‘A Thousand and One Ghosts,’ by Alexandre Dumas

This was an excellent book to start my traditional Halloween-season habit of reading about ghosts, vampires and weird supernatural events.

It’s a slim volume, but packed full of Dumas’ style. When reading his works, I often feel as though I am seated by a fireplace listening to a charming host reciting his takes on history and the famous people of his day. That feeling is strongly enhanced in this book, as the narrator is Dumas himself. Here, he recalls a lunch he attended in his 27th year, after being party to an investigation of a decapitation.

The murderer claims his wife’s severed head spoke to him. This, naturally, becomes a topic of lunch conversation later as a skeptical doctor poses doubts about any supernatural events while others begin telling of their own experiences of apparitions, talking heads, vampires and demons.

There are not a thousand and one ghosts in this book; the name harkens to “A Thousand and One Nights,” another collection of fanciful tales alluded to by Dumas in this story. There are plenty of ghostly tales related, however, and you can pass a couple of pleasant nights enjoying them.

Because this is Dumas, these tales include intrigues, romances, bandits, secrets, bits of history — all the things for which Dumas is known. It is likely that the fictional discussions of science and the occult in this book mirror actual parlor conversations Dumas participated in while making the rounds of French society. I think any reader who has enjoyed “The Three Musketeers” or “The Man in the Iron Mask” would love this book.

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