Harper's New Monthly Magazine,  9 (1884–85), 143–52.

A Dead Man's Face

Hugh Conway, pseud.  [Frederick J Fargus]


Short Fiction


Supernaturalism, Psychology, Mental Illness

    Claud Morton, the younger brother of the narrator, insists that since his engagement to the beautiful widower Judith Despard he has been haunted by a terrible ghostly face. His brother, who is a medical doctor, regards it as only a 'queer hallucination' that has probably been brought on by 'Overwork, [...] insomnia, too many cigars, late hours', and to reassure Claud's fiancée he gives her 'a little scientific discourse, which explained to her how such mental phenomena were brought about' (145–46). When the wedding of Claud and Judith is disrupted by the appearance of the ghostly face, even the sceptical narrator sees it 'gradually forming out of nothing, gathering on the blank wall in front of me, a face, or the semblance of a face, white, ghastly, horrible!', but he still tries to believe that 'excitement, my brother's impressive manner, superstition which I did not know I possessed—anything that might bear a natural explanation—may have raised that vision' (148). The spectral face turns out to be that of Stephen Morton, the elder, dissolute, and long-ago disowned brother of Claud and the narrator, but also the cruel and abusive husband of Judith, who had murdered him several years before. After the abortive wedding Judith and Claud part for ever, and the evil face begins to haunt Judith alone, who, at the conclusion of the tale, is 'removed to a private lunatic asylum' where she is kept for three years and then dies 'raving mad' (152).

© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020

Printed from Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical: An Electronic Index, v. 4.0, The Digital Humanities Institute <http://www.sciper.org> [accessed ]