

Lavinia comments that his face had a funny look. He did not want to show his true feelings and so replied that he looked like that when he was interested in something. He wanted to say that her new shopping seemed interesting to him. He tries to discourage her from using the Ouija board and comments that it was foolish of her to buy such a thing. Lavinia says that she had bought it for John.

 

"To help you write your stories. Why, for instance, suppose you wanted to write an historical novel. You wouldn't have to wear your eyes out over those musty old books in the public library. All you'd have to do would be to get out your Ouija and talk to Napoleon, or William the Conqueror, or Helen of Troy--well, maybe not Helen—anyhow you'd have all the local colour you'd need, and without a speck of trouble. And think how easy writing your short stories will be now."

Napoleon: refers to Napolean Bonaparte, a historical figure who was a French military leader.
William the Conqueror: refers to William I, a historical figure who was the king of England.
Helen of Troy: A greek mythological character, considered the most beautiful woman in the world.
wear your eyes out: damage them due to prolonged use
musty: full of dust
local colour: here, the finer details of the person
speck: tiny particle

Lavinia has bought the Ouija board for John. He need not read books to get ideas, all he has to do is call up the ghost of any historical figure and ask questions to know about him and get the idea for a story. She names Helen of Troy but the next moment says that he may not call her as being a woman, she gets jealous at the thought of her husband talking to another woman. She feels that by talking directly to the ghost he would get first hand information about their lives which could be missing in the historical books. So, writing stories this way would become easier and make them more realistic.

"But Lavinia, you surely don't believe in Ouija boards."

"I don't know, John--they are awfully thrilling."

She had seated herself on the arm of my chair and was looking dreamily across the room. I started and turned around. There was nothing there, and I sank back with relief. So far so good.

premonitory: a foreboding.

John says to Lavinia that he is sure that she does not believe that the Ouija board really works. Lavinia says that they are very exciting and starts dreaming of using them and chatting with ghosts. John looks around as though he suspects the ghost to be overhearing their conversation. As he saw nothing around, he sat in his chair with relief.

"Oh, certainly, they're thrilling all right. That's just it; they're a darn sight too thrilling. They're positively devilish. Now, Lavinia, you have plenty of sense, and I want you to get rid of that thing just as soon as you can. Take it back and get something else."

My wife crossed her knees and stared at me through narrowed lids.

Darn: used to express disappointment
Devilish: evil

John says that they are thrilling, in fact he finds them to be devilish as their use has aroused the ghosts and angered them. He orders Lavinia to be sensible and to exchange it for something else. Lavinia gets angry at him and stares at him.

"John Hallock," she said distinctly. "I don't propose to do anything of the kind. In the first place they won't exchange things bought at a bargain sale, and in the second, if you aren't interested in the other world I am. So there!" and she slid down and walked from the room before I could think of a single thing to say. She walked very huffily.

Propose: suggest or offer a plan
slid down: to pass smoothly
Huffily: angry or annoyed

As she did not want to obey his order, she says that the board could not be exchanged as she had purchased it at a bargain sale and moreover, if he wasn’t, then she was interested in using it and talking to ghosts. She walked out of the room angrily before he could say something.

Well, it was like that all the rest of the evening. Just as soon as I mentioned Ouija boards I felt things begin to cloud up; so I decided to let it go for the present, in the hope that she might be more reasonable later.

After supper I had another try at the writing, but as my mind continued a perfect blank I gave it up and went off to bed.

cloud up: gather up in the sky, here the formation of the ghost which appeared in parts
let it go: leave it, keep it aside for later

The rest of the day passed like that. The mere thought of Ouija board scared John and he felt that the ghost would re – appear. So he decided to stop thinking about it and concentrate on the story instead. He tried to write a story but could not think of one (as the ghosts who helped him with it were on a strike).

 

 

The next day was Saturday, and it being near the end of the month and a particularly busy day, I left home early without seeing Lavinia. Understand, I haven't quite reached the point where I can give my whole time to writing, and being bookkeeper for a lumber company does help with the grocery bills and pay for Lavinia's fancy shopping. Friday had been a half holiday, and of course when I got back the work was piled up pretty high; so high, in fact, that ghosts and stories and everything else vanished in a perfect tangle of figures.

Bookkeeper: a person who records day to day financial transactions in business, accountant.
Lumber: dealing in wood and timber
Vanished: disappeared

As the next day was a Saturday and the end of the month was approaching, it was a busy day for John who worked as an accountant with a company dealing in wood. He left home in a hurry without seeing Lavinia. John could not work full time as a writer as he did not earn well from the profession of a writer. In addition to it, he worked as an accountant as the pay helped him pay the grocery bill and fund Lavinia’s shoppings. Friday had been a half day and so, he had a huge load of work piled up. As his day was very busy making accounts and doing complex calculations, he forgot the ghosts, stories, etc.

When I got off the streetcar that evening my mind was still churning. I remember now that I noticed, even from the corner, how brightly the house was illuminated, but at the time that didn't mean anything to me. I recall as I went up the steps and opened the door I murmured: "Nine times nine is eighty-one!"

Churning: to move with great force
Illuminated: lit up

John reached home but his mind was still full of the day’s work and he did not notice till he reached closer that their house was full of bright light. He did not have any clue as to what was happening so he murmured something as he opened the door, wishing all to be well with Lavinia and the ghost.

And then Gladolia met me in the hall.

"Misto Hallock, de Missus sho t'inks you's lost! She say she done 'phone you dis mawnin' to be home early, but fo' de lawd's sake not to stop to argify now, but get ready fo' de company an' come on down."

Some memory of a message given me by one of the clerks filtered back through my brain, but I had been hunting three lost receipts at the time, and had completely forgotten it.

"Company?" I said stupidly. "What company?"

"De Missus's Ouija boahrd pahrty," said Gladolia, and rolling her eyes she disappeared in the direction of the kitchen.

argify: (here) argue

Gladolia, a Mexican woman who was the housemaid met John and informed him that Lavinia had called his office during the day but could not get through and thought that he was lost in his work. She had asked him not to argue and get ready for the company. John recollected that one of the clerks at the office had given him a message but as he had been searching for some important receipts, he had forgotten all about it till now. He asked Gladolia what was ‘the Company’ to which she replied that Lavinia had organised a Ouija board party at their home. She said this and went to the kitchen.

I must have gone upstairs and dressed and come down again, for I presently found myself standing in the dimly lighted lower hall wearing my second best suit and a fresh shirt and collar. But I have no recollections of the process.

There was a great chattering coming from our little parlour and I went over to the half opened door and peered through.

Parlour: a room

John was confused and worked absent mindedly and he did not know when he went and changed into a suit and came for the party. Lot of noise was coming for the small room where the party was going on and he peeped inside.

The room was full of women--most of them elderly--whom I recognized as belonging to my wife's Book Club. They were sitting in couples, and between each couple was a Ouija board! The mournful squeak of the legs of the moving triangular things on which they rested their fingers filled the air and mixed in with the conversation. I looked around for the ghost with my heart sunk down to zero. What if Lavinia should see her and go mad before my eyes! And then my wife came and tapped me on the shoulder.

Mournful: sad
Squeak: sound made by the table

Lavinia and her friends from the book club were having an Ouija board party. The strange sound of the table, mixed with the noise of the talking women made John uncomfortable. He looked around to see if the ghost was present there. He feared the sight of Lavinia going mad to see a ghost in the house. Lavinia came to him and knocked on his shoulder.

"John," she said in her sweetest voice, and I noticed that her cheeks were very pink and her eyes very bright. My wife is never so pretty as when she's doing something she knows I disapprove of, "John, dear I know you'll help us out. Mrs. William Augustus Wainright 'phoned at the last moment to say that she couldn't possibly come, and that leaves poor Laura Hinkle without a partner. Now, John, I know some people can work a Ouija by themselves, but Laura can't, and she'll just have a horrible time unless you----"

John feels that Lavinia looks bright and pretty as she is doing something against her husband’s wish. She speaks in a sweet voice with a smile.  She wants John to partner Laura Hinkle at the Ouija board as her partner William Augustus Wainright had backed out at the last minute and she could not handle the Ouija board all by herself.

"Me!" I gasped. "Me! I won't----" but even as I spoke she had taken my arm, and the next thing I knew I was sitting with the thing on my knees and Miss Laura Hinkle opposite, grinning in my face like a flirtatious crocodile.

Flirtatious: behaviour as if being attracted to someone.

John opposed Lavinia’s wish as he dreaded the ghost’s anger.  He was forced and he found Laura to be giving him a fake, broad smile as if she was attracted towards him.

"I--I won't----" I began.

"Now, Mr. Hallock, don't you be shy." Miss Laura Hinkle leaned forward and shook a bony finger almost under my chin.

"I--I'm not! Only I say I won't----!"

John resisted but Laura came towards him and put her finger under his chin in an attempt to make him feel comfortable. Still John tried to pull himself away.

"No, it's very easy, really. You just put the tips of your fingers right here beside the tips of my fingers----"

Laura told him that it was very easy. He just had to place his finger next to hers on the board.

And the first thing I knew she had taken my hands and was coyly holding them in the position desired. She released them presently, and the little board began to slide around in an aimless sort of way. There seemed to be some force tugging it about. I looked at my partner, first with suspicion, and then with a vast relief. If she was doing it, then all that talk about spirits----Oh, I did hope Miss Laura Hinkle was cheating with that board!

Coyly: flirtatious but pretending to be shy

Before he knew, she had taken his hand and kept it on the board as per the ouija board directions. Just then the board started to slide. John wished that it was Laura who was cheating and moving it rather than a real ghost.

"Ouija, dear, won't you tell us something?" she cooed, and on the instant the thing seemed to take life.

Cooed: spoke softly

Laura prompted the ouija board to speak up and the board seemed to be full of life as it shaked at a fast pace.

It rushed to the upper left hand corner of the board and hovered with its front leg on the word "Yes." Then it began to fly around so fast that I gave up any attempt to follow it. My companion was bending forward and had started to spell out loud: "'T-r-a-i-t-o-r.' Traitor!

Hovered: moved around something
Traitor: a person who betrays someone

The Ouija board moved around the word ‘yes’ written on it. Then it started moving around and John, who disliked word games, gave up following it. Laura followed it and spelled the word ‘traitor’.

Why, what does she mean?"

"I don't know," I said desperately. My collar felt very tight.

"But she must mean something. Ouija, dear, won't you explain yourself more fully?"

"'A-s-k-h-i-m!' Ask him. Ask who, Ouija?"

"I--I'm going." I choked and tried to get up but my fingers seemed stuck to that dreadful board and I dropped back again.

Dreadful: causing suffering

Laura did not understand what the board meant by spelling the word ‘traitor’ and asked John who denied having any clue. She asked the board to explain in detail and it pointed towards John. John choked as he became uneasy. He tried to leave but his finger was stuck to the board. He fell back on the chair.

Apparently Miss Hinkle had not heard my protest. The thing was going around faster than ever and she was reading the message silently, with her brow corrugated, and the light of the huntress in her pale blue eyes.

Corrugated: bent into curves
light of the huntress in her pale blue eyes: Her light blue coloured eyes were shining with excitement like those of a huntress.

Laura was unaware of John’s reaction as she was busy following the Ouija board. Her eyebrows were curved and her eyes were shining as she concentrated on following the board which moved around at a fast pace.

"Why, she says it's you, Mr. Hallock. What does she mean? Ouija, won't you tell us who is talking?"

She decoded that the board was pointing towards John and asked him for an explanation. She asked the Ouija to tell who was the ghost who was communicating with her.

I groaned, but that inexorable board continued to spell. I always did hate a spelling match! Miss Hinkle was again following it aloud: "'H-e-l-e-n.' Helen!" She raised her voice until it could be heard at the other end of the room. "Lavinia, dear, do you know anyone by the name of Helen?"

groaned: cried in pain
inexorable: unstoppable, impossible to prevent

John tried to stop it but the board continued to communicate with Laura. He says that he had always disliked a spell match game. Laura decoded the name of the ghost communicating with her as ‘Helen’. She spoke loudly so that Lavinia could hear her and asked her if she knew anyone by the name of Helen.

"By the name of----? I can't hear you." And my wife made her way over to us between the Book Club's chairs.

As Lavinia could not hear her clearly, she walked up to them, crossing all the other participants of the party.

"You know the funniest thing has happened," she whispered excitedly. "Someone had been trying to communicate with John through Mrs. Hunt's and Mrs. Sprinkle's Ouija!
Someone by the name of Helen----"

Laura was over excited and told Lavinia that someone had tried to communicate with John through the Ouija board. It was by the name of ‘Helen’.

"Why, isn't that curious!"

"What is?"

Miss Hinkle simpered.

"Someone giving the name of Helen has just been calling for your husband here."

simpered: smile in a silly, often coy manner

Laura smiled shyly at Lavinia as she said that it was interesting to know that someone was trying to communicate with Lavinia’s husband.

"But we don't know anyone by the name of Helen----"

Lavinia stopped and began to look at me through narrowed lids much as she had done in the library the evening before.

Lavinia replied that they did not know anyone by the name of Helen. She suspected John of having a secret affair and so, stared at him.

And then from different parts of the room other manipulators began to report. Every plagued one of those five Ouija boards was calling me by name! I felt my ears grow crimson, purple, maroon. My wife was looking at me as though I were some peculiar insect. The squeak of Ouija boards and the murmur of conversation rose louder and louder, and then I felt my face twitch in the spasm of that idiotic grin. I tried to straighten my wretched features into their usual semblance of humanity, I tried and----
"Doesn't he look sly!" said Miss Hinkle. And then I got up and fled from the room.
Manipulators: a person who controls or influences others in a clever way
Report: appear
Peculiar: strange
Squeak: high pitched sound
Spasm: shiver
Wretched: sad
Semblance: outward appearance
sly: dishonest

The Ouija boards on all the tables were sliding and calling out for John. John felt very guilty and nervous. His face changed colour in shades of red, it grew darker as he got more nervous. Lavinia stared at him as she wanted an explanation from him. As the noise grew, John became so nervous that the muscle in his face started to pull and gave a silly smile on his face.  Laura commented that his expressions implied his guilt. John left the room.

I do not know how that party ended. I do not want to know. I went straight upstairs, and undressed and crawled into bed, and lay there in the burning dark while the last guest gurgled in the hall below about the wonderful evening she had spent. I lay there while the front door shut after her, and Lavinia's steps came up the stairs and--passed the door to the guest room beyond. And then after a couple of centuries elapsed the clock struck three and I dozed off to sleep.

Crawled: move slowly on hands and knees
Gurgled: make a hollow bubbling sound
Elapsed: passed

As John had left, he did not know what happened and how the party ended. He was not interested in knowing. He lied down in the bed and the darkness seemed to be burning which shows his uneasiness. He heard the guests leave, the door being shut and Lavinia’s footsteps going in the guest room. He felt the time passing slowly, as if many hundred years has passed when the clock struck three and finally, he fell asleep.

At the breakfast table the next morning there was no sign of my wife. I concluded she was sleeping late, but Gladolia, upon being questioned, only shook her head, muttered something, and turned the whites of her eyes up to the ceiling. I was glad when the meal was over and hurried to the library for another try at that story.

turned the whites of her eyes up to the ceiling: prayed to God.

The next morning, while having breakfast, Lavinia was nowhere to be seen. John thought that she was sleeping. When asked about it, Gladolia shook her head, spoke something which could not be heard and then looked up as if praying to God. John finished eating and went to the library to give another try at the story.

I had hardly seated myself at the desk when there came a tap at the door and a white slip of paper slid under it. I unfolded it and read:

"DEAR JOHN,

"I am going back to my grandmother. My lawyer will communicate with you later."

"Oh," I cried. "Oh, I wish I was dead!"

He had just seated himself at the desk when there was a knock at the door. There was a slip of paper sent from under the door. It was from Lavinia and read that she was leaving John and going to her grandmother’s home as she suspected him of having an affair with a woman named Helen. The further course of separation would be discussed by her lawyer. John was broken and he cried that it was better for him to die rather than see such a day in his life.

And:

"That's exactly what you ought to be!" said that horrible voice from the other end of the room.

A voice came up from the other end of the room that he should be dead indeed. It was of the ghost - Helen who was angry with John for not stopping people around him from using the Ouija boards.

I sat up abruptly--I had sunk into a chair under the blow of the letter--then I dropped back again and my hair rose in a thick prickle on the top of my head. Coming majestically across the floor towards me was a highly polished pair of thick laced shoes. I stared at them in a sort of dreadful fascination, and then something about their gait attracted my attention and I recognized them.

Prickle: short slender, sharp pointed outgrowth
Majestically: highest dignity
Dreadful: terrible
Fascination: interest
Gait: walk

John was taken aback to hear her again. The hair on his head became thick and pointed in reaction. The ghost approached him, walking gracefully as he could see it’s well polished thick laced shoes (brogans) approaching him. He stared at them with an attraction which was full of fear (dreadful fascination - use of oxymoron attraction is due to liking but here he says that the attraction was due to fear).  He recognised them as he had seen them earlier also.

"See here," I said sternly. "What do you mean by appearing here like this?"

John asked Helen that why had she appeared there all of a sudden out of nowhere.

"I can't help it," said the voice, which seemed to come from a point about five and a half feet above the shoes. I raised my eyes and presently distinguished her round protruding mouth.

Protruding: sticking out

Helen replied that she could not prevent visiting him.

which seemed to come from a point about five and a half feet above the shoes.

As she spoke, only her shoes were visible and so John says that the sound came from a point which was about five and a half feet above the shoes as Helen was five and a half feet tall.

John looked up and then he could make out her round mouth from which the sound came.

"Why can't you? A nice way to act, to walk in sections----"

John became irritant to see her partial appearance and said that why could she not appear at once rather than coming up in phases.

"If you'll give me time," said the mouth in an exasperated voice, "I assure you the rest of me will presently arrive."

Exasperated: irritate intensely

She was also irritated and asked him to wait for her to appear completely.

"But what's the matter with you? You never acted this way before."

She seemed stung to make a violent effort, for a portion of a fishy eye and the end of her nose popped into view with a suddenness that made me jump.

John asked what was wrong with her as earlier she did not take so long to appear. She had to make an effort to pull out a part of her eyes and as her nose popped out suddenly, it made John jump up with surprise.

"It's all your fault." She glared at me, while part of her hair and her plaid skirt began slowly to take form.

"My fault!"

"Of course. How can you keep a lady up working all night and then expect her to retain all her faculties the next day? I'm just too tired to materialize."

Faculties: inherent powers of body and mind
Materialize: to appear

Helen blamed him as her hair and skirt were still appearing gradually. John was surprised that she had blamed him for this also! Helen said that as she had been working all night, she was too tired to appear all at once.

"Then why did you bother?"

"Because I was sent to ask when your wife is going to get rid of that Ouija board."

"How should I know! I wish to heaven I'd never seen you!" I cried. "Look what you've done! You've lost me my wife, you've lost me my home and happiness, you've---- you've----"

John said that if she was so tired, she should not have come. She replies that she has been sent to ask that when will his wife stop using the Ouija board. John screams at her that even he does not know and accuses her of destroying his home, his happiness as his wife is leaving him.

 

"Misto Hallock," came from the hall outside, "Misto Hallock, I's gwine t' quit. I don't like no hoodoos." And the steps retreated.

hoodoos: placing curses and charms to bring bad luck on someone

The cook, Gladolia comes and says that she is also leaves the job as she is scared of ghosts.

"You've----you've lost me my cook----"

He screams at her that due to her he has lost the cook also.

"I didn't come here to be abused," said the ghost coldly. "I--I----"

Abused: use something to bad effect

Helen says that she did not wish to be abused and scolded by John.

And then the door opened and Lavinia entered. She wore the brown hat and coat she usually travels in and carried a suitcase which she set down on the floor.

Lavinia is ready to leave for her grandmother’s home. She wore the hat and coat which she usually wore during travelling. She held her suitcase as she visited met him for the last time.

That suitcase had an air of solid finality about it, and its lock leered at me brassily.

leered: stared

Brassily: rudely, insolently

John was upset to see her leave and the suitcase indicated that her decision of leaving him was final. The lock on it seemed to stare at him rudely.

 

 

I leaped from my chair with unaccustomed agility and sprang in front of my wife. I must conceal that awful phantom from her, at any risk!

Agility: quickly and easily
conceal: hide
awful: horrible
phantom: ghost

John jumped up in front of Lavinia as he did not want her to see the ghost at any cost.

She did not look at me, or--thank heaven!--behind me, but fixed her injured gaze upon the waste-basket, as if to wrest dark secrets from it.

"I have come to tell you that I am leaving," she staccatoed.

wrest: pull out with force
staccatoed: spoke in an abrupt, detached manner

Lavinia neither looked at John nor behind him for which he was thankful as she would not see the ghost. She kept on staring at the dustbin which was full of used sheets of paper which had his unsuccessful attempts of story writing. It seemed as if she thought that there was a secret of his on those sheets and she wanted to check them out. She spoke suddenly in an emotionless voice that she was leaving.

"Oh, yes, yes!" I agreed, flapping my arms about to attract attention from the corner.

"That's fine--great!"

"So you want me to go, do you?" she demanded.

John was nervous and so, behaved in a strange manner. He moved his arms like a bird as he did not want her to see beyond. Lavinia found this unusual and asked him that did he want her to leave and he replied that it was a good thing for her.

"Sure, yes--right away! Change of air will do you good. I'll join you presently!" If only she would go till Helen could depart! I'd have the devil of a time explaining afterward, of course, but anything would be better than to have Lavinia see a ghost. Why, that sensitive little woman couldn't bear to have a mouse say boo at her--and what would she say to a ghost in her own living-room?
Lavinia cast a cold eye upon me. "You are acting very queerly," she sniffed. "You are concealing something from me."

He says that it’s good for her to go away as a change in the environment would improve her health. He wanted her to remain out of the room till the time the ghost left. He would explain everything later but at present he wanted her to leave. He thought that as she was very sensitive, she could not even see a mouse, the sight of a ghost would be too much to handle for her. Lavinia senses that he is behaving in a strange manner and hiding something from her.

Just then the door opened and Gladolia called, "Mis' Hallock! Mis' Hallock! I've come to tell you I'se done lef' dis place."

My wife turned her head a moment. "But why, Gladolia?"

"I ain't stayin' round no place 'long wid dem Ouija board contraptions. I'se skeered of hoodoos. I's done gone, I is."

Skeered: scared

Gladolia tells Lavinia that she is leaving the job as she is scared of Ouija boards and ghosts.

"Is that all you've got to complain about?" Lavinia inquired.

"Yes, ma'am."

"All right, then. Go back to the kitchen. You can use the board for kindling wood."

Lavinia says that if that is the only reason for her to leave then she rather use the ‘board’ to burn fire in the kitchen. This indicates that finally she has given up on her new fad.

"Who? Me touch dat t'ing? No, ma'am, neva!"
"I'll be the coon to burn it," I shouted. "I'll be glad to burn it."
Gladolia's heavy steps moved off kitchenward.

Coon: the one doing a menial job

Gladolia refuses to even touch the ouija board. John says that he would burn it. With this reply Gladolia’s footsteps moved towards the kitchen.

Then my Lavinia turned waspishly to me again. "John, there's not a bit of use trying to deceive me. What is it you are trying to conceal from me?"

Waspishly: in an irritated manner

Lavinia was irritated and ordered John to show her what was it that he had been hiding all that while.

"Who? Me? Oh, no," I lied elaborately, looking around to see if that dratted ghost was concealed enough. She was so big, and I'm rather a smallish man. But that was a bad move on my part.

Elaborately: detailed
Dratted: annoying
concealed: hidden

John lied to her and at the same time looked around to see if the ghost was hidden or not. John was not big enough to hide her and his attempt was unsuccessful.

"John," Lavinia demanded like a ward boss, "you are hiding somebody in here! Who is it?"

Lavinia once again ordered John to show what he was hiding.

I only waved denial and gurgled in my throat. She went on, "It's bad enough to have you flirt over the Ouija board with that hussy----"
"Oh, the affair was quite above-board, I assure you, my love!" I cried, leaping lithely about to keep her from focusing her gaze behind me.

Denial: say no
gurgled: bubbled
hussy: an immoral woman
lithely: flexibly
gaze: stare or look

John waved his hands and spoke in his mouth to deny that he was hiding something. Lavinia complained that it was bad that he had an affair with an immoral woman at the Ouija board party. John says that the affair was only at the Ouija board party and she was the one whom he loved. He also keeps on trying to prevent her from looking beyond him.

She thrust me back with sudden muscle. "I will see who's behind you! Where is that Helen?"

"Me? I'm Helen," came from the ghost.

Lavinia looked at that apparition, that owl-eyed phantom, in plaid skirt and stiff shirtwaist, with hair skewed back and no powder on her nose. I threw a protecting husbandly arm about her to catch her when she should faint. But she didn't swoon. A broad, satisfied smile spread over her face.

Thrust: pushed
Apparition: ghost
Skewed: twisted
Powder: make up
Swoon: faint

Lavinia pushed him powerfully and confronted Helen. The ghost introduced herself as Helen. Lavinia found out that Helen was a ghost. Helen had eyes like an owl, wore a skirt and a collared shirt, her hair was pulled back tightly and she did not wear powder on her nose. John put his arm around Lavinia in case she fainted but she did not. Instead, she had a broad smile on her face as she realized that Helen was a ghost.

"I thought you were Helen of Troy," she murmured.
"I used to be Helen of Troy, New York," said the ghost. "And now I'll be moving along, if you'll excuse me. See you later."

As Lavinia was relieved to find out that Helen was a ghost she said jokingly that she thought that she was the ghost of the Greek mythological character - Helen of Troy. The ghost replied that she was ‘Helen of Troy’ from New York. She left the room as Lavinia had given up the Ouija board.

With that she telescoped briskly, till we saw only a hand waving farewell.

Telescoped: slid outwards in parts
briskly: quickly

Helen went away in phases and waved them as she went.

My Lavinia fell forgivingly into my arms. I kissed her once or twice fervently, and then I shoved her aside, for I felt a sudden strong desire to write. The sheets of paper on my desk spread invitingly before me.
"I've got the bulliest plot for a ghost story!" I cried.

Fervently: great warmth
Shoved: pushed
bulliest: best, excellent
plot: idea

Lavinia forgave John as she found out that he did not have an affair with any woman. She fell into his arms and he kissed her lovingly. Suddenly, John pushed her aside and had a strong desire to write a story. It seemed that the paper sheets on the desk were calling him over to write a story. As Lavinia had given up on the Ouija board and the ghosts were no longer on strike, they again helped John and he got another brilliant idea for a ghost story.

Question Answers and Exercises
Q. Match the words/expressions related to ghosts and ghost stories with their correct meanings.

 

word

meaning

Apparition

a feeling of anticipation of or anxiety over a future event

Poltergeist

a reanimated corpse that is believed to rise from the grave at night to suck the blood of sleeping people

Clairvoyance

a conjurer who expels evil spirits by conjuration

Crystal Ball

a spelling board device intended to communicate with and through the spirit world, obtaining answers to questions

Eerie

beyond the range of normal experience or scientific explanation

Medium

any of a set of 22 playing cards bearing allegorical representations, used for fortune telling

Transmigration

a supernatural appearance of a person or thing, a ghost, spectre or phantom

Psychic

so mysterious, strange, or unexpected as to send a chill up the spine

Ouija Board

the supposed power to see objects or events that cannot be perceived by the senses

Exorcist

a person through whom the spirits of the dead are alleged to be able to contact the living

Premonition

a globe of quartz crystal in which images, believed to portend the future, are supposedly visible to fortune tellers

Paranormal

to pass into another body after death: going from one state of existence or place to another

Tarot Card

capable of extraordinary mental processes, such as extrasensory perception and mental telepathy

Vampire

German word, meaning "noisy ghost"-a troublesome spirit that announces its presence with unexplainable sounds and the creation of disorder

 

Answer:

word

meaning

Apparition

a supernatural appearance of a person or thing, a ghost, spectre or phantom

Poltergeist

German word, meaning "noisy ghost"-a troublesome spirit that announces its presence with unexplainable sounds and the creation of disorder

Clairvoyance

capable of extraordinary mental processes, such as extrasensory perception and mental telepathy

Crystal Ball

a globe of quartz crystal in which images, believed to portend the future, are supposedly visible to fortune tellers

Eerie

so mysterious, strange, or unexpected as to send a chill up the spine

Medium

a person through whom the spirits of the dead are alleged to be able to contact the living

Transmigration

to pass into another body after death: going from one state of existence or place to another

Psychic

the supposed power to see objects or events that cannot be perceived by the senses

Ouija Board

a spelling board device intended to communicate with and through the spirit world, obtaining answers to questions

Exorcist

a conjurer who expels evil spirits by conjuration

Premonition

a feeling of anticipation of or anxiety over a future event

Paranormal

beyond the range of normal experience or scientific explanation

Tarot Card

any of a set of 22 playing cards bearing allegorical representations, used for fortune telling

Vampire

a reanimated corpse that is believed to rise from the grave at night to suck the blood of sleeping people

 

Answer the following questions by choosing the correct options.
1. The narrator earns his living by ………………………….

a) writing ghost stories

b) working as a reader for a magazine

c) working as a stenographer

d) working as an accountant in a lumber company

A. working as an accountant in a lumber company

 

2. The writer was overconfident about his ability to write ghost stories because ……

a) whenever magazines wanted a ghost story, they got in touch with him

b) he was always able to write a ghost story whenever he had to write one

c) the readers appreciated his ghost stories

d) he knew the ghost lady would help him write a good ghost story

A. he was always able to write a ghost story whenever he had to write one

 

3. The sight of the ghost materializing in his room filled the narrator with ………

a) fear

b) excitement

c) joy

d) anticipation

A. fear

 

4. The ghost wanted John to  …………………………

a) stop his wife from using the Ouija board

b) stop using the Ouija board himself

c) stop his guests from using the Ouija board

d) stop people from using the Ouija board

A. stop people from using the Ouija board

 

5. John wants the ghost to disappear before his wife enters the room and waves his arms at the ghost with something of the motion of a beginner when learning to swim. His movement shows his ………………………

a) fear

b) amusement

c) desperation

d) anxiety

A. anxiety

 

6. When the narrator says his wife is never so pretty as when she's doing something she knows he disapproves of, his tone is …………………….

a) amused

b) ironic

c) angry

d) irritated

A. ironic

 

7. The ghost says "It's all your fault.

'It' here refers to ………………………

a) the narrator's wife's anger

b) the ghost's anger

c) the narrator's wife leaving him

d) the ghost materializing in sections.

A. the ghost materializing in sections.

 

8. Gladolia wishes to leave the narrator's house as ………………….

a) she does not like the Ouija boards

b) she is afraid of the ghost

c) she is afraid of magic and hoodoo

d) she likes Ouija boards and hoodoo

A. she is afraid of magic and hoodoo

 

Answer the following questions briefly.

1. What genre of stories does Jenkins want the narrator to write? Why?

A: Jenkins wants the narrator, John Hallock to write ghost stories as his stories are live propositions which horrify the readers and they want more such stories.

 

2. Does the narrator like writing ghost stories? Support your answer with evidence from the story.

A: No, he is not fond of writing ghost stories. He says “I didn’t specialize in ghost stories,…… they seemed to specialize in me.” He never had any idea for such a story and didn’t know how or why he was able to write them.

 

3. What makes Helen, the ghost, and her other co-ghosts organize The Writer's Inspiration Bureau?

A: Helen, the ghost had been a writer in her life, one without ideas for a story. Her life was hell as she did not have ideas for stories. So, along with similar ghosts she formed a bureau to help writers without ideas but with an impressionable mind willing to accept ideas. They would pass on their ideas to the writers secretly. They were providing a social service to their mortal counterparts.

 

4. Why had Helen, the ghost been helping the narrator write ghost stories? Why was she going on strike? What condition did she place for providing continued help?

A: Helen, the ghost had been helping the narrator as he did not have ideas to write ghost stories and she could understand his misery as a writer.

She along with all the members of the bureau were going on a strike as a mark of protest against the  indiscriminate use of the Ouija board by the people. They called the ghosts often and asked many questions. This left the ghosts with no time for haunting people for fun.

She wanted the narrator to stop his acquaintances from using the Ouija board if he wanted their help in writing ghost stories.

 

5. How does the ghost undermine the narrator's faith in his ability to write ghost stories?

A: The narrator was overconfident of his abilities as a ghost story writer as they were liked by the readers and the publisher Jenkins urged him to write more such stories.

Helen, the ghost tells him that it was she who would help him with ideas for a story, leaning over his shoulder many a times.

She tells him that many times when he was desperately thinking of a new plot, she would  lean on his shoulder in order to give him a new ghost story.

Thus, the ghost makes him realize that he wrote such good stories because of the help given by it.

 

6. Why does John want the ghost to disappear before his wife appears on the scene? What impression of his wife's character do you form from his words?

A: John wants the ghost to disappear because as it is a female ghost, his wife could get jealous and this would affect his married life.

Also, the sight of a ghost in her house would make her mad.

The narrator’s wife is a nagging, suspicious and jealous woman.

 

7. Why does the narrator hesitate to be a partner to Laura Hinkle during the Ouija Board Party?

A: John had been instructed by the ghost to stop his acquaintances from using the Ouija board as only then would they help him in writing ghost stories. He is scared of it and so is hesitant to take part in the Ouija Board party.

 

8. What message does the ghost convey to the group that had assembled in the narrator's house? What is their reaction to the message?

A: The ghost calls out for John. All the five Ouija boards in the room ask for John and introduce themselves as Helen. They calls him a ‘traitor’. As John’s wife does not know anyone by that name, all the ladies in the party suspect John of cheating her.

 

9. Do you agree with the narrator calling the assembly of women “manipulators?” Give reasons.

A: I agree with the narrator’s perception. He considered the women as manipulators as they controlled the ghosts through the Ouija boards and forced them to answer all their questions.

 

10. Why is John's wife angry? What does she decide to do?

A: John’s wife is angry at her husband as a ghost by the name Helen called out for him and she thought that he had cheated her.

She decides to go to her grandmother’s home and get separated from John.

 

11. Why does John wish he were dead?

A: John wished he was dead because the misunderstanding created due to the female ghost had almost ruined his life. His married life was about to end and it would destroy his home and happiness.

 

12. When confronted by Lavinia about his flirtations over the Ouija Board, John insists that 'the affair was quite above-board, I assure you, my love'. Bring out the pun in John's statement.

A. When confronted by Lavinia about his flirtations over the Ouija Board, John insists that 'the affair was quite above-board’ which means it is being honest and legal.

 

Pick out the words that describe the narrator and his wife from those given below

 

shy

arrogant

loyal

 clever

overconfident

manipulative

self- disparaging

fearless

suspicious

firm

skeptical

jealous    

shrewd

strong

gullible

sly

Creative

protective

loves novelty and thrills

 

PERSON

Extract from story

What it tells us
about the character

John Hallock

…in the end things had always come my way somehow I'd always been able to
dig one (plot) up for him, so I'd begun to get a bit cocky as to my ability (to write stories).

Overconfident

John Hallock

A ghost
story had been the first fiction I had written.

creative

John Hallock

I threw a protecting
husbandly arm about her to catch her when she should faint.

protective

Lavinia Hallock

…and how on earth I was going to cure her of her alarming tendency to take every new fad that came along and work it to death.

loves novelty and thrills

Lavinia Hallock

You know I bought the loveliest thing this afternoon.

Spendthrift

Lavinia Hallock

Lavinia stopped and began to look at me through narrowed lids much as she had done in the library the evening before.

suspicious

Lavinia Hallock

She went on, “It is bad enough to have you flirt over the Ouija board with that hussy…..
She thrust me back with sudden muscle. “I will see who’s behind you! Where is that Helen?”

jealous

Lavinia Hallock

 Buys the Ouija board but says it is for John's research

manipulative

Lavinia Hallock

Does not flinch when she meets the ghost but talks to her casually.

strong

 

Gladolia, the narrator's cook, is an African. She has a dialect, write what Gladolia's words mean

 

COLUMN A

COLUMN B

Misto Hallock

Mister Hallock

de Missus

The missus

sho t'inks you's lost!

She thinks you are lost

she done 'phone you dis mawnin'

She called you this morning

fo' de lawd's sake

for the lord’s sake

not to stop to argify now

don’t stop to argue now.

I's gwine t' quit.

I am going to quit.

I don't like no hoodoos.

I don’t like voodoo magic.

I'se done lef' dis place

I am done, going to leave this place.

I is

I am

 

Read and understand the following ghost phrases and expressions

 

To give up the ghost

to die or to stop trying

A ghost of a chance

a poor chance, not likely to happen

The ghost at the feast

something or someone that spoils your enjoyment by reminding you of something unpleasant

Ghost town

a town where most people have left - abandoned and deserted

Ghost write

to write for someone else

Lay the ghost of something/somebody (to rest)

to finally stop being worried or upset by something or someone that has worried or upset you for a long time

Ghost image

secondary image, esp. one appearing on a television screen as a white shadow, caused by poor or double reception or by a defect in the receiver

the ghost of a smile

faint trace of a smile

As white as a ghost

very pale or white in the face

 

Complete the following story by using the appropriate phrases in the blanks given below:

I was alone in a place that bore a deserted look like that of a ______.

I increased the pace of my footsteps as I walked through the dark forest. I felt someone walking behind me. I turned immediately and spotted the contour of a figure in the form of a ________ .

It smiled at me wickedly I started shaking with fear and perspiring  (sweat) profusely  (excessively) when I felt its skeletal hand upon my neck. I woke up with a start, relieved that it was only a nightmare.

This was not the first time I had had one. It had all started when I had watched the horrendous horror film with a eerie ghost character that had a scary ghost of a smile on its face. It had been almost a month. The strange thing was that I saw a similar face at the station the next morning. That was uncanny.
I was to attend a dinner at my friend's at Northanger Abbey that night. I had decided to narrate my experience to the group that would assemble there although I knew there was a ___________ that they would be convinced.

After everyone had finished pouring their drinks to themselves, I cleared my throat and started narrating my spooky experience.

However, every one of the group started accusing me of being the ______________ and held me responsible for spoiling the spirit of revelry. I gave up the ghost and sat quietly waiting for the party to be over. Back at home, the fears returned .I knew I had to talk about my experience to somebody to feel better. I have now decided to _________ and publish my experience under a pseudonym. Only then can I  _________.

 

Answer:

I was alone in a place that bore a deserted look like that of a ghost town.

I increased the pace of my footsteps as I walked through the dark forest. I felt someone walking behind me. I turned immediately and spotted the contour of a figure in the form of a ghost image .


It smiled at me wickedly I started shaking with fear and perspiring  (sweat) profusely  (excessively) when I felt its skeletal hand upon my neck. I woke up with a start, relieved that it was only a nightmare.

 

This was not the first time I had had one. It had all started when I had watched the horrendous horror film with a eerie ghost character that had a scary ghost of a smile on its face. It had been almost a month. The strange thing was that I saw a similar face at the station the next morning. That was uncanny.


I was to attend a dinner at my friend's at Northanger Abbey that night. I had decided to narrate my experience to the group that would assemble there although I knew there was a ghost of a chance that they would be convinced.

 

After everyone had finished pouring their drinks to themselves, I cleared my throat and started narrating my spooky experience.
However, every one of the group started accusing me of being the ghost  at  the  feast and held me responsible for spoiling the spirit of revelry. I gave up the ghost and sat quietly waiting for the party to be over. Back at home, the fears returned .I knew I had to talk about my experience to somebody to feel better. I have now decided to ghost   write and publish my experience under a pseudonym. Only then can I  lay the ghost to rest .