This is an example of the kind of free ebook that I'll find online without really looking for it. And by free I mean you can both read it online in your browser and download a copy to keep, depending on your preference. In this case it's a book I found while reading Necropolis (warning, link to long review), which led me to a wikipedia entry, where I bumped into a link to Haunted Houses: Tales of the Supernatural, with Some Account of Hereditary Curses and Family Legends by Charles G. Harper, published in 1907.
You can find it for free here on Archive.org, same copy is here at Open Library - while Amazon sells it for $1.50, [insert eyeroll here]. Here's a link if you want to read the original book pages' scan online at Archive.org (you can also see if you'll get any delay in page loading and whether that'll bother you). While you can't carry it around as easily as an ereader, this version does allow you to see the illustrations in their original layout with the text (you often can't quite tell much about this in ebook versions). Plus you can quickly get an idea if this is the kind of book you want to bother to download.
Many of the scans at Archive.org and Open Library exist thanks to that Google project with various university libraries to scan old, out of copyright texts - and in this case I know I never would have seen this particular book without its online presence. While I'm always one who loves browsing through books in the ghost stories section of the library, by the time I go to my local library this month I'll have forgotten my interest in this book. (I bump into new book references like this on a daily basis.) The only problem I have with a lot of the Google scan/Archive.org ebooks is that - with the ebook version for kindle (mobi) at least - there are scanning errors, sometimes a lot of them. This can happen when the scanning software and a book's font don't play nicely, and so some letters are misread. An "s" will be a 5, "up" turns into "vp," "voyage" is instead "voyi^e, "Haunted" becomes "Haimted" - and none of these problems happen consistently. Those are all examples from Haunted Houses, but I should quickly add that this isn't the first book I've found with such problems, or the book with the worst ones. It also won't cause me to put down the book - that depends on how frequent the problem is and how much I like what I'm reading.
[Added later, because, grrr: if you want to see what the miss-scan looks like go to the Amazon version, then check out the Look Inside preview. It had NOT occurred to me that they'd charge $1.50 and then NOT fix this problem, because it's insanely obvious - it's there on page one! Just, argh. Also, grrrr. I sent Amazon an email about it, but I doubt anything will change.]
I'm sharing this because I came to a point in my reading that made me say "ah ha, ok at this point I'm sticking with this author, despite the scan issues." And so I have a fun quote to pass along.
I'd been somewhat on the fence about the author/illustrator of the book, Charles G. Harper, ever since the Preface. He's the sort of author of collected ghost tales who genuinely thinks they exist, and that there are no other explanations for some of the tales that he considers "true." Like any author with a premise they want to push, that can get kind of old, especially if the author uses all the stories as a comment on "are ghosts real." Harper's definitely not as pushy as some spiritualists of his time that I've read (and for some it was definitely a religion). For me the quote that made the difference was one that I found amusing, because his previous joking asides hadn't really phased me.
14% in, discussing Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire - the house:
"...had a particularly devilish contrivance in the shape of a passage that led directly, without warning, into the deep waters of the silent moat. In the days when Baddesley Clinton was new, it was only with the utmost discretion that one visited such county houses, and never at all if one's host had anything to gain by one's disappearance.
"What was that?" a guest might ask, when that undesirable other guest had been artfully induced to stray into the moat, instead of walking into the banqueting-hall, and with a splash had gone to a particularly noisome death in the sewage-charged waters. (For we must recollect that in the "good" old days manor-houses, granges, and noble castles and mansions of every kind drained directly into the moats that surrounded them.)
"Only a fish," the host would reply; but the strayed guest nevermore appeared; and we may shrewdly suppose that the other who heard that splash made haste to quit so chancy a lodging."
Actually the author could have stopped at the end of the first paragraph - but I quoted the rest to give you an idea of how chatty he is. Anyway, that was enough to keep me reading for a bit longer. That and his artwork - I do like his sketches (I keep wondering if he did any in watercolor). We'll see if I actually finish the book or if it lingers and dies in the Still Reading list.
Random question, do British day trippers still go for brisk 5 mile walks like this one to Baddesley? Americans hike, but that usually doesn't involve nice strolls from village/farmhouse to stately home. Well, maybe on the eastern coast of the US, where places are a tad closer together. Finding a walk like that in the US would take a great deal of research and route-planning, especially the farther west you go.
Oh and if you wondered about me and the ghost belief thing - because I do have a shelf full of anthologies on ghosts - I'm not one to say something "never could" exist due to the fact that I've grown up actually reading all those ghost stories. Traditionally the person who loudly (and obnoxiously) proclaims ghosts never have and never will exist always comes to an unfortunate end. Lesson learned! Similarly, Looney Tunes taught me not to make sweeping statements about anvils falling from the sky, because, hey, you never know. ...Well it was either a Looney Tunes reference or Scream - the first one where the characters critiqued other horror films by discussing Let's Not Do Dumb Things We've Seen In Those Movies That Resulted in Death (that was the first Scream, right? I haven't seen that film in ages, I may be referring to the wrong one in the series). And also the "more things in heaven and earth" Hamlet quote (Act 1, scene 5) is wildly overused.