(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The narrator recalls his experience with ghosts on a winter night in a decaying English mansion that was built in the seventeenth century. He has been arguing with his brother over the existence of such supernatural creatures and defiantly offers to stay up all night to confront the ghosts that his brother claims haunt the house. The narrator drinks several cups of strong tea to stay awake and smokes cigars to stimulate his senses. He fully expects to see ghostly figures but firmly believes they will be figments of his own imagination.

At midnight a group of male and female ghosts appear dressed in the costumes of Jacobean aristocrats. Evidently they are former owners of this mansion and their relatives. The ghosts sit down, ignoring the narrator. Then a pack of “black creatures” bursts into the chamber. Although hideous monsters, they behave like devoted hounds. The narrator realizes that these creatures are “the filthy, immortal sins of those courtly men and women.” Each beast goes up to its master, who is forced to acknowledge the secret sin symbolized by the face-licking animal ghost. Several human ghosts have more than one nightmarish creatures competing for attention.

The narrator suggests that one of the female ghosts is guilty of murder and that two others, a lady and a courtier, may be guilty of adultery. Otherwise he does not name any specific sins but suggests through his descriptions of the monsters that the sins they...

(The entire section is 426 words.)