All of the stories included in The Moonlit Road collection are classic ghost stories from the mid to late nineteenth century. The stories are read by Jonathan Keeble, Clare Anderson , Garrick Hagon and Kate Harper and are recorded onto two CDs with a total runtime of about two hours and twenty-six minutes. An eleven page booklet is included with the CDs and it gives a brief biography of the performers and also a little information about the stories.
CD 1 (runtime:79.28 minutes)
“An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street”
(Written by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu)
This story is read by Jonathan Keeble and is set in Dublin, where the main character, Dick, is studying medicine. Dick’s cousin Tom is also a medical student and Tom’s father has bought a few houses in Aungier Street. One of the houses remains untenanted and so the two men decide to live in the house instead of paying to rent rooms elsewhere. It is an old house though, and has seen a lot of history. At one point a Judge called Horrocks lived there. He had the reputation of being a particularly ‘hanging judge’ a reputation that he took a little too seriously perhaps because he tied a child’s skipping rope onto one of the old oak banisters, and hung himself.
It is not long before the house reveals its singularly unpleasant nature to both men and, after a particularly bad night, Dick and Tom agree to look for alternative accommodation. Tom is so unnerved; however, that he cannot face a further night in the house and goes to visit his father in the country, leaving Dick to arrange fresh lodgings and face, alone, whatever haunts the house.
“The Damned Thing”
(Written by Ambrose Bierce)
Again the voice is Keeble’s; this time with an American Accent. The story begins with a room full of people gathered together in an attempt to explain the death of the man who is lying on the table next to them. One of the men is a coroner and another is a writer who was staying with the dead man at the time of his death.
Much of this story involves the coroner interviewing the writer, who was present when his friend was killed. The only problem is that when the writer describes how his friend was attacked nobody in the room seems to take him seriously. Especially when he explains that the damned thing that killed his friend was invisible.
“The Moonlit Road”
(Written by Ambrose Bierce)
This time the story is split into three sections with each section being narrated by a different reader. The readers are: Jonathan Keeble, Garrick Hagon and Kate Harper.
Statement of Joel Hetman Jr.
Keeble gives voice to Hetman’s story, explaining to the listener that that he is the only child of Joel and Julia Hetman. Joel Sr. was a well-to-do country gentleman, but his wife’s real wealth was her beauty and so Joel Sr’s love was always a jealous one. When he was nineteen years old Joel Jr. was away, studying at Yale, but had to be recalled to his Nashville home when his mother was murdered. The killer was never found and Joel’s father was in such a state that the young man gave up his studies to stay at home and be with him. Then one night, a few months after his mother’s death, Joel and his father were walking home from the city and as they approached the gates to their property Joel’s father saw something on the moonlit road. Joel could see nothing, but whatever his father saw terrified him and while Joel was momentarily distracted his father disappeared. He never saw him again.
Statement of Caspar Grattan
Garrick Hagon provides the voice of Grattan, an old man getting ready for his pauper’s grave. He is a tragic soul who remembers only his last twenty years. Even his real name is lost to him and so for two decades he has adopted the name Caspar Grattan.
There are times though when Grattan receives glimpses of things that are perhaps dreams, but could be memories. At these times he is a prosperous planter, living near a big city and married to a woman who he loves and distrusts in equal measure.
Statement of the Late Julia Hetman, Through The Medium Bayrolles
Kate Harper is the unfortunate Julia who is forced to tell her tale the only way she can: through a spiritualist medium. Filled with anguish and eternal loneliness, Julia’s story fills in the blanks and unites the previous two statements. It also paints a dreadful picture of the afterlife. Death has brought Julia no answers. As a spirit she knows no more than she did in life. No even the identity of her killer because she was strangled in a darkened room. In death she continues to haunt the family home and has watched, unseen, her son grow into an old man. Soon he will die also and be lost to her forever.
CD 2 (runtime 66.54 minutes)
“The Upper Berth”
(by F. Marion Crawford)
Keeble narrates again and this time the story is set onboard an ocean liner where, after a long evening of talk, the conversation between the passengers seems to have exhausted itself and if nobody comes up with something interesting to say – and very soon – it is likely that people will soon begin to drift off to bed.
Then a passenger named Brisbane saves the day by bringing up the subject of ghosts and surprises a few people by then admitting that he has actually seen a ghost. Brisbane goes on to explain that he has crossed the Atlantic many times and one of his favourite ships used to be the Kamtschatka. It was on that very ship though that he saw the ghost in question and it was an experience that put him off travelling on the Kamtschatka ever again.
The real story begins with Brisbane’s account of his last crossing on the Kamtschatka. He was given the lower berth in room one hundred and five; a room that often smelt of seawater, where the porthole kept opening itself and something rather nasty occupied the upper berth.
(Written by Bithia Mary Croker)
This, the final story on the CD, is read by Clare Anderson. The story is set in India where the central character an Englishwoman has gone to live with her brother Tom and his family. When the summer arrives the heat becomes intolerable for them all and Tom’s wife Aggie decides to take the children and her sister-in-law away into the hills, where it is cooler. Tom who cannot get the time off from work will have to follow on later.
Aggie’s friend, Mrs Chalmers, finds the family a house to rent and at first it appears to be the bargain of a lifetime: two sitting rooms, four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a hall, stabling and a splendid view. And all of this for just Rs. 800 for the full season!
Of course, there is a reason why the house is so cheap to rent and that reason, as you may have guessed, is that the house is haunted. The ghosts don’t show up for a while though, when the monsoon breaks, however, the fairytale ends and the family are forced to stay out late every night because they cannot face what awaits them at home.
The actors who supplied the voices for this audiobook did a great job, but I cannot say this one will ever become favourite listening material for me because I tend to prefer modern tales. I must admit, however, that I found the experience of listening to these stories preferable to reading them. All five of thestories often find their way into anthologies and I have read them all at one time or another. Of the five stories the last one is my favourite. With its Indian setting, it has a distinctly different feel to the rest. Most of the stories I read or listen to are set in either America or the UK. India makes a nice change.
If you enjoy old classic ghost stories, then the chances are that you will also enjoy this collection by Naxos Audiobooks. If like me, however, you are more used to modern stories then you might want to think twice before buying or downloading The Moonlit Road And other Stories. These stories are set in a time that is long gone and the language used—and more so the way it is used—reflects this fact. Take for example this paragraph from The Moonlit Road:
At the time of which I write I was nineteen years old, a student of Yale. One day I received a telegram from my father of such urgency that in compliance with his unexplained demand I left at once for home. At the railway station in Nashville a distant relative awaited me to apprise me of the reason for my recall: my mother had been barbarously murdered-why and by whom none could conjecture.
Do you know anyone who speaks like this? I don’t and that is the main reason I find it hard to idnetify with the charecters in a lot of older works.
These stories are great classics and they do have merit, but as I stated earlier they will not be for everyone.