Long Unseen By Readers, H.G. Wells Ghost Story Finally Debuts In Print The Strand Magazine is publishing the story, which languished unread for decades. The magazine's managing editor says it was Wells' "indecipherable" handwriting that gave the story away.
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Long Unseen By Readers, H.G. Wells Ghost Story Finally Debuts In Print

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Long Unseen By Readers, H.G. Wells Ghost Story Finally Debuts In Print

Long Unseen By Readers, H.G. Wells Ghost Story Finally Debuts In Print

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/503362764/503489446" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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(SOUNDBITE OF BOOK, "THE HAUNTED CEILING")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Reading) Don't you see it? He said. See what? The thing. The woman.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

H.G. Wells' eerie writing brought us time machines, a red room, aliens and now a haunted ceiling.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOOK, "THE HAUNTED CEILING")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Reading) Well, for the last six months, it's been coming through again more than ever. I've not said a word to anyone, thought it was my fancy, but it's getting a bit too vivid. Just the same turn of the head, just the same glare in the eyes, just the same gash. It'll drive me mad. May I be permitted, began Bordel (ph) interrogatively. It's his ceiling, said I, haunted.

WERTHEIMER: That's a bit of H.G. Wells' newly discovered short story, "The Haunted Ceiling." The story is about to be published for the first time. It's about a man being driven mad by the image of a dead woman, throat slit, which has appeared on his ceiling. The story will be published by The Strand Magazine with this year marking Wells' 150th birthday. Andrew Gulli, managing editor of The Strand, found the story, and he joins us now. Welcome.

ANDREW GULLI: Thanks a lot. It's great to be here.

WERTHEIMER: So this manuscript was hidden. Where did you find it? How did you find it?

GULLI: There's an interesting story about this manuscript. In fact, tens of thousands of pages of H.G. Wells' works have been in the University of Illinois for the past 62 years. Professor Gordon Ray, who was an expert on H.G. Wells, persuaded the university to buy the papers from the Wells estate in the 1950s because he was interested in working on the letters of H.G. Wells and biography of H.G. Wells. And it's been there for a very, very long time, yet for some reason nobody knew anything about this story.

I contacted some of the - two most famous H.G. Wells scholars. And usually, foreign published works, you'll speak to a scholar and they'll say, well, yeah, I knew about that. But in this case, they were shocked because they had never even heard anything about this. So to me, that was very, very exciting because it's one thing to publish something where - 15 people on Earth know about. But it's another thing to publish something where it's just me and the librarian and H.G. Wells.

WERTHEIMER: Did it give you pause that they knew nothing about it? I mean, was there something surprising or different about it?

GULLI: If this was a typewritten manuscript, it would give me a long pause. But when I showed these copies of these manuscripts to these Wells scholars, they were able to verify that this was the very undecipherable handwriting of H.G. Wells.

WERTHEIMER: So it was his handwriting in the end that sold them?

GULLI: Exactly. It was his handwriting. It was the style in that you have this vintage Wells nameless narrator. A lot of his, you know, most well-known characters are nameless. But his writing ended up becoming the one thing that they said was - they said, OK, we can tell that this is an original from his writing. And I went myself independently and I looked at the manuscript of "The Time Machine," and it had that similar type of writing that was a nightmare to transcribe.

WERTHEIMER: (Laughter) So do you have a favorite part?

GULLI: I do. This one really, I felt, was a very, very powerful piece, very well done. Perfect cozy winter reading about a ghost and about - three people are trying to get to the bottom of something that's very supernatural.

WERTHEIMER: Andrew Gulli of The Strand Magazine. Thank you very much for sharing this with us.

GULLI: It was my pleasure. Always a pleasure.

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