Phantoms at the Phil is a cute, small book of 92 pages collecting three stories commissioned for a Christmas ghost-story event that took place at a private Library in Newcastle upon Tyne in 2004. A delightful non-fictional introductory piece by Ramsey Campbell sets the tone by reporting his experience with domestic, friendly ghosts dwelling in his own house.
The first story, "The Custodian" by Sean O’Brien, features a fastidious scholar who, day in, day out, attends the local library to peruse volumes in order to complete a totally insignificant literary essay. A ghostly apparition and a haunted book will trap him forever in a much more demanding task. Written in an elegant prose, partly reminiscent of the classical Victorian ghost stories, partly of Kafka’s atmospheres, the tale is quite enjoyable, in spite of its rather strained final section.
"The Dusk Jacket" by Gail-Nina Anderson is a rather puzzling piece of fiction, involving an ailing landlord, an absent-minded tenant, a neglected rose garden and an odd booklet. Told in a delicate narrative style, it remains somehow unaccomplished and the spectre showing up in the last two pages seems a bit out of context. But it may well be that I haven’t fully grasped the meaning of this flimsy, obscure yarn.
Finally, in Chaz Brenchley’s "Another Chart of the Silences", the narrative ingredients are constituted by the cruel, haunted rocks on the sea coast luring ships and sailors to disaster and death, a friendship between a sailor and a teenager, and a cellular phone catching messages from Beyond. A modern, original ghost story, nicely blending elements from the past and the present.
Packaged with a CD recording the actual readings of the three stories during the literary meeting, the book can provide good entertainment and a few pleasant shivers to any genre fan.