Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Malign Sentience of the Souless Stone

Tomb effigies of the Knights Templar, Temple Church, London

Have you every looked upon a funerary sculpture and imagined the horror that you would feel if it suddenly began to move? There is something vaguely disquieting about such statues and carvings. It's as if they are receptacles for the disembodied spirit of the restless dead. The body of flesh and blood may have decayed into nothingness, but that enduring stone figure presents a cold home for defiant, damned spirit.

And that's the premise of E. Nesbit's classic ghost story, Man-Size in Marble, written in 1893. A newlywed couple finds a delightful cottage, but it has a dreadful connection to the effigies of two knights, known for their maliciousness, entombed at the nearby church. And one night of the year, as local superstition would have it, the inanimate stone becomes animate.

This isn't the best of ghost stories. It's a predictable plot and has annoying characters. But the concept is delightfully chilling. Yeah, it's kind of a cheap thrill, but I always enjoy the dark visions that Man-Size in Marble conjures up in my imagination.

Effigy of Sir Richard Lee in St. Mary's Church, Acton Burnell, Shropshire (Photo by Tom Oates, 2009)

I read this story as a child. Nesbit was a writer of children's fiction. So, I had developed an interest in her stories. Wow! Her Tales of Terror gave me many a sleepless night. But it helped build the foundation for my lifelong explorations into ghostly fiction, both as a reader and as a writer. So, this tale has sentimental value for me. ;-)

Anyways, featuring Man-Size in Marble on our first Terror Tuesday post gives me the opportunity to showcase some fine funerary sculpture. Good, creepy stuff!!!

Effigy tomb of Sueiro Gomes de Soutomaior

Here's a vid in which the story is recited.

Here's a link to the text at the Gaslight site.

And here's a vid featuring the cool effigies at Temple Church.


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