Defoe, a literary Detective Tale

While I don’t don a smoking jacket and puff a pipe while I tell you this, I do have a certain feeling of gratification on my findings in this literary mystery.

In the third issue of LampLight, JF Gonzalez talked in his “Shadows in the Attic” article called about a story by Daniel Defoe “The Ghost in All The Rooms.” As someone who usually takes JFG’s recommendations to heart, I went looking for this story.

And looking, and looking.

After much searching I found several collections that purported to be a ‘complete’ collection of Defoe’s work, and yet… nothing.

The Googles were not helping either, as they returned nothing on the matter.I collected as many editions of Defoe’s works I could find, reading through the table of contents of dozens of PDF files from Gutenberg, Google Books, even a site that had the complete collection online.

Finally, I found out that it was in two anthologies, The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories and The Anthology of Ghost StoriesĀ both edited by Richard Dalby. Naturally, both are out of print, but The Anthology of Ghost Stories was on Amazon, so I grabbed a used copy and awaited for the final clue to show up.

I had two opinions at this point: either Dalby renamed one of Defoe’s work to “The Ghost In All The Rooms,” or it was an excerpt from a larger work (which didn’t have the phrase “the ghost in all the rooms” in it).

I suppose there was a third option, that this piece was not by Defoe at all, and perhaps had been mistakenly attributed somewhere in the centuries since his death, but that seemed a bit too out there. I didn’t think this detective story would be that dramatic.

A few days later, the book arrived, the packaging ripped off, I made a brief stop at the TOC before heading to page 191 to see the story, “The Ghost in All the Rooms.” After reading, I went back to the Googles to see what I could find out.

The answer was option 2. “The Ghost In All The Room” is an excerpt from his multi-year investigation on ghosts entitled The History and Reality of Apparitions. Indeed, it is pulled straight from the text- the text not offering any break or pause to segregate it. I am not sure if Dalby himself made the split and title, or if this was a traditional excerpt from the longer work. Should I find out, I’ll update.

For those of you familiar, Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe. He also wrote a sequel to it, and a history of pirates. It is worthy of note that in this case, while “The Ghost in All the Rooms” is a ghost story, for Defoe it was non-fiction. This is an account of the supernatural, or at the very least, presented as such.

The more you know…