All literate Horror marks know that Mary Wollstonecraft (soon to be Mary Shelley), Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, John Poildori, and Claire Clairmont were vacationing at Villa Diodati at Lake Geneva in Switzerland during the “haunted summer” of 1816 when, stuck inside by the lousy weather caused by a recent volcanic eruption and after reading a collection of ghost stories, Byron proposed the contest wherein they would each compose their own ghost story. This contest led Polidori to create THE VAMPYRE and Mary (by that point) Shelley to write FRANKENSTEIN. But what were those ghost stories they were reading that inspired the fateful contest? It was a collection called FANTASMAGORIANA, aka TALES OF THE DEAD, a French compilation of German ghost stories, written by various authors, first published in 1812.
There have been numerous different editions of the work released in the years since, and even before; an altered version was translated into English in 1813 by Sarah Brown Utterson. I recently procured a modern translation for myself, purportedly containing all the original tales as read by the Shelleys, Byron, et al. I plan to review each story as I read it. The first one will be “L’Amour Muet,” aka “Dumb Love,” aka “The Spectre-Barber.” Tune in for that one next week.