31 Shots of Shock: #13 – ‘The Man in the Bell’ by William Maginn

31 Shots of Shock *Title: The Man in the Bell by William Maginn
Date Read: 13 October 2009
Available Online?: YES
Briefly: Having climbed the bell tower to remove a silencer from the bell’s clapper, the narrator finds himself trapped beneath the bell as it begins to ring out. Immobile in his terrifying position – an inch of being crushed by the moving bell, and having to bear the intolerable peal of the bell as it rings, the narrator relates the whole terrible ordeal.
Afterthoughts: What can I say? An absolutely superb story. I’ve never been close enough to a church bell to have ever considered it in any way detrimental to my health and well-being. And after reading Maginn’s chilling tale from 1821, neither would I ever want to be. Claustrophobia, anxiety, stress, and abject terror feature prominently in this tale and there’s not even a ghostly presence in sight. A real Gothic goody!
Notable Quote: Over me swung an immense mass of metal, one touch of which would have crushed me to pieces; the floor under me was principally composed of crazy laths, and if they gave way, I was precipitated to the distance of about fifty feet upon a loft, which would, in all probability, have sunk under the impulse of my fall, and sent me to be dashed to atoms upon the marble floor of the chancel, a hundred feet below.

Rating: ★★★★☆

*Story read as part of my 31 Shots of Shock reading challenge.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).


  1. Great choice. Although Maginn was predominantly a humourist rather than a horror writer (i think that “man in the bell” is the only horror story he ever attempted), i recommend “Bob Burke’s Duel” and “A Vision of Purgatory” (both are online). A collected edition of his writing is long overdue. best, tychy.

    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

      Apologies for the late reply. Thank you for the additional Magiin recommendations. I’ll be sure to check them out