A face in the dark and other hauntings – An anthology of ghost stories by Ruskin Bond

‘I see dead people’ – lines from Hollywood movie ‘Sixth Sense’

Did you ever experience paranormal visions of seeing departed people? Have you witnessed seeing your long lost loved ones in your dreams? Dreams are route to connect with departed people. Whether ghosts, spirits or apparitions really exist is a matter of debate. Ruskin Bond’s anthology of short story on ghosts in this book is not just scary, but also has a nostalgic and romantic touch to it.

‘That night there was a thunderstorm. My bedroom window kept banging in the wind. I got up to close it and as I looked out, there was a flash of lightning and I saw that frail body again, swinging from the oak tree’ – excerpt from short story Topaz from this anthology

The ghosts in Ruskin Bond’s stories are frightening, but not disturbing. The stories are memorable, hilarious and sometimes heart breaking. Especially the short story – A face in the dark is the first chapter in this anthology recounts the story of an English teacher witnessing paranormal encounter with a faceless ghost. This story has been beautifully crafted with a touch of humour that will make you read these stories again and again. Some stories in Ruskin Bond’s collections are really spooky – especially the stories ‘The Monkeys’ and ‘The Topaz’. Ruskin Bond has written one ghost story in this collection which is dedicated to his father.

‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio.
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy’
– lines from Shakespeare’s Hamlet

A rare photograph of Ruskin Bond with his mother during his childhood

In this nostalgic chapter, Ruskin Bond recounts the supernatural event of seeing his dead father coming back to meet him. The ghostly form of his dead father not only guides him, but also protects him at several instances. Ruskin Bond has included this nostalgic episode in several of his short story collection. The 1998 Hollywood movie – Jack Frost is also based on such a premise where a dead father returns as a snowman to reunite with his little son and fulfill the wishes of his child and wife. The role of the ghost father was played by Michael Keaton in this family movie. Even the 90’s movie – The Ghost had a similar plot where a dead man returns as a ghost to establish contact with his soulmate and make her aware of upcoming dangers. The Kevin Costner Starrer movie – Dragon Fly was more gripping on topic of afterlife and how a deceased wife tries to contact with her husband through paranormal signals.

Dreams are also a way to connect with your long lost loved ones. In my dreams, I had nostalgic experience of seeing my long lost maternal uncle who is no more with me. Whenever I was sad or depressed, I always saw my uncle in my dream, assuring that everything will be all right. The bond that I shared with my uncle in my childhood days is really memorable, especially accompanying him to buy comic books. I miss his presence really in these difficult times. Ruskin Bond also has also written a short story, describing his experience, meeting a long lost friend who is happened to be dead years back.

All the 28 ghost stories in this anthology are unique. Whether it is connecting with ghost of Rudyard Kipling or meeting the mysterious Madam Sussanna who has killed all her seven husbands under mysterious circumstances, the stories gives you a glimpse at the supernatural elements in a very entertaining way. The most entertaining chapter in this anthology was the surprise entry of Detective Sherlock Holmes in the story ‘The Daffodil Case’. In this story, Sherlock Holmes teams up with Ruskin Bond to solve a case involving stealing of Daffodil flowers. The short story ‘Something in the water’ and ‘Night in the millennium’ are really creepy.

The ghostly settings in these stories send scary goosebumps, giving a feel of ghostly presence around you. The recently released Bollywood movie – Phillauri draws inspiration from a spooky story ‘The Topaz’ in this anthology. Science may have denied the supernatural existence, but paranormal activities do keep happening in some corners of the world. If you love reading ghost stories, this anthology by Ruskin Bond is definitely a treat.

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2 thoughts on “A face in the dark and other hauntings – An anthology of ghost stories by Ruskin Bond

  1. A brilliant, informative and utterly heartfelt review of a book. This is clearly one of your finest posts yet, Prashant.

    Ruskin Bond’s choice of compiled stories of different genres like horror, suspense, dark comedy, romance, adventure and wildlife prove his extraordinary wealth of knowledge and literary judgement. While I have not read ‘A Face In The Dark’, some of the stories mentioned here have been read by me in my boyhood. For instance, the ghost of Rudyard Kipling appears in a story in the collection known as ‘Rusty Goes To London’ and concerns Rusty (or Bond himself) encountering Kipling as the latter recites one of his poems and also wonders why do the critics decry him as a messenger of imperialism in the time of the British Raj. And in ‘Susanna’s Seven Husbands’, Bond takes us through the privy chambers and bedrooms of the devious Susanna whose name is ensnared in the web of scandal that surrounds the deaths of her husbands. Vishal Bhardwaj and Bond developed this story further and it resulted in the film ‘7 Khoon Maaf’ starring Priyanka Chopra at her best.

    What I also loved in this review was the personal, intimate angle that you managed to bring in. It was heart-rending and poignant to read of your own personal experiences and this alone makes this review worth reading time and again. Well done again, buddy.

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