Climax for a Ghost Story

by I. A. Ireland

Avon Fantasy Reader #1 February, 1947
Avon Fantasy Reader #1
February, 1947

I first encountered "Climax for a Ghost Story" on the last page of the first issue of Avon Fantasy Reader. No information was given about the author in the introductory notes and there was no copyright notice for the story in the indicia. This led me to believe that:

Author identities, however, are always a source of great fascination for me and I began to dig around to see exactly who I. A. Ireland was and what else he (or she) had written.

After a lot of searching, I discovered a biographical reference for I. A. Ireland that originally appeared in Antologia de la Literatura Fantástica, edited by Jorge Luis Borges, Adolfo Bioy Casares, and Silvina Ocampo. Released in 1940 in Argentina, the book has been translated several times, with the current English language edition titled The Book of Fantasy. In the introduction to "Climax for a Ghost Story" (titled in the anthology as "Ending for a Ghost Story"), the editors present this biography of Mr. Ireland:

I. A. Ireland, English savant born in Hanley in 1871. He claimed descent from the infamous impostor William H. Ireland, who had invented an ancestor, William Henrye Irlaunde, to whom Shakespeare had allegedly bequeathed his manuscripts. He published A Brief History of Nightmares (1899), Spanish Literature (1900), The Tenth Book of Annals of Tacitus, newly done into English (1911).

In addition, the "Sources and Acknowledgements" section in the English language version of The Book of Fantasy lists a title, Visitations (1919), as the source of the Ireland story while a Spanish language reprint of the 1940 edition goes even further, and credits Ireland as the author of Visitations.

Now, while this would seem to settle the matter, there are a couple of facts that need to be considered:

All this might lead one to believe, as some have suggested, that I. A. Ireland was simply a small joke fabricated by Srs. Borges, Casares and Ocampo, particularly due to the reference to William H. Ireland in the author's biography. But, there is still one bit of information that might point in another direction.

Avon Fantasy Reader #1 came out in February, 1947, although the actual month of its release is only assumed. Antologia de la Literatura Fantástica was first published in 1940 with the text in Spanish and was not translated into English until 1971. This leads to the question, how would Wollheim have been familiar with "Climax for a Ghost Story" if it were a fabrication of the Antologia's editors?

There is no easy answer to this mystery and, unless more information should surface, a mystery it will remain. Suffice to say, whatever its origins, "Climax for a Ghost Story" is an entertaining fragment (I hesitate to call it a story) and we hope you enjoy it.

Bob Gay
April, 2013
Introduction © 2013 by Bob Gay

"How eerie!" said the girl, advancing cautiously. "—And what a heavy door!" She touched it as she spoke and it suddenly swung to with a click.

Good Lord!" said the man. "I don't believe there's a handle inside. Why, you've locked us both in!"

"Not both of us. Only one of us," said the girl, and before his eyes she passed straight through the door, and vanished.

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