A short little story, but no less striking because of the length.
When we first encounter Arthur Kipps he seems quite happy, although he alludes to a terrible time he has endured in the past. A widower, he has re-married and lives with his wife and step-children in a beautiful house - retired from his work as a lawyer.
On Christmas Eve the stepchildren decide to tell Ghost stories and these stories stir Arthur's memory, memories of his time at Eel Marsh House and of the Woman in Black. Memories that prove that Ghosts are very real in his mind - not something to be joked about and made fun of.
Alice Drablow was not a liked woman, living on her own in her house in the middle of the marshes, Arthur being only one of 3 people at her funeral. But everyone in the village seems unwilling to speak about her - or her home and they fear for Arthur - who must spent time in the house sorting out her papers.
I've often thought that the most frightening things are those that you cannot see, but only hear. Arthur is driven to the very brink by visions of the woman in black, but pushed even further by the sounds of a pony and trap followed by a childs terrible screams. Why is the nursery door suddenly open - when before it was locked. What does it all mean? Why is the Woman In Black a source of terrible rage, pain and grief.
Will Arthur escape her focus?
Reading the book actually made me less likely to go and see the film or the play. Because I think that both of them will disturb me more than reading the book. It's all very well to imagine the rocking chair and a child in great distress. But to see and hear them I think would be too much. As would the epilogue to the story, my heart would break for Arthur.
It is a simple story, effectively told.