Archive for Mansize in Marble

Stories Which Scare Me

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2010 by Esther Sherman

‘The Sea Cure’ is pretty much finished, though I’m waiting for some more feedback before I send it off anywhere.

Stories Which Scare Me: Part One

I thought it might be an interesting exercise to look back over stories which have scared me throughout my life, and have a think about why.  I’ll try to keep these free of major spoilers, though where pivotal plot points were the main scare, these may be unavoidable.

So, my first story is ‘Nule’, by Jan Mark, which I read in the puffin books collection ‘Nothing to Be Afraid Of’.

The story is a very short, simple one, concerning a family who move into an old house, which among several antique features, has a newel post at the bottom of the stairs – a tall ornate post which supports the banisters, with a large ball on top.  Libby, the daughter, puts a medieval hat on the post and jokes that it’s a person, like a ‘Lady Nule Post’.  Somehow, it amasses other accoutrements, such as a dress and shoes, and members of the family start mistaking it for a real person in the dark of the hallway. Martin, the younger son, finds it disturbing, and then one night he wakes to hear creaks on the stairs and gets up to find out what’s going on…

Not much really happens in the story, there’s no gore or confrontation, but the suggestion of what is happening at night, of an inanimate object given life by imaginings – of that horrible, round smooth face! – gave me terrible nightmares.  As a short-sighted child for whom the world was a bit of a blur, I was always seeing something scary in ordinary things – a dressing-gown on the back of the door as a vampire, etc – and the idea that they could come to life and come after you was terrifying.  There is one illustration – of Nule herself, and it’s very creepy, reminiscent of the faceless man in Sapphire & Steel.

It also harks back to E. Nesbit’s ‘Man-size in Marble’, a classic chiller which I was recently pleased to see referenced in the programme for Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s ‘Ghost Stories’, which you can read here.

I hadn’t read ‘Nule’ since I was a child, so managed to work out what it was called, and got a copy of the book for £2.75 from amazon, and it’s just as creepy.  The other stories are also very good, but none of them stuck in my mind quite like ‘Nule’.