Funny Mystery Fiction

I am the best paranormal investigator in the world. You might call me a ghost hunter, but that would only reveal your own ignorance as to the subtlety of my work.

My job requires a unique blend of skills that very few possess: an incredible amount of cunning and creativity, an unexpected volume of physical prowess, and a great degree of empathy.

You see, exorcising a ghost is easy; the most common priest could do it. Catching a ghost on the other hand, now that, is a real talent, and of course, it’s one in which I have a one hundred percent success rate.

Recently I “retired”. I made sure as many people knew about it as I could. I submitted an article for publication in the national newspaper – ‘Legendary Paranormal Investigator Dr. Theodore Marten Hangs Up His Coat’. I extended invitations for my retirement party to everyone I knew, including my wife, who does her best to avoid hearing my name as much as possible these days. To top it all off I allowed Radio Five to have an exclusive interview, with none other than Yours Truly, to enlighten the public of the fact I will no longer be at their service.

Naturally, as planned, my phone rung off the hook for the next week with clients begging on their hands and knees for me to help them with one last ghostly conundrum. There were the usual cries of ‘There’s a banshee in my basement!’ or ‘I woke with ectoplasm on my earlobe!’ I ignored the vast majority of these as they were simply too trivial for one of my reputation, and instead referred them to a local agency, Ghost Flusters, who promised me nine percent of the fees for any referrals. They offered me five to begin with, but I charmingly negotiated my way to nine, which I feel I thoroughly earned with the amount of business I generated for them.

There was one call, however, which greatly intrigued me. When I asked the client to describe the symptoms of the haunting, they said the ghost of an ancient woman was causing lights to flicker, furniture to fly, and was leaving horrible slime all over the place. I will admit, I was rather alarmed, and when you have as much experience as I do, that is saying something. But, lacking my expertise, I don’t expect you to understand the significance; here let me explain.

Ghosts have limits to their powers. They fit into certain buckets. For example, you may have heard of poltergeists, banshees, ecto-mists, and spirits. How a ghost chooses to use its supernatural lifeforce will determine what characteristics it exhibits, and therefore which one of these buckets it fits into. What better way to bring this to life than detailing some of my own conquests?

My very first encounter after graduating from the prestigious Ghastly Grammar School, was with the conniving Poltergeist of Vanity Hall. Here is the thing with poltergeists: they convert all their supernatural energy into kinetic energy. They can be whirling multiple objects through the air, slamming doors and drawers, and throwing boiling water at you all at once. However, their most frustrating feature is that they use up all their energy doing this, and so they have none left to take on a visible form. To catch one is like trying to grasp a snake in the dark, whilst blindfolded.

Most graduates would have proceeded to merely step inside Vanity Hall, clap their hands, and banish the poltergeist. As you know, I am not most graduates, and have always desired to study ghosts instead of remove them from existence. Here is where I tell you one of my more cunning methods. The one thing a poltergeist respects is chaos. Therefore, to catch a poltergeist you have to create more chaos than it. Genius, I know.

So, I proceeded to wail and scream, I threw candlesticks, I threw chairs, I retrieved a hose and turned it on full blast. I think I outdid the antics of my wife that day, I even set fire to the curtains, she didn’t quite get round to that one! The Poltergeist of Vanity Hall had never seen such madness, it quietened down and immediately acknowledged my superiority.

Now, the second of my secrets, and one you simply must have if you are to be a successful investigator, is the ingenuity to inherit a large sum of money from your parents or grandparents. Without this you will be unable to make the essential purchase of an Ethereal Cage. This is what you need to transport a ghost once you have it bent to your will. Ghosts are tethered to their place of death; they can’t move far from it unless the bond is cut. There are only a handful of known Ethereal Cages in the world, but when a ghost enters one the tie to their deathbed is cut.

With the Poltergeist at my beck and call, it was simple to ask it to enter the cage and accomplish my task.

A ghost requiring a much more delicate touch is the ecto-mist. This rare and shy creature channels almost all of its energy into spewing forth piles of gooey ectoplasm. I believe it wants to be noticed, but it’s too embarrassed or self-conscious of its dead human form and so refuses to become a spirit. The slimy trails are what it thinks is the best alternative for getting in touch with our world. It does, however, keep a small part of its lifeforce to put on a hazy, cloud-like appearance. In this way, if it ever finds a friend in some wretched soul, they’ll at least know where it is.

The ecto-mist dwelling in Great Larmouth’s town gymnasium was an easy catch once I knew where it dwelt. I simply sat myself down in the centre of the large basketball court, rolled around in some piles of ectoplasm, commented out loud that it was the best smelling ectoplasm I had ever come across, and what do you know, the little goo-maker shows itself right next to me. I was careful though, one wrong step and it would disappear, so I told it how beautiful it looked today, and how I’d always wanted to befriend an ecto-mist. I like to imagine it went positively wobbly at the knees, as it was all too willing to climb into the Ethereal Cage.

Now, the final type of ghost I wish to describe to you is the spirit, and for this I will tell you of my finest conquest. This was how I really became the field-leading figure I am today: I captured the Ghost of Christmas Past. This notorious ghost is, in part, famous because it was previously untethered from its grave and so could go wherever it pleased! Sure, it also starred in several movies, but that’s less extraordinary.

But a spirit always has a purpose. It pours its energy into maintaining the image of who it was when it died in order to serve this purpose. I knew the Ghost of Christmas Past’s calling was to transform humbugs, the Christmas-haters of the world, into kind, generous people. So to get him to visit I had to become the most selfish scrooge out there. I moaned and moaned about Christmas for years on end, I gave all my relatives empty cardboard boxes for Christmas, and one year I even bought all the turkeys in my local store just so no one else could.

It took five years (it was around the third Christmas that my wife left), but he finally came for me. When it happened, I was almost too shocked to act. I admit I had become accustomed to the role I was playing, and even enjoyed concocting nefarious plans to ruin Christmas for others. So when he arrived, I was for a moment, genuinely moved that he thought I needed his help.

My plan was well prepared though; I had disguised my Cage and amid a flurry of ‘I see now what I have become’s and ‘How can I ever make this up to my family?’s I got him to follow me inside it. Distracted by the glittering conversation, he didn’t realise what I’d done until I had already leapt right through his corporeal form, out the door, and shut him inside.

By this point you are probably marvelling at my intellect and dedication. Now you understand why, when I got the call telling of a ghost that had the ability to throw objects, create ectoplasm and take on a spirit form, I was taken aback. I thought it must surely have an inordinate amount of lifeforce, it must be stronger than any I have ever seen or heard of.

The city of Cork, Ireland would be a long journey, but more than worth it. If I captured this ghost, I would go down in the annuls of history; there would be no paranormal investigator more widely celebrated, revered, and loved than I!

When I arrived at the decrepit townhouse, which my client had purchased and needed cleared, I felt unprepared for my adversary. How should I treat it when I found it? Dominate it with wild behaviour, show it tender care, or attempt to understand its purpose?

I tip-toed into the hallway, halting at every squeak of a floorboard, every whistle of the wind through the draughty walls. The electrics had long since corroded and the house was dark. A bead of sweat slid past my right cheekbone and dripped onto the floor. I reached to open the decayed wooden door at the end of the hall. Creeaaak. Crap! My hairs stood on end and my blood ran as ice at the noise.


I am one of the bravest paranormal investigators out there, but I think that moment was perhaps the closest I have come to soiling my trousers. But it turned out I needn’t have worried. I underestimated even myself, who would’ve thought it?

‘A…a friend!’ I squealed. ‘My name is Theodore Marten!’

A rush of cold air blew through the house, catching my flat cap and stealing it from my head. A spirit materialised out of thin air, not a metre in front of me. I felt how a mouse must feel every waking moment of its life, heart beating at a million miles an hour. She was old as time, even in death. She wore a dress which, long ago must have been made of rags, and her lined face looked…exalted?

‘It’s really you! You’re finally here at last!’ She cried.

I knew I had a large following, but I didn't expect my reputation to proceed me even here, in the supernatural community! I was naturally flattered. I was also, for once, stumped as to what to do next.

‘You must take me! Please, I have been chained to this house for so long. When word reached me that you had freed my husband, I knew that I had to find you!’

I managed to find my voice, hiding somewhere in my ribcage.

‘Wait, slow down. You want me to capture you? What are you talking about, your husband?’

‘Yes, yes…you have an Ethereal Cage! The only thing that can sever the tether, you know this! I heard that you had been in Great Larmouth and freed an ecto-mist there and I knew at once it was my dear Philip, he died there long before I moved here. He always was shy. Then, of course, once he was free, he found me here and confirmed what I suspected! You are a hero amongst our community Dr. Marten.’ 

‘My ecto-friend is… your husband Philip? Well, I never…This is great news! So you’ll freely come into the Ethereal Cage? But tell me, I’ve never heard of a ghost being able to take spirit form, as well as produced ectoplasm and interact with objects. How do you do it?’

She smiled mysteriously. ‘Ah, that was all part of the plan to get you here! Philip got the Poltergeist of Vanity Hall to help, and the three of us made such a hullabaloo, we knew you’d eventually hear about it.’

‘I see.’ At that moment I was bitterly disappointed; if the ghost of Cork was not an all-powerful spirit after all, I would not be getting the world-wide acclaim I had hoped for. But, I didn’t get to where I am without a healthy teaspoon of wiles.

‘Well, no one has to know.’ I said. ‘Pretend it was just you all along and I’ll take you out of here.’

After a moment of ghostly silence:

‘I can agree to that.’ She said with a gracious smile.


I’m revealing this final secret in the legacy of Dr. Theodore Marten to you now, because I am at last, actually retired. Before, I couldn’t do it; my house was quiet, and I couldn’t stand the loneliness. I had lived for many years with the rattling and yelling of my wife to keep me company after all. Now, however, I enter my home and I’m greeted by the rattling and yelling of all my friends instead. They may be a tad slimier and more transparent, but they are good company.

December 07, 2022 14:47

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Michał Przywara
21:36 Dec 12, 2022

Ha! How do you make a pompous ass also endearing? That second life tip about inheriting wealth was… well, everything. Arrogant, funny, and true. This piece has a good voice, and the ending is happy. Perhaps unable to fit in with humans, he has made friends with his ghosts, who it turns out respect him. The three short history scenes are amusing in their own right. They flesh out some needed details but aren't so long they derail things. I could see Marten having all sorts of other adventures, and naturally, I wonder if he'll leave a ...


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Graham Kinross
13:04 Feb 23, 2023

As others have said I feel like I shouldn’t like the MC but I do, that shows the quality of your writing.


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Rebecca Miles
06:44 Dec 11, 2022

Hello fellow Python. Fancied a chuckle this morning and you didn't disappoint. John Cleese as Nearly Headless Nick in the Harry Potter films was careering through my mind in this one and I love the nod to Ghostbusters in Ghostflusters. I think this would be great reworked to actually be the catching of Dickens's ghost of Christmas past. Or all of them for that matter! I think you could have lots of fun with Dr Marten running through A Christmas Carol, rattling the cage. Just a thought.


Edward Latham
07:26 Dec 12, 2022

Thanks Rebecca, I needed to write a more light-hearted story this week, after a couple of sad ones, so happy you found it amusing! I did have a couple of film versions of A Christmas Carol running through my head as I wrote it, would definitely be fun to delve into that more!


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Marty B
06:37 Dec 11, 2022

Some of the most successful men seem to have this same trait- '....the ingenuity to inherit a large sum of money from your parents or grandparents.' !!! Looking forward to hearing more about the grand adventures of Dr Marten!


Edward Latham
07:27 Dec 12, 2022

Yes quite the coincidence that, wouldn't you say? Thanks for reading, and glad you enjoyed Dr Marten!


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Delbert Griffith
17:59 Dec 09, 2022

I love Dr. Marten! I sort of warmed up to him, you might say. Great tale!


Edward Latham
10:49 Dec 10, 2022

Thanks Delbert! I wanted to try something with a bit more humour this week with a mystery twist too. Feel like perhaps it wasnt my best, but glad you enjoyed!


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AnneMarie Miles
15:43 Dec 14, 2022

This is a fun piece! I love all things supernatural and I love how everyone has a slightly different take on it, so it was nice to read through yours. You explained the Ethereal Cage and ecto-mist and ectoplasm so well. I particularly loved how Theodore is duped by his own ghost after self-proclaiming his own expertise, and then of course covering up the ghosts tricks to keep his reputation. This is such an enjoyable and funny story!


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Susan Catucci
18:07 Dec 12, 2022

I love this stuff! The imagery, the explanations, the inflated ego and, best of all, the connect with "the other side." All the pieces fit and was a fun and clever read. Great job!


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Mike Panasitti
00:28 Dec 09, 2022

First, a minor editorial comment - 6th paragraph down: "as much experience [as] I do." This was a charming story about different strategies for dealing with various kinds of ghostly presences, and capturing the one ghost that will crown a career, but turns out to be a more than willing catch. Good work.


Edward Latham
08:45 Dec 09, 2022

Thanks for catching that before the deadline Mike! Glad you enjoyed - I was trying to experiment with a bit of mystery genre, and a protag who perhaps isn't too likeable at first but gradually warms up


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