The Killing Ground
by Paul Finch
collected in Ghost Realm
hardcover, 247 pg., 2008, Cndn $49/ US $49/ L28
When I was in second or third grade, I don’t recall which, I checked out a volume from the school library called A Book of Ghosts and Goblins by, so the internet tells me, Ruth Manning-Sanders. The internet also tells me it was a collection of folktales from around the world. I don’t remember that part of it, nor do I remember many particulars about most of the stories. This was, after all, about [CENSORED] years ago. I remember a few things. There was one where a little girl got lost or something and ended up in a castle with a talking skull. The skull had her fix a pancake for supper. When the girl cut the pancake in half, the skull’s half turned black. I don’t remember what else happened, but that scene made an indelible impression on me.
The other story I remember, and I remember it quite well to this day, was the final story, “The Leg of Gold.” You’ve probably heard or read at least one version of it. The wife of a rich man trips on the stairs, falls, and breaks her leg so badly it needs to be amputated. He replaces it with a leg of gold. Some time passes, and once again she trips (on the hem of her dress, as I recall) and falls, this time breaking her neck. Her husband has her buried with the leg, but the valet sneaks back to the graveyard and steals it. Or something to that effect. Anyway, this is where the action takes place. The wife starts calling out from the grave day and night for her leg of gold. The husband goes to the grave to console her, telling her she was buried with it. She ignores him (probably just like she did in life) and continues to call for the leg. Finally, the husband gets tired of hearing her calling day and night, night and day, and sends the valet, who by this time is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, to the grave to find out what she wants. When he asks, she cries, “It is you that I want,” rises up from the grave, and drags him back down with her where she devours him.
That story scared the living crap out of me. I woke up in the middle of the night every night for the next seven nights, terrified that there were ghosts in the room. I know it was seven nights, because I counted them. I was afraid I would never get another peaceful night’s sleep. There was a whole series of books by this author, and I remember the library having some of them. I don’t recall if I read any of the others, though. Probably learned my lesson with this one. On the other hand, knowing me, naah, probably not. I think I checked out at least one other book in the series, although I didn’t have as extreme a reaction to the contents. Continue reading