Smoke Ghost

Published in Unknown, October 1941

Catesby Wran rides the elevated home every evening from work. As of late, he has been seeing a black form on the Chicago rooftops like a sack of coal covered in soot. But every evening it is in a different spot. Has he seen a ghost? But not the ghosts of ghost stories, a new ghost for modern times:

And he had said 'I don't mean that kind of ghost. I mean a ghost from the world today, with the soot of factories on its face and the pounding of machinery in its soul. The kind that would haunt coal yards and slip around at night through deserted office buildings like this one. A real ghost. Not something out of books.'

The trouble is, he had an unusual childhood where his mom exploited him for his supposed clairvoyant powers. Is his mind playing tricks on him now, or is he more in tune with what else is out there in the city?

Smoke Ghost, published in 1941 is widely credited with reinventing the venerable ghost story for the modern urban setting–an intention declared on the very first page of the story (see the quote above).

Ramsey CampbellFritz Leiber was the father of modern supernatural horror fiction, and its greatest master. I'll stake my reputation on the belief that once “Smoke Ghost” was published, the field could never be the same again.


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