Yesterday’s entry was a list of scarey stories for Halloween: Today’s appeared on the Guardian Books Blog and looks at gruesome graveyard scenes in all kinds of books. The piece is here at the Guardian, and this is how it begins:
However depressing the thud of earth on the coffin-lid may be, it is music compared to the rattle of gravel and thump of spades which heralds a premature and unreverend resurrection…That’s from Dorothy L Sayers’s 1921 Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, as she describes the gruesome exhumation of a man who may have been murdered. The corpse is carried from the grave to the cemetery potting-shed in the middle of the night, so that a doctor can explore the entrails.
Many of the creepiest encounters with corpses in books aren’t even supernatural. You don’t need anything extra to make bodies, coffins, graves and exhumations scary – but the odd ghostly touch doesn’t go amiss.
One of the most macabre is in the children’s classic Moonfleet by J Meade Falkner, when the young John Trenchard gets trapped in a church crypt with damaged coffins. He ends up lying alongside the skeleton of Colonel John “Blackbeard” Mohune, and, amid the bones and the hair – “I buckled to the distasteful work of rummaging the coffin” – finds a valuable locket with clues to a lost treasure.
Several of the books mentioned in the piece have featured on the blog – Andrew Miller’s Pure, Dumas Fils’s La Dame Aux Camelias, Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, Graham Greene’s The Third Man, and Gregory Widen’s Blood Makes Noise (thanks again, Col!).
exhumation scene in The Third Man