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Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales

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First edition (publ. Hutchinson)
Cover artist Terry Oakes

Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales, published in 1991, is a collection of short stories for children by the author of the Redwall series, Brian Jacques.


The collection is made up of seven short stories.[1]

The Fate of Thomas P. Kanne[edit]

Mr. Bausin, caretaker of the Middlechester Museum, is constantly erasing graffiti by a mysterious and persistent graffiti artist, the "Phantom Snake". Schoolboy Thomas P. Kanne, who uses the anagram "Phantom Snake" for his name, is constantly surreptitiously adding his signature to everything he can. In need of a challenge, he decides to target the new Egypt exhibit of the Middlechester Museum, the one part he has not previously defaced. Despite Thomas inexplicably feeling that Mr. Bausin is watching him as he leaves the signatures, nothing happens until the museum closes before Jamie leaves and finds himself lost inside, being slowly chased by Mr. Bausin until he runs into the Egypt exhibit and is mummified alive.

Jamie and the Vampires[edit]

Jamie is tricked by his friends into accepting a dare: sit by the grave of a suspected vampire for ten minutes at midnight. He sneaks out and while he waits, he starts preparing to trick his friends in return, applying makeup to make it look like he has been bitten by a vampire. As he waits for them to come after him, a young vampire comes out of the tomb. As the vampire prepares to drink from his neck, the vampire's mother comes out and begins berating him, much like Jamie's own mother does. Jamie flees, and his friends find him later.

Allie Alma[edit]

Alma hates her name and prefers to go by Allie, insisting that everyone at school calls her that instead. While working with the Neighborhood Volunteer Help Junior Branch, however, she goes by Alma. She has a habit of stealing emotionally valuable trinkets from the elderly people that she helps and convincing them that they lost them, and the objects will turn up where they least expect them to. While she is helping an old Austrian neighbour, Mrs. Struben, with her groceries, Alma asks about a little handmade egg. Mrs. Struben tells her the story of her family during the second world war, especially about the Christmas when her uncle gave her the egg, which he had made for her, and about how her cousin Helga wanted the egg for herself. When their family was bombed in an air raid, they ran from where they were staying. Mrs. Struben dropped the egg, and Helga ran to get it, and was trapped inside the building. She was found dead the next day, but not dead from the bombing—she had died of shock. After Mrs. Struben finishes the story, Allie steals the egg. After she finishes helping Mrs. Struben with her groceries and convinces her that the egg will turn up somewhere else, she goes home with the egg. She is found the next day dead of shock.

The Lies of Henry Mawdsley[edit]

Henry Mawdsley is renowned for his lies and tall tales. As he is making up a lie on his way to school to explain his tardiness, he meets a strange old man who offers to make a deal with him. Henry asks him to make it so that everyone believes whatever lies he tells for a week, after which the man will take possession of his soul. After he signs the contract, hidden from the strange man by a cloud of smoke at his own insistence, he arrives late to school. His lies grow increasingly more elaborate and Henry quickly becomes frustrated with how easy it is to get away with anything he wants. When the end of the week comes, the strange man reveals himself as the devil and starts to claim Henry's soul. The angel Gabriel intervenes and releases him from his contract with the devil by illegitimizing Henry's signature, revealing that it is neither Henry's name nor written in his blood, as it should have been.


Bridgey lives with her alcoholic uncle, doing the chores on his farm and cooking for him. She takes special care of the ducks and the mysterious creature in the pond, the Grimblett. One day, when her uncle is on the market, Bridgey accidentally drops her uncle's honey pot in the pond. She spends the rest of the day terrified that he will beat her, and forgets to put the ducks in the pen. When he discovers the loss in the morning, he storms outside. Bridgey's ducks trip her uncle and he falls into the pond, where he is eaten by the Grimblett.

The Sad History of Gilly Bodkin[edit]

Peasant boy Gilly Bodkin is set on getting to taste a sugar stick. He is certain that it is even sweeter than an apple, hard as it is to believe. The family that owns the land that his family lives on, the Manfields, drive by in their horse-drawn carriage regularly, the three daughters in the back fighting about different sweatmeats. One day, Gilly runs beside the cart and asks for a sweetmeat. One of the girls, arguing with her sister, throws a sweetmeat out of the carriage and onto the road. When Gilly tries to get it, he is killed by the horse. His ghost haunts the road until it is rarely used. Many years later, the descendants of the Manfield family come to visit their ancestral home. Gilly asks their daughter for a sugar stick and finds that he can touch it. He tastes it, finds it too sweet, and his ghost fades to rest.

R.S.B. Limited[edit]

When Jonathan starts attending the school that his great-grandfather used to go to, he is quickly set on by a group of three bullies. They call themselves R.S.B. Limited and tell him that if he purchases their 'insurance' they will protect him from any threats—including themselves. Jonathan is unable to pay, and so they force him to smudge his face with dirt several times a day. As Jonathan is trying to settle into the school and make friends, he starts seeing a boy that looks very like himself, but no matter how hard he tries, Jonathan cannot meet him face to face. One day, when Jonathan is sick, his lookalike leaves a note for the bullies offering to pay their insurance, and the days before that, if they will meet him at the school after dark. When the bullies arrive, the lookalike comes and ages suddenly into Jonathan's great-grandfather, terrifying the bullies so badly that they are unable to return to the school afterwards.

Publication History[edit]

  • First published in the UK by Hutchinson in 1991[2]
  • First published in the US by Philomel in 1991[3]
  • Audiobook narrated by Brian Jacques released 2010[4]


Publishers Weekly said of the book that "Jacques's collection of original ghost stories features 'the requisite apparitions, vampires and satanic incarnations, all spun with a distinctly English flair'."[5]


  1. ^ Jacques, Brian (1991). Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales (1st ed.). Philomel Books. ISBN 0399221034.
  2. ^ "National Government Library of New Zealand".
  3. ^ "Amazon".
  4. ^ "Penguin Random House".
  5. ^ "'Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales'". Publisher's Weekly. Publisher's Weekly. Retrieved 12 March 2024.