Malcolm Malcolmson is a scholar and mathematician. Wishing to find a place where he can study in peace, away from all distractions, he sets off in search of isolation, not telling anyone where he is going.
He gets off the train at the small town of Benchurch, checking into the Good Traveller inn for a night before beginning his quest to find even more isolated lodgings. Whilst on his walk, he comes to the perfect place: an old Jacobean-style house which was currently unoccupied.
The first Malcolmson hears of the strange reputation of the house is when he is speaking to the agent; he says that the locals are not used to seeing the house occupied. If they were, perhaps it would change their opinion of it. Afterwards, when he informs the landlady at the inn that he will need provisions for where he is moving to, she realises with horror, he is speaking of the Judge’s House.
She goes on to explain that a hundred years before, a local judge terrorised the surrounding area and was in the habit of passing overly harsh sentences. Locals had since avoided the house, saying something wasn’t right there, but what that something was she didn’t know and she wouldn’t stay there to find out.
However, Malcolmson isn’t at all worried by what he’s heard; he isn’t easy to scare and is driven by logic and reason…at least in the beginning.
The question is, will Malcolmson survive his stay at the Judge’s House? Or do the locals fear it with good reason?
The Judge’s House is a slow-moving ghost story, one in which the tension builds steadily towards the inevitable, chilling conclusion. If you like Victorian ghost stories, then you might enjoy this…
I came across this short story in Short Stories from the Nineteenth Century, selected by David Stuart Davies.