'Real Estate' by C.E. Ward

My reading of The Ghosts & Scholars Book of Mazes continues with a story by one of the veterans of G&S magazine. Ward is a writer steeped not only in the Jamesian ghost story tradition, but also in folklore and British history.

Not surprising, then, to find that his contribution to this anthology begins in the most traditional style. A group of men of a certain age are sitting in comfortable armchairs, telling yarns. One, the real estate chap, is goaded into talking about a strange and tragic incident. It concerns a country house that resembles Mr Humphreys' Wilsthorpe, but there is no maze. Instead there is a walled off area that might have been the site of one - but there is no sign an actual hedge maze was ever planted.

After the last owner of the estate dies, a group of local youngsters trespass on the grounds, out for a few laughs. Instead, all but one end up dead. The survivor tells a strange story, one that takes us into horrors and arcane experiments worthy of the Provost himself. I was surprised by the relative brevity and intensity of this one - a dark tale indeed. And one that haunts the imagination. What strange labyrinths might we not find ourselves in, unwittingly?

So, onward I go to the next story, which is by a veteran ST contributor, John Howard.


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