Class 10 English

A Shady Plot

Elsie Brown

Summary: This story is about a writer who writes ghost stories. The writer is assisted by a ghost; named Helen. Helen is a member of “Writer’s Inspiration Bureau” which helps those writers who do not have an idea how to write stories. But the ghosts are annoyed at people who play with Ouija boards. They are threatening to go on strike so that people would stop using Ouija boards. Helen comes to the writer with this message. But the writer’s wife has recently bought an Ouija board in a bargain sale. She drags her husband to participate in the Ouija game. The game does not reach its conclusion because it is disturbed by Helen; the ghost. Writer’s wife is quite angry with him and threatens to leave him forever. The writer’s cook also threatens to resign from her job because she is afraid of Ouija board. The writer’s wife is also angry because she suspected some affair between her husband and one of her friends during Ouija game. She tells the cook to get rid of Ouija board. After that; all of them are happy and back to their normal life. The ghost also leaves them forever. Finally, the writer gets a strong inspiration to work on his next assignment.

Given below is a list of words related to ghosts and ghost stories with their jumbled up meanings against them. Match the words/expressions with their correct meanings:


Apparitiona supernatural appearance of a person or thing, a ghost, spectre or phantom
Clairvoyancethe supposed power to see objects or events that cannot be perceived by the senses
Crystal Balla globe of quartz crystal in which images, believed to portend the future, are supposedly visible to fortune tellers
Eerieso mysterious, strange, or unexpected as to send a chill up the spine
Mediuma person through whom the spirits of the dead are alleged to be able to contact the living
Transmigrationto pass into another body after death: going from one state of existence or place to another
Psychiccapable of extraordinary mental processes, such as extrasensory perception and mental telepathy
Ouija Boarda spelling board device intended to communicate with and through the spirit world, obtaining answers to questions
Exorcista conjurer who expels evil spirits by conjuration
Premonitiona feeling of anticipation of or anxiety over a future event
Paranormalbeyond the range of normal experience or scientific explanation
Tarot Cardany of a set of 22 playing cards bearing allegorical representations, used for fortune telling
Vampirea reanimated corpse that is believed to rise from the grave at night to suck the blood of sleeping people
PoltergeistGerman word, meaning "noisy ghost"-a troublesome spirit that announces its presence with unexplainable sounds and the creation of disorder
Multiple Choice Questions:

The narrator earns his living by ………………………….

  • writing ghost stories
  • working as a reader for a magazine
  • working as a stenographer
  • working as an accountant in a lumber company

    Answer (a) Writing ghost stories (d) Working as an accountant in a lumber company

The writer was overconfident about his ability to write ghost stories because ……

  • whenever magazines wanted a ghost story, they got in touch with him
  • he was always able to write a ghost story whenever he had to write one
  • the readers appreciated his ghost stories
  • he knew the ghost lady would help him write a good ghost story

    Answer (b) He was always able to write a ghost story whenever he had to write one

The sight of the ghost materialising in his room filled the narrator with ………

  • fear
  • excitement
  • joy
  • anticipation

    Answer (d) anticipation

The ghost wanted John to …………………………………………..

  • stop his wife from using the Ouija board
  • stop using the Ouija board himself
  • stop his guests from using the Ouija board
  • stop people from using the Ouija board

    Answer (d) Stop people from using the Ouija board

John wants the ghost to disappear before his wife enters the room and waves his arms at the ghost with something of the motion of a beginner when learning to swim. His movement shows his

  • fear
  • amusement
  • desperation
  • anxiety

    Answer (c) Desperation

When the narrator says his wife is never so pretty as when she's doing something she knows he disapproves of, his tone is …………………….

  • amused
  • ironic
  • angry
  • irritated

    Answer (b) Ironic

The ghost says "It's all your fault. 'It' here refers to ………………………

  • the narrator's wife's anger
  • the ghost's anger
  • the narrator's wife leaving him
  • the ghost materialising in sections

    Answer (d) The ghost materializing in sections

Gladolia wishes to leave the narrator's house as ………………….

  • she does not like the Ouija boards
  • she is afraid of the ghost
  • she is afraid of magic and hoodoo
  • she likes Ouija boards and hoodoo

    Answer (c) She is afraid of magic and hoodoo
Answer the following questions briefly

What genre of stories does Jenkins want the narrator to write? Why?

Answer: Jenkins wants the narrator to write ghost stories. He wants them because ghost stories are very popular. Moreover, the ghosts in the narrator’s stories are highly convincing.

Does the narrator like writing ghost stories? Support your answer with evidence from the story.

Answer: The narrator does not like writing ghost stories. At the beginning, he admits that he writes them because Jenkins assigns him with writing ghost stories. The author is not sure about how he is able to come with such stories. The author also admits that he writes ghost stories because he needs money to pay for his expenses.

What makes Helen, the ghost, and her other co-ghosts organize The Writer's Inspiration Bureau?

Answer: Helen used to be a writer when she was in mortal life. But she was not able to write good stories which she appears to be repenting. She wants to help other authors so that they could write convincing ghost stories. Due to this, Helen and her other co-ghosts organize The Writer’s Inspiration Bureau.

Why had Helen, the ghost been helping the narrator write ghost stories? Why was she going on strike? What condition did she place for providing continued help?

Answer: The narrator fits the preconditions which an author should have for being eligible to be helped by the ghosts. His mind is blank (with no ideas) and impressionable enough for the ghosts to plant their thoughts in his mind. The ghosts were annoyed by growing popularity of Ouija boards because a game of Ouija used to disturb them frequently. Hence, the ghosts were going on strike. She would have continued to help the narrator if people gave up playing Ouija board.

How does the ghost undermine the narrator's faith in his ability to write ghost stories?

Answer: The ghost reveals that the narrator does not know how to write a ghost story. She tells the narrator how did she help him in his earlier assignments. She also tells that the highly convincing ghosts of his stories were because of inspiration from her only. Thus, the ghost undermines the narrator’s faith in his ability to write ghost stories.

Why does John want the ghost to disappear before his wife appears on the scene? What impression of his wife's character do you form from his words?

Answer: John does not want his wife to discover about the ghost. He is afraid that his wife would not approve him of talking to a ghost; especially a female ghost. His wife is too possessive about John. She is highly suspicious of John as if he may be having some illicit affair.

Why does the narrator hesitate to be a partner to Laura Hinkle during the Ouija Board Party?

Answer: The narrator does not like to play a game of Ouija. Moreover, he is also turned off by flirtatious attitude of Laura Hinkle. Hence, he hesitates to be a partner to Laura Hinkle during the Ouija Board Party.

What message does the ghost convey to the group that had assembled in the narrator's house? What is their reaction to the message?

Answer: The ghost tries to say that John has been a traitor as he could not prevent people in the room from playing Ouija Board. All the ladies are curious that someone named Helen was trying to give some message about John. The ladies begin to doubt John as if he is having some affair with Helen. Most of the ladies are amused but John’s wife is annoyed.

Do you agree with the narrator calling the assembly of women "manipulators?" Give reasons.

Answer: All the ladies were trying to force John in uncomfortable situation. They wanted to enjoy all the embarrassment which John must be going through. Hence, John has rightly said them as manipulators.

Why is John's wife angry? What does she decide to do?

Answer: Joh’s wife is angry because of two reasons. She is angry because John left the party midway. She is also angry because of the suspicion she had regarding John and Helen. She decides to talk to her lawyer for a probable divorce. She is planning to go to her grandmother’s place.

Why does John wish he were dead?

Answer: John is not happy after reading the threatening letter from his wife. He is dreading the thought of a life without his wife. Hence, his wishes he was dead.

When confronted by Lavinia about his flirtations over the Ouija Board, John insists that 'the affair was quite above-board, I assure you, my love'. Bring out the pun in John's statement.

Answer: Above-board means everything is done in a transparent manner and nothing has been hidden. Since Lavinia suspects that John was flirting with Hinkle; John tries to show that he did not do anything under the board. He candidly admits of doing some harmless mischief.

John's apprehensions about his wife's reaction to her encounter with the ghost are unfounded. Justify.

Answer: When Lavinia happens to meet the ghost see is neither scared nor surprised. She is not even angry at John. This shows that John’s apprehensions about his wife’s reaction to her encounter with the ghost are unfounded.

Answer the following questions in detail:

After her reconciliation with her husband, John Hallock, Lavinia writes a letter to her friend expressing how her relationship with him had almost been on the verge of breaking and what saved it. Write her letter.

Answer: Dear Laura,

Hope you are fine and enjoying your life to the fullest. I just felt sharing some of my secrets with my dearest friend, i.e. you.

I have just been saved a great deal of misfortune because of some misunderstandings between me and John. For the past many days I could hear John talking loudly when he used to be all alone in his room. I suspected that he must be talking to some lady. Things came to a boil when I found him openly flirting with one of my friends during Ouija Board Party at my home. I decided that I had enough of it and went on to live with my grandma. I also planned to consult a lawyer to carry out divorce proceedings. But thanks god that good senses prevailed and returned to sort out things with John. I discovered that John was talking to none but a ghost. It was the ghost from whom John used to get inspiration for writing his wonderful ghost stories. I just felt a pity on poor John. I just hugged him said sorry for suspecting him.

Now, everything is fine and we enjoying a life of bliss.



John Hallock reflects upon his experience with Helen's ghost and in retrospect he finds it quite amusing. All the same he is relieved that he is no longer plagued by it. Ironically, the self same ghost inspires his creativity and he writes a diary entry reflecting upon the comical aspect of his experience. Write his diary entry.

Answer:Day 1:

I must admit that I am also scared of ghosts, the way most of the people are. But when I saw this ghost I could not control my laughter. She appeared in installments and never came as a whole package. She looked more like a boring librarian than a ghost. She is scary but not in the sense ghosts are. Her preacher like demeanor really scared me.

Day 2:

She can be quite annoying at most of the time. Today she crossed all limits when she almost gave away my secret to all the ladies at the party. She began calling me a traitor as if I had had promised something to her. She should understand that a meek husband like me cannot even have control on my wife then how does she expect me to control and guide all other ladies.

Day 3:

Finally the ghost has left me for better. I am a highly relieved man now. I no longer need to fear the watchful eyes of my wife.

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