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Last Updated on August 20, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 448

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Professor Parkins, a Cambridge biology instructor, possesses decidedly inflexible and principled views on the supernatural. When another professor offers to come with Parkins on his golf holiday in order to keep the ghosts away from him, Parkins primly replies,

I freely own that I do not like careless talk about what you call ghosts. A man in my position . . . cannot, I find, be too careful about appearing to sanction the current beliefs on such subjects.

As a professor whose career hangs on his expertise and knowledge of the natural world, Parkins is unwilling even to consider (even to laugh at a joke about) the existence of anything that cannot be empirically proven to exist: ghosts, God, magic, and so on. As a result of his excessive prudence and rigidity, the narrator calls Parkins "something of an old woman—rather henlike, perhaps, in his little ways." He has no sense of humor and utterly lacks imagination but is quite sincere, so he ought to at least earn readers' respect, according to the narrator.

On the first night of his vacation in Burnstow, Parkins blows a whistle he found, and a frightful wind begins to blow. The next day, his golfing companion, Colonel Wilson, remarks that some might say that someone had whistled for the wind. Parkins calls this a superstition, but the colonel responds,

my experience is, mind you, that there's generally something at the bottom of what these country-folk hold to, and have held to for generations.

According to the colonel, people from several different countries believe that one can whistle to call up a freakishly strong and sudden wind, but Parkins still refuses to believe in this. Even as stranger and stranger things begin to happen—the tangling of the sheets on a bed he does not use, the sighting of a mysterious figure in his room, strange new dreams he cannot explain—Parkins holds to his principles. Ultimately, it takes a face-to-face experience with a horrifying spirit that creates its body from bed linens, an experience that almost results in Parkins leaping from his upper-story window, for him to reconsider his beliefs. The narrator says,

the Professor's views on certain points are less clear cut than they used to be. His nerves, too, have suffered: he cannot even now see a surplice hanging on a door quite unmoved, and the spectacle of a scarecrow in a field late on a winter afternoon has cost him more than one sleepless night.

At last, when faced with empirical evidence of the existence of the supernatural, Parkins develops some flexibility in his beliefs. It's only a shame it took such a terribly frightening experience for him to do so.

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