Saturday 11 June 2011

Dave Allen – The Haunted House

You are going to
  1. listen to a "ghost story" with some comprehension questions
  2. read the text and match some vocabulary
  3. look at the structure of the text and use it to
  4. write a story

Dave Allen

The ghost story is told by Dave Allen
Dave Allen, was an Irish comedian who was very popular in Great Britain, Australia, and Canada.
Allen lost the top of his left index finger. Here he explains how it happened in a long story, ending with "something evil" attacking him in a dark and haunted cottage.

1) Before you watch

Look at these words from the story. 
The spirit world, a gravedigger, fright, a finger, a bet, a cottage, bit (bite)

Can you guess what the story is going to be about?  

2) Watch the clip
Answer these questions;
1. Where and when did this story take place?
2. What was Dave’s attitude to stories of spirits?
3. Dave accepted the dare or bet to stay in the cottage. Why do you think he did this?
4. Why did he feel afraid there?
5. How did he lose his finger?

Read the text to check your answers

"... Many years ago I was rather foolish. We were in the west coast of Ireland and we were in a barn and we'd had a couple of drinks and somebody started to talk about the unknown and the spirit world.

And the conversation came up about the gravedigger's house and the locals started to tell us about it. This gravedigger was found in his bed, dead, with terrible marks on his neck and his eyes wide open. The doctor said the marks had nothing to do with his death but that the man had died of fright. And... I scoffed, foolishly.

And it came about with a few more drinks that I accepted a dare or a bet that I would stay the night in the cottage beside the graveyard. I went there and we agreed that the door would be locked and I would stay in there until first light and I was locked in.

I don't know really what happens but I think a great deal of fear is in one's mind. It was dank. It was cold. The effects of the booze began to wear off and I began to think, "What in the name of God are you doing here?"  And I felt... I don't know what it was. It was an instinct. It was something stronger than me pulled me towards this bed where this man had died. And I was drawn... I fought against it but I was drawn nearer and nearer to this bed. And I was told somehow or other to sit on that bed. I didn't want to... and I did. An unnatural drowsiness came over me and I became very sleepy... and I lay down knowing full well that I shouldn't... and I went to sleep. A limbo sleep

I awoke. What time I have no idea. The candle had burnt down. It was black. It was cold and I felt a presence. I was completely sober by then and utterly terrified. The hackles on the back of my neck had begun to rise. I was paralysed by a presence of fear. I felt something on my chest begin to move. It crept slowly up my chest... and I couldn't move. It came closer and closer to my throat. I gathered all my willpower... as this thing came closer... and nearer... and I grabbed it! And it was wet and cold and I bit it! Aaaaaagh!!!  I screamed in pain! 

And that is how I lost my finger."

Answers - highlight below;
1.  Many years ago in the west coast of Ireland 
2.  He scoffed. He didn't believe them
3.  He was drinking and maybe to prove the stories were rubbish
4. The atmosphere (cold and dank) and his own thoughts - a great deal of fear is in one's mind... 
5. He bit it off.

3) Matching - Look at the text again. 
Can you match these words from the story with the definitions on the right. If you are not sure look at the text and try and guess. 
The first is done for you.

Dave says “a great deal of fear is in one's mind”. Look at the text again.
  • What vocabulary and expressions does he use to create an atmosphere of fear?
  • What tenses does he use?

Answers (highlight below) 
  • unknown, spirit, terrible, died of fright, dank, cold, an instinct, something stronger than me , drawn,  fought against, unnatural drowsiness, very sleepy, limbo, black, a presence, utterly terrified, the hackles on the back of my neck, paralysed by a presence of fear, crept slowly, wet, bit , pain 
  • Mostly past simple. Some past perfect (we'd had... ), indirect speech (agreed that...) and direct speech

4) Writing
 "A good storyteller never lets the facts get in the way."

This story is an example of a "shaggy dog story" (a long story that ends in a funny way).

Writing Task
Write your own shaggy dog story. It can be another ghost story or a similar story with some element of "fear" and tension. The end should be a simple comic sentence which breaks the tension of the story and makes people laugh.

Look at Dave’s story to help you plan.
Look at the paragraphs
  • How many paragraphs are there?
  • What is the function of each paragraph?

Answers - highlight below

1. Set the scene. Say when events happened. Describe the location.
2. Introduce characters and story
3. The story starts. Past Simple for narrative
4. The story continues. Description of feelings and thoughts. Create atmosphere of fear.
5. The story comes to a climax. Dave uses simpler and shorter sentences to create tension
6. Final sentence. Punchline / joke - tension is broken / end of story

    Task Check - In your writing you should demonstrate you know how to use
    Language of narrative and story-telling; 
    • Past tenses e.g. past perfect for describing the background to the situation
    • Simple past for narrating events
    • Past continuous for setting the scene
    • Adjectives for describing people and/or feelings
    • You can  include some direct speech
    When you finish check your spelling, grammar and punctuation.

    "Goodnight, thank you, and may your God go with you" - Dave Allen

    Worksheet + Answers


    1. Thank you very much for sharing this lesson. I made some changes to adapt it better to my students needs but it was super useful. It's a shame the vocabulary exercise is no longer available but we can't have it all, can we.
      Awesome, thanks again

      1. Thanks Dilvy, you can find the vocab exercise in the word doc above which you can download and adapthere