E.F. Benson (1867-1940) is probably best known today for his sparkling, comic "Lucia" novels. In his own day it was his ghost stories which were his most popular works. The Sanctuary exemplifies Benson's fine literary style and his ability to create the most frightening of supernatural and macabre tales, this one being particularly disturbing.
While searching for the annual "Ghost Story for Christmas," I came across this almost forgotten Benson tale. While it isn't a good choice for my purposes, it is an incredibly good story indeed.
It has the same menacing atmosphere of M. R. James' "Lost Hearts" with a touch of "The Residence at Whitminster" and a dash of Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw." That is to say, we worry about innocence and youth in the presence of corrupting influence, and how far that influence will go.
There are so many visuals here that would lend the story to a brilliant teleplay treatment. (For all I know, it has been done already). An old estate, the pool and the Judas Tree, the strange characters, the luxurious vestments...all combine to form a vivid and unforgettable picture of a place and time. "Thou art a priest forever..."
Benson sometimes "overexplains" in his ghost stories, but he does that less so here, and to good effect.
Roy Macready's narration is excellent. I really enjoy his characterizations and his voice. Well done.
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