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Ghost and Horror Stories

17 years ago

I've been in a reading funk lately, so I thought I would peruse some short stories to ease my way back into novels and such. I picked up The Arbor House Celebrity Book of Horror Stories, which is an anthology of tales, each suggested by a particular celebrity who supposedly knows a lot about the horror genre. Each wrote a short introduction about why they chose the story they did and how it affected them upon first reading -- for instance, Isaac Asimov's choice is "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad" by M.R. James.

The usual suspects, such as "The Turn of the Screw" and three of Edgar Allan Poe's stories, show up, but several I had never read before. Of the twenty stories, I was really only taken with one, John Cheever's "The Enormous Radio" that was suggested by Rona Jaffe, though Ms Jaffe admits she's not sure that Cheever wrote it as a horror story. A couple of the others I really didn't get at all, and that's really the purpose of my thread.

Horror is much like humor, I suppose -- subjective. The thing about this particular collection of stories is that I can see a certain creepiness about them, but I didn't find any of them particularly scary. Maybe I'm too old to be frightened by stories, but I hope not! After all, it was only a few years ago that I read Susan Hill's The Woman in Black and that one gave me serious crawlies.

Okay, Joyce Carol Oates had the audacity to suggest one of her own stories, a thing titled "Queen of the Night." If anyone has read this and understands it, I would surely love for you to elucidate. And I don't know what to make of Robert Hichens's "How Love Came to Professor Guildea," either. Stephen King's "The Mangler," from Night Shift, struck me as more paranoiac than scary.

I enjoy horror stories -- especially the ghostly variety -- so I would appreciate suggestions of some real doozies...anyone have any? I think you all could probably top these so-called connoisseurs. :-) I'm particularly interested in individual stories that floored you.

Comments (48)

  • 17 years ago

    Well, I'd suggest H.P. Lovecraft's works. They're not really ghost stories but they are horror stories. Here's a link to electronic copies of his complete works.

    I don't think any of his works is particulary scary but boy, they can be VERY creepy. I'd love to know what you guys think of Lovecraft's works.

    Here is a link that might be useful: The Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft

  • 17 years ago

    Good point, Dynomutt! While I enjoy the occasional horror or ghost story, they don't usually scare me - the one exception being H.P.Lovecraft's Dreams in the Witch House which I found very unsettling. That was twenty years ago, though. I'll need to re-read it to see if it still has that effect! Full text to be had on the site below, if you're curious (but don't blame me if it gives you nightmares).

    Many Lovecraft stories rely on telling you that something was unspeakably awful, cyclopic (there's an awful lot of cyclopicity in Lovecraft's universe) or quite simply sent people stark raving mad in an instant.

    Frieda, I wish I could get hold of the book you refer to - would like to check out the stories you mention - unfortunately it's not in print here, and only available rather expensively from Amazon marketplace.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Dreams in the Witch House

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  • 17 years ago

    Thanks, dynomutt and anyanka, for the links to the Lovecraft stories. I have read "The Dunwich Horror" and "The Call of Cthulhu" and "The Rats in the Wall," though it's been too long for me to remember much about them except that, yes, they are creepy! I'll read "Dreams in the Witch House," anyanka, and let you know what I think.(there's an awful lot of cyclopicity in Lovecraft's universe)Do you mean his stories are teeming with one-eyed monsters? Sorry, if I'm dim, but that's the only meaning of cyclopic that I know.

    I looked online for the stories that appear in the book I cited above, but I found nothing but the chestnuts. The link below is to "How Love Came to Professor Guildea." I understand the point of the story, and I can imagine the being that is so described and the parrot's reaction -- it's all effectively unsettling, to use your very apt choice of a word, anyanka -- but somehow the tale doesn't quite work, for me, though I need to analyze it some more before I can tell why.

    I'm trying to think of a story -- I think it might be by Isak Dinesen -- about a certain night of the year that young women look into their mirrors to see the men they will marry. Does this ring any bells for you? I can't recall if it's really a horror story or a folktale, but there was something about it that made me leery of mirrors for a couple of days -- I just can't remember what!

    Have you read any of Edith Wharton's ghost stories? I tend to forget just how many famous -- and considered great -- writers have tried their hands at ghost and horror tales...Ambrose Bierce and Mark Twain, too. Garson Kanin suggested Twain's "Cannibalism in the Cars" for its "sardonic humor and genuine terror." I had never read it before.

    Here is a link that might be useful: How Love Came

  • 17 years ago

    I've actually heard of folktales about mirrors late at night and seeing the person you're supposed to marry. In the version I heard, I think you're supposed to carry a lighted candle in front of a mirror at midnight. You're supposed to see the person you'll marry next to you. I don't remember anything about doing this at a specific date ........

    That being said, I wouldn't be surprised if you're supposed to do it sometime around Easter Sunday (actually, probably late on Good Friday or Black Saturday) or around Halloween.

    Oh, hold on. I do (kind of) remember something about some incantation you're also supposed to chant to get the thing to work.

    I think anyanka meant cyclopean as in large or huge structures. Now that you mention it, I do remember Lovecraft describing landscapes dominated by huge, massive, and oppressive stone buildings. Well, that and monsters with weird unpronounceable names (and unspeakable features).

  • 17 years ago

    Frieda, regarding mirrors, I think the time to worry is when someone looks into one and sees no reflextion staring back at them.

    I am afraid I have no appetite for horror stories or anything that leaves me feeling 'uncomfortable' and dare say were I to subject myself to the analyst's couch there would be some deep and dark problem in my psyche, probably going back to some pre-birth uterine experience. And no doubt any psychologist worth his salt could come up with a convincing line as to why some people get a kick out of horror/extreme violence etc.
    On the other hand . . . our well-respected daily paper has a weekly column by a doctor who writes about 'interesting' cases, often things that haven't be dealt with by everyday medical procedures (usually because modern medics are too pre-occupied in handing out pills and filling in forms) and he is dealing with readers who are giving him eg's of the powers (for want of a better word) of small children, who might suddenly say, while happily playing in the sand-pit "Oh, Granny has just died" and later it is found to have been true and happened at just that time.
    I have heard of a couple of eg's myself and wonder if I am being 'simple' in believing the 'teller'?

  • 17 years ago

    Frieda, I'm not surprised that you are baffled by the word 'cyclopean' (I read Lovecraft in German when I was younger, which is why I mistranslated it as 'cyclopic'). So was I. The word is used excessively to describe landscapes and buildings, as Dynomutt says.

    Oh, I just checked it on Bartleby - the definition there is
    1. often Cyclopean Relating to or suggestive of a Cyclops: a great Cyclopean monocle. 2. Very big; huge: has a cyclopean ego. 3. Of or constituting a primitive style of masonry characterized by the use of massive stones of irregular shape and size.

    Same as you, I couldn't get away from the one-eyed association though!

  • 17 years ago

    Ambrose Bierce wrote dozens of horror stories, many of them very short indeed. Here is one that has received attention lately because of its mention in the TV show "Lost."

    Here is a link that might be useful: An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

  • 17 years ago

    I've always found it kind of funny that I love Gothic fiction, but I've never read that much Horror. Not sure why. Maybe because whatever I read or do during the day plays itself over and over in my head as I go to sleep at night and I find some things too unsettling. I can handle the supernatural tales; it's the tales of crimes humans commit against one another than truly scare me.

    Does anyone remember Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Birthmark"? That was a good one that has always stood out for me. F. Marion Crawford wrote a few that make good sit- around-the-campfire type ghost stories. "The Screaming Skull" is one of his. I also like Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" (probably more gothic than pure horror, though).

    Has anyone read Danielewski's "The House of Leaves"? I've had that book in my TBR pile for several years now. The narrative is experimental and can be difficult to read, so I've put off reading it. It seems to have a cult following, though. I bought it because I love his sister's album, Haunted. His sister sings under the name of Poe.

  • 17 years ago

    I recall reading Karen Blixen's "Seven Gothic Tales" and finding them distinctly unsettling, but not it the same way as Susan Hill's "Woman in Black."

    If there were more authors in the vein of D. du Maurier, e.g. "Don't Look Now", "The Birds",etc. I'd be hooked.

  • 17 years ago

    Poe?! Poe is the sister of a Gothic writer?! Now THAT explains a lot! And I also love that album of hers. Specifically, I love that song "Hey Pretty". Quite a nice tune with interesting lyrics.

    By the way, if you like Gothic fiction, see if you can find English translations of the works of an author named Jose Rizal. He has two novels : Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. You should be able to find English translations through the usual sources.

  • 17 years ago

    Georgia peach, I read House of Leaves when it first came out. I think Newsweek did an article on it back then about the writing style. There are some genuinely hair-raising moments in the book and it was a good read, although it seems that it was a little long. And Poe's Haunted is one of my favorite cds. In fact, I just listened to it this morning. Eerie coincidence. And an eerie cd as well. There are times it gives me goosebumps.

    Haunted is actually intended to be a companion of sorts to House of Leaves, if I'm not mistaken. One of the songs especially (5 & 1/2 Minute Hallway) is obviously inspired from her brother's book. I think there are further references to the book in the liner notes of the cd. Also, I've read that both Haunted and House of Leaves were Poe and her brother's way of saying goodbye to their father. And if you really like Poe's voice, check out the work she has done with Conjure One, particularly the song Center of the Sun. It's absolute perfection. Make a Wish is also wonderful.

    Susan Hill's The Woman in Black still gives me goosebumps when I think about it. Martin gets the kudos for recommending that one. It's become one of my favorites.

  • 17 years ago

    Umm, I just finished "Dreams in the Witch House," so I'm collecting my thoughts as I write.

    anyanka, when I read the definition you provided for cyclopean, I remembered "Cyclopean walls" from various archaeological descriptions of sites (especially the ones of the ruins at Lake Titicaca in Bolivia), and I, at one time, knew that they were so named for the giant in "The Odyssey." But mythology has never stuck in my brain for very long. Of course, when I ran across Cyclopean in Lovecraft's text, I did an Aha! Thanks for pointing it out because I would've glided right over it otherwise.

    What with this story and "Rats in the Walls," can we infer that Lovecraft had a rodent phobia? I have no fondness for the critters, but -- and this is very much where the subjectivity of horror comes in -- I don't think they are particularly scary, except perhaps as vectors of the plague or other diseases. As familiars of demons...I can understand how that got started, rats being nocturnal and elusive.

    Heh! I see what you mean about Lovecraft's penchant for unpronounceable names; something he seems to share with sci-fi writers.

    All right, I will admit that "Dreams of the Witch Room" had some puzzling and tantalizing features -- the spaces behind the slanting partitions, the feverish dreams, the somnambulism (the last I think would be truly frightening to experience) -- but the way these things played out...well, let me just say it is too patly graphic, in my opinion. What was the scariest part for you, anyanka?

  • 17 years ago

    Oh-oh, I forgot to mention that when Lovecraft mentioned Walpurgis Night the first time, I remembered that the "other Hallowe'en" (April 30) Walpurgis Night is the title of a tale by Isak Dinesen, probably the one I was trying to think of yesterday in my post above. Is there a tradition attached to this night of peering into mirrors to see the future?

    I hadn't thought of it before, but mirrors feature in quite a lot of ghost/horror stories. They can be rather creepy, even nowadays. Remember how Jane Eyre was frightened by the mirror in the Red Room? Oh, and there's a most hair-raising mirror encounter in Dorothy Macardle's The Uninvited. Alice stepped through the looking glass...

    Mary, you know I agree about DduM. She knew how to leave things, didn't she? Enigma, again. :-)

  • 17 years ago

    My apologies for posting so many times in a row, but I didn't say everything I wanted to say! :-)

    Siobhan, thank you for the link to Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." It's been a while since I revisited that one, and I must say it hasn't lost a bit of its effectiveness. There are really several categories of horror. I'm sure someone has studied this and already classified them, but I have my own informal classification -- "Owl Creek" falls into the eerie group, along with the novel-length Picnic at Hanging Rock. But, really, what is there about "Owl Creek" that has made it so famous, oft-referenced, and influential? Part of it is that narrative feature that I had better not mention, but is it really still that surprising to readers who surely have experienced that type of thing many, many times by now?
    And no doubt any psychologist worth his salt could come up with a convincing line as to why some people get a kick out of horror/extreme violence etc.Vee, in spite of the popularity of such things, I have always felt slightly guilty that I am fascinated with true crime, and I have never really been able to defend my interest in the supernatural...heck! I don't even believe most of it. But I can happily read a ghost story when nothing else appeals to me. Why? I conveniently blame my mother because she loved/s Poe and Gothics and The Twilight Zone and anything sci-fi. The sci-fi didn't rub off on me but the Gothic sure did!

    Now, about Gothic: Lately I've noticed among many readers that Gothic doesn't mean the same thing as it once did. When you say you love Gothic, what's your definition?

  • 17 years ago

    What is gothic? I don't know what the official definitions are or what subj matter experts would say, but to me, gothic fiction is more psychological with elements of romanticism. The source of the terror in a gothic is ambiguous and elusive. Horror, to me, is more tangible and physical. The source or cause of the terror is known and a very real and imminent threat. Of course, many stories blur the lines and have elements of both, but some are more clearly one or the other.

    I'm sure someone here can provide a better explanation, though.

  • 17 years ago

    Where is Tim when we need him? I think that horror short stories was an interest of his for a while.

    Georgiap -- I would agree with your definition.
    The only thing I'd add is that the setting is extremely important. There's always a wildness and something that unsettles in either nature or the architecture. Maybe some of the English Lit majors will chime in here.

  • 17 years ago

    I think I have said on here before that I read an article once that said the fascination with the gothic novel back in the 60s and 70s was not with the story but rather with the houses. It was true enough for me to make me laugh. "Last night I dreamed I was at Manderley again," etc.

  • 17 years ago

    We had a terrific thread ages ago about 'true' ghost stories, etc. Wish I had kept it, but I would have lost it several crashes ago anyway. Actually, I am quite sure I printed most of it and have it around here somewhere.

    I have enjoyed reading a bit of Bierce lately. His work is interesting to me because he was so very obviously exorcising his own demons through his writing.

    I love ghost and horror stories, but nothing gory. And once in a while one of my house guests notices a funny thing about my home - there are no mirrors, except in the bathroom, and no photographs are displayed. They give me the creeps. And I have always been fascinated with houses. That is one reason I was so frightened by Stephen King's The Shining. The book featured the actual building as evil, not a Hollywood star. Yes, this says a great deal about my psyche, but I don't care to know exactly what.

  • 17 years ago

    Siobhan, I remember that "true-ghost" thread. I wish I had saved it! Timallan and you, as well as others, contributed some dandy stories. I even included a couple of my own experiences with unexplained phenomena.gothic fiction is more psychological with elements of romanticism. The source of the terror in a gothic is ambiguous and elusive. Horror, to me, is more tangible and physical.Georgia, that's the best encapsulation I've read, and along with Janalyn's addition of wildness and something that unsettles in either nature or the architecture pretty much sums up what I think Gothic is...though I never defined it so succinctly. Some readers, however, have another idea of Gothic -- all black magicky and gruesome, seemingly without the romanticism. But I really don't understand why they think that way because, evidently, I haven't read the same "Gothic" literature they have -- I would ascribe what they read as horror instead.

    Oh, yes, the house/edifice is of utmost importance in Gothic. Preferably it should be very old -- maybe a former abbey or a castle -- and it shouldn't be in the best of condition. Secret passages and tunnels, confusing corridors, sealed-up wings, tower rooms...hmm, what else? Carolyn, I still have scads of Gothics from Paperback Library and Lancer, etc. that I bought in the 1960s. It was always the house on the cover that appealed to me most -- not the damsel running away. :-)

    Georgia, I read "The Birthmark" today. Now, how can that horror story be classified? In the "ironic group," maybe? See, I knew you all would have great suggestions! Got any more?

  • 17 years ago

    Frieda, do you remember Mistress of Mellyn? I read dozens of Victoria Holt books after that, but none ever came up to it for me.

    I loved the books of that era and still do like Mary Stewart. Miss Romance, that's me; but I always want that bit of mystery and spookiness with it.

    Norah Lofts was good with houses, too.

  • 17 years ago

    I have just been reading Conrad's Heart of Darkness and wonder, Frieda, if it fits in with a 'horror' theme. It is certainly not your usual run of Victorian/Edwardian novels.
    I presume the story (although monologue might be a better description) is set in the Congo, a country at the time being stripped of its natural riches and its people brutalized, by the King of the Belgiums. It certainly paints a black picture of the corruption of man and the mis-use of power.

  • 17 years ago

    Mistress of Mellyn was a favorite of mine, too-
    Barbara Michaels (aka Elizabeth Peters!!!!!) has written some books with horror or gothic features-my favorite is Ammie Come Home -an old crime come to light, restless spirits, possession, and a battle for a soul.

  • 17 years ago

    Vee, it's been many years since I read Heart of Darkness; but, yeah, it could be considered horror, in my opinion, because it certainly has horrifying elements. Though Conrad's novel is more realistic than William Hope's horror tale "The Boats of the Glen Carrig," they remind me of each other -- both having river journeys that turn into hell. Oh, and that reminds of an excerpt from Waugh's A Handful of Dust that is sometimes included in horror anthologies -- in the one I read it was titled "The Man Who Loved Dickens," though I'm not sure that same title is always used. Anyway, Waugh's story is not exactly scary, but the ending just about unhinged me. Do you remember it?

    Carolyn, oh yes, Mistress of Mellyn is a good one! Every time a new Victoria Holt or Mary Stewart came out, my mother and her sisters and I would have to draw straws to get our turns. I was ecstatic when I get to read The Moonspinners first.

    Cece, I've read a few of the Barbara Michaels Gothics, including Ammie, Come Home, though I don't remember it very well. As I recall, her stories had more supernatural lore than the romantic suspense that was most popular in the 1960s -- the ghosts and weird happenings in the earlier works usually had logical explanations. I'm not sure when the style changed, but I'm guessing it was in the mid-1970s because when I returned to the U.S. in the late seventies, I hardly recognized the Gothics as the same genre I had loved. It was about the same time that romances morphed into bodice rippers. Occasionally nowadays, a new Gothic will appear; but somehow they aren't quite right -- including Sally Beauman's recent effort: The Sisters Mortland. Carolyn, didn't you read that one? What did you think of it?

  • 17 years ago

    Frieda, I think the realistic horror-type story can be way more frightening than the ones in which, for eg, someone is pursued by a dollop of green slime or the Earth in ruled by colonies of giant ants.
    Waugh's Handful of Dust ( I haven't heard the other title used) is a good eg. as you know Tony (the explorer) and the 'good guy' of the story, will spend the rest of his life in a living Hell re-reading that damn book!
    Interesting how those writers of the 30's and 40's often based their dark novels in 'exotic' locations.
    Thinking of Graham Greene's Heart of the Matter or Our Man in Havanna . . .although closer to home his Brighton Rock has some truly disturbing and evil characters.
    I have an ancient copy of GG's Journey Without Maps written in the mid '30's when he travelled in W Africa which probably gave him some of his settings for H of the M.
    Frieda, I suppose as an ex-jouralist Waugh's Scoop was required reading and wonder if you had to pack an inflatable canoe and a cleft-stick in your luggage?!

  • 17 years ago

    Ammie, Come Home is my favorite Barbara Michaels, and I like that persona much better than Elizabeth Peters.

    Frieda, I had to look at my reading journal to see what The Sisters Mortland was about, so that will tell you something. It was okay but not thrillingly so and not deliciously scary. I have read three Sally Beaumont books--that one, Destiny, and Rebecca's Tale. I just loved the latter, but the other two were mind candy, IMO.

  • 17 years ago

    It's all your fault, Frieda.

    Yesterday, I had a few minutes to kill before a hair appt and found myself in a discount bookstore. (The hairdresser is from Liverpool and has oodles of these glossy entertainment magazines but one can take only so much about the royal family and obscure-to-me famous people. (Rod Stewart is rather old to be a new dad, btw.)

    I was looking for something different in the bookstore and found myself standing in front of the horror section, wondering why I was standing there. The subconscious minds operates in mysterious ways. This was all Frieda's fault. Horror stories. So I picked up this one called "Silk" by someone called Kiernan --it won some awards, the price was discounted down to $3.99 and I was running out of time. The young man who was at the cashier could be described as Gothic, I suppose: black clothes, long very black hair parted in the middles and I'm sure he wouldn't get past airport security with all the metal bits that were attached to his body. He gave me a dismissive glance and probably slotted me the same way I did him. The he looked at the book. "Ahh, Silk," he sighed. "This is a good book, Neil Gaiman really likes this author." I replied that I had read Gaiman and enjoyed his work. We had quite the discussion. It's amazing how books connect people.
    I have no idea if I'll like it.
    But it's all your fault Frieda. ;-)

  • 17 years ago

    Frieda, I have a confession to make. I tried to re-read Dreams in the Witch-house - and couldn't get more than halfway. Partly it's that I just don't like reading long texts online, unless they are set in just the right typeface, and definitely not white letters on a black background! But mainly, I've read too many Lovecrafts by now; I think Dreams was one of the first which is why it still spooked me. Now I just skim-read, going 'cyclopean... blah blah... unspeakable... yeah...' at all his stock phrases & words.

  • 17 years ago

    Heh! Okay, Janalyn, I'll take responsibility. But isn't it interesting that you, after all, have something in common with the bemetaled, dressed-all-in-black one?! Books do that, so unexpectedly sometimes. Mercy though, the description of Silk doesn't sound like what I know of gothic horror, and that "new" difference is what I was wondering about when I mentioned it previously. Let us know what you think of Silk. I don't know that I would be adventurous enough to try it, but I might if you think it has merit.

    Carolyn, like you, I have already forgotten most of The Sisters Mortland. Sheesh! I remember the gothic romances from the 1960s much better. Did you ever read any of Dorothy Daniels' books? I didn't know until a couple of years ago (or since I've been coming to RP -- over five years now!) that Daniels was actually a pseudonym for a collaborative effort. I can't recall if they were a husband-and-wife team but I do remember that they were one male, one female. Anyway, a lot of their books were pure sludge, but some of the earliest were actually quite good -- I still think about Darkhaven and Marriott Hall occasionally; both were historicals set in the Hudson River Valley. Oh, and "Judith Ware" and "Madeleine Brent" were both male gothic-romance writers, and I think they were quite good, as well. You probably already knew, but I'm often late to find out and I'm snockered when my mental images of writers are displaced.

    Vee, Pinkie was an absolute horror! And Harry Lime... Greene's tales aren't usually labeled as such but you're right that their underpinnings are horrific in nature. As for Scoop, yeah, I have to admit that I often felt "Bootish." I could -- and I do more often that I probably should -- tell my own journalistic horror stories.

    Anyanka, I too have a great deal of trouble reading stories online. And I suspect that the process of reading off a computer screen does a lot to mute any frisson I might have. Give me a good old held-in-the-hand book and I can scare myself silly. Lovecraft, I think, probably needs to be read infrequently because his prose is too ornate -- I was surprised that he was a twentieth-century writer; his style is more of the eighteenth-century type.

    Have any of you read Elizabeth Jolley's The Well or Janette Turner Hospital's Oyster? Those are other kinds of horror, I think. I'm beginning to wonder whether most readers have a too-narrow idea of which books and stories can be classified as horror.

  • 17 years ago

    Frieda, I didn't know about the gothic authors you mentioned being a team or male. I have read some Dorothy Daniels and liked Madeline Brent but have missed Judith Ware altogether. I used to like Margaret Summerton, too.

    Have you read Minette Walters? She gets pretty tense. I also liked Mary Walker Willis but haven't seen anything by her for some time.

  • 17 years ago

    Actually, that's Mary Willis Walker.

  • 17 years ago

    Carolyn, I checked my catalogue to see if I have any books by Margaret Summerton, and I do have one called The Sea House.

    I have read two or three by Minette Walters: The Sculptress and The Scold's Bridle and another one, I think. Yes, those were certainly tense, and I would say there's a fine line there between mystery and horror. I'm not familiar with Mary Willis Walker, but I'll look for her books.

    Carolyn, I just finished a mystery by Jane Jakeman called Death at Versailles. Were you the one who recommended this? Anyway, you came to my mind because the story echoes the mystery at The Petit Trianon and I know that you like historical mysteries and time travel.

  • 17 years ago

    Frieda - I am on page 70 of the aforementioned Silk. So far there is little of the supernatural but enough horror if you happen to be a parent. (Somehow I don't think that the author was intending this reaction.)The characters are like Parents' Worst Nightmares. It's fascinating for this alone and I can't wait to see if and how the plot develops.

  • 17 years ago

    I wouldn't usually class Minette Walters as horror/gothic, although it is indeed a fine line. She does get near the gothic with The Sculptress and also The Dark Room with its amnesiac heroine. Amnesia seems a very good basic ingredient for gothic horror.

  • 17 years ago

    I'm not familiar with Jane Jakeman but will look for her.

    I've been reading some Cara Black mysteries set in Paris, but they are not favorites. Too much "cat woman" climbing walls in her spike heels kind of stuff for me. She also carries a big bag and whips out scarves, jackets, and red lipstick to maintain her Parisien image.

  • 17 years ago

    For something a little different, you might try the ghost stories of Lafcadio Hearn, collected in two anthologies: "Kwaidan" and "In Ghostly Japan". Hearn was of Irish and Greek descent, but became so enamored of Japanese culture that he married a Japanese daughter of a noble family and even took the Japanese name Koizumi Yakumo after becoming naturalized.

    His books are Western, English-language retellings of traditional Japanese folktales involving the supernatural. Most are haunting, if not downright scary. Famed Japanese director adapted four Hearn stories into his 1965 masterpiece "Kwaidan", which is how I was introduced to Hearn in the first place.

    Both "Kwaidan" and "In Ghostly Japan" are available for free at gutenberg.org

    Also, for fans of Poe and Bierce and the like, I have to receommend Guy de Maupassant, whose stories are a very similar brand of suspense and horror.

  • 17 years ago

    In particular, regarding my mention of Guy de Maupassant in the preceeding post, a favorite story by him is "On the River", which I think most will agree is pretty spooky. Here's an online version:

    http://www.online-literature.com/maupassant/265/

    It's not supernatural, but builds a suspenseful terror with atmosphere and ambiguity of imagery, like the way a child makes a bathrobe hanging in a closet in a darkened room a monster watching from the shadows. Enjoy!

  • 17 years ago

    Charles, hello, and welcome!

    I have read quite a number of Guy de Maupassant's stories, but not "On the River" before now (I just finished it). Whoa! I knew there was going to be a twist -- with Maupassant there nearly always is -- but I still wasn't expecting that one. However, I think that what makes the story effective is not the ending so much as the atmosphere, as you've already said. Thank you for calling this tale to my attention. Enjoy it, I did!

    I haven't read the Lafcadio Hearn stories you've linked, yet, but I will. Thanks for those too.

  • 17 years ago

    Frieda, some years ago the BBC TV did a very interesting 'docu-drama' on the experiences of Miss Jourdain and Miss Moberly at Versailles. I also have a book on the subject.
    It does seem unlikey that the two female academics should have made the whole thing up, especially when they persisted in their claims causing the University to block their ambitions to found a new ladies college.

    Although my intelligent(!) voice says all this is so much hooey, sometimes I wonder . . .perhaps we all do.
    While the women were visiting Versailles the weather was unusually hot and sultry, especially so for English visitors and although I'm not suggesting that a heat-wave can bring characters back from the past I wonder if it can have an affect on our 'reason'; for want of a better word?
    An eg. I used to have an old friend, who might be described as an up-right no-nonsense English woman. She told me this story.
    During WWII her husband was serving as an officer in the Royal Navy, and she saw him very infrequently.
    One very hot, heavy summer's afternoon she took her small son on a simple picnic in a nearby field.
    After they had eaten their jam sandwiches the child became restless and suddenly started to toddle across the field calling back to her " Here comes Daddy. Come on Mummy, Daddy's here."
    The woman could see nothing; just heat haze, but worried that the child had become over-heated she took him home, gave him a cool bath and put him to bed.
    Because she found the whole thing unsettling the incident stayed at the back of her mind and several months later, when he husband came home on leave, she told him what had happened.
    Once he knew the date of the picnic he told her that his ship had been torpedoed on that day and he and the crew had spent hours in the sea, before being rescued. While he was in the water, his thoughts turned to home and family and particularly his small son assuming he would never see him again.

    I had no reason to think my friend 'made up' this story, in fact she found it quite distressing to recall the details.
    I just give it to you as a 'strange' example of hot weather vibes and wonder if any of you know of anything similar.

  • 17 years ago

    Vee, I have been fascinated with The Petit Trianon story since I first read about it in the 1960s. Perhaps because it has elements of the unexplained that I have also experienced, though mine aren't so dramatic. Funny how these things come up because there are echoes of it in a poem that Anyanka brought up in Jankin's poetry thread (which see).

    Anyway, my story follows, as straightforward as I can tell it. I have another, though I'll hold off on that one. I have posted this before, but you might not have been around when I did. If you read my previous telling, my apologies for the repeat. Circa 1954-1955, my grandparents still lived out in the country. Their nearest neighbors down the dirt road were a family consisting of a married couple and the wife's spinster sister and bachelor brother, all in their eighties. They had lived in their house for fifty to sixty years. My mother had grown up knowing these people and they were very fond of her; so any time mother visited her parents, she made sure she called on the Allen/Cartwrights at least once. Often she had me in tow, and because I belonged to Dorrie (mother's name), they were quite foolish about me too.

    I particularly liked Mr. Will, the bachelor brother and oldest of the four. He had been ill for years, so he resided in his invalid bed that had been set up in the sitting room under a front window. Because this window looked down the entry road to the house's front yard, Mr. Will, propped up on his pillows, could watch everyone approaching and going. He loved visitors; so he would wave at you until you got to the front door and upon your leaving, as long as you were in sight of his window.

    It had been a while since our last visit to the old folk, but the routine was the same. Mother and I walked the dirt road, about a quarter of a mile. As usual I was hanging onto mother's skirt (mid-calf length on her), because that was the only way I could slow her down so I could keep up -- mother could walk fast because she was six feet tall. We turned down the Allen/Cartwright's drive, and I saw Mr. Will waving at us. We didn't even have to knock on the front door, Miss Fanny and Miss Betty (all adult women were Misses, even married ones) already had it open. They hugged and kissed us, and ushered us inside. Instead of leading us into the sitting room, though, this time we went directly to the kitchen to sit at the table for refreshments. Mr. Willie, Miss Fanny's husband (not to be confused with Mr. Will, her brother), came in and glad-handed for a bit before departing. The ladies continued to gab; but I had lost interest in what they were saying as I petted the family's hound. Soon mother was making departure sounds, and we did the hugging and kissing routine in reverse.

    Leaving the house, mother decided that instead of walking down the drive and the right angle of the road, she would take the hypotenuse across the pasture. We set out; again I had mother's...

  • 17 years ago

    A fascinating recounting Frieda, I must have missed it the first time round. If you were here in the room with me I would be asking you loads of questions.

    Did you Mother see Mr Will wave from the window, or just you?
    How come no one had told you before the visit that the old man had died?
    Did you not realise or were never told that he had died until the conversation with your Mother when you were a teenager?
    Do you know if your Mother ever told the family of her/your experiences?
    Why am I doing this Elephant's Child act? Well, because I find stuff such as this most interesting.
    Would you care to share the other experience you had?

  • 17 years ago

    Great story, Frieda! I really must dig up the stories we had here a few years ago.

    I've been fascinated by the Petit Trianon incident for years - enough to pay quite a bit of money for the out-of-print book by the two ladies.

    I thought of it just this morning as I had an experience that brought it to mind. I have written up an account, but it is very poor and does not convey the atmosphere, the feeling, the emotion...no, I didn't see ghosts from the past, but I discovered a little place out of time tucked away just a few blocks from me - sort of like finding a wing of your own home that you didn't know existed. And yes, it is a hot, sultry day!

  • 17 years ago

    Vee, the above-related incident has been discussed so many times in my family over the years, and I've told and re-told it so much that I am now unsure what I knew at the time of the occurrence and what I learned later and incorporated. However, when I confronted my mother when I was a teenager, my memory was much less sullied because, as far as I recall, I had neither heard it being talked about nor had I questioned anyone, though it had always been there in my mind, niggling.

    In the 1970s for a creative writing assignment, I worked the incident into a short story. I have rewritten it a couple of times since (plagiarizing myself, I suppose) -- and there's poetic license in all those versions; e.g., I changed the names, added and subtracted things, etc. The above retelling is the nearest I can come to the straight story -- I did it by scrunching up my eyes and watching the images as they are recorded on my memory. Does that make sense? When I was a child I had a near-photographic memory, and I still remember with great clarity those visual images imprinted during my childhood. (The ability diminished as I got older.) I also checked with my mother to see if my memories compare well with hers. They do, except on a few points, such as the relatively unimportant identification of the species in the copse -- that sort of thing.

    Anyway, to answer your questions:
    Did you Mother see Mr Will wave from the window, or just you?Mother has said that she did see Mr. Will waving at us when we approached the house; but because she knew he was deceased, she blinked and looked again and he was no longer there, thus she attributed it to a trick of imagination. She did not see Mr. Will waving at us as we were leaving because she didn't look.How come no one had told you before the visit that the old man had died?I no longer know whether anyone did or not. I was only five years old; but I was a querulous child, so I suspect someone did tell me something so that I wouldn't blurt out "Where's Mr. Will?" on the visit. It's possible that I didn't really understand what they told me, though.Did you not realise or were never told that he had died until the conversation with your Mother when you were a teenager?By the time I was a teenager, I knew Mr. Will was dead, but I can't tell you how long I had known it or maybe I assumed he was dead because he was, after all, so old and ill. I certainly didn't know, or I had forgotten, that Mr. Will had died before the mysterious incident.Do you know if your Mother ever told the family of her/your experiences?If you mean the Allen/Cartwright family, the answer is no. Mother says it was not something that they would have appreciated.

    Sure, I will relate my other story. I think I've told it here before, too. I'll work it up. In the meantime, I want to hear Siobhan's experience and anyone else who has one!

  • 17 years ago

    Vee, here's my other story.Winters in Iowa can be hellish, with ice and wind storms that often knock out power utilities nowadays, though it was even more common in the early 1960s when the incident I am about to relate happened. My grandfather (Opa) worked for the rural county electric cooperative. He was almost at the end of his career, and though he no longer did manual work, with his experience he supervised crews and told them what to do. Therefore, he was on call for any problems that came up.

    My mother and I were visiting her parents who, by this time, had moved to town. We had intended to drive home that evening after supper, but the weather was so threatening that we decided to spend another night. The wind was howling and the snow was coming down so thick we couldn't see the streetlight directly across the way while looking out the front door.

    As he could have predicted and dreaded, Opa got a call to go out to repair some downed power lines. He bundled up and left in his company truck. Mother, Oma, and I finished with the dishes and decided to go to bed early.

    Now, the physical layout of the house has some importance, so I'll describe it. The large living room was at the front of the house; and its focal point in the winter was the gas heater, around which several chairs were arranged. Opa's armchair was the closest because he liked to take off his shoes and put his sock feet on the fender -- his circulation wasn't very good and his feet were always cold. In the wall directly across from the heater was the door to the long hallway that led to the bedrooms. The bathroom (toilet) was located off this hall, too.

    Some hours after going to bed, I woke up and sprinted to the bathroom because the floor was so darned cold. Passing the door to the living room, I glanced in to see the blue flames of the heater giving off just enough light to see Opa in silhouette sleeping, as he often did, with his feet propped on the fender. I finished in the bathroom and sprinted back past the living room door. I noticed this time that Opa had changed positions and was hunched over and seemed to be fumbling with his shoes.

    When I got back into the bed I was sharing with my mother, she was awake and said to me, "Next!" She got up to make her own excursion to the bathroom. After that I apparently went to sleep and didn't even know when mother returned to bed. The next thing I knew it was morning and my Oma was making breakfast. The weather was still nasty, but the kitchen was heaven. As we were setting the table, the kitchen door off the back porch opened and Opa came in, knocking snow off his hat and making puddles on Oma's linoleum. She swatted at him to quit, but asked him, "How did things go?"

    He said he was just about frozen through; and if she didn't mind, he wanted his breakfast on a tray so that he could eat it in front of the heater. Oma was obliging. As she was arranging things, Opa called to...

  • 17 years ago

    Well, Frieda, there certainly isn't any easy answer to that one . . . although from the pools of water it does seem more 'physical' than your last story.
    Was it unusual that neither you or your Mother didn't at least put your heads round the door and ask your Opa how the job had gone, or wish him goodnight?

  • 17 years ago

    Fascinating, Frieda! It's interesting that on both occasions you and your mother were witness to the same strangeness.

    I do believe that there are things at the edge of human perception - out of range to some, visible to others, in the same way that some sounds are heard by dogs but not by people. Perhaps yours and your mother's vision is keener than most. Although the second story does have an amazingly physical aspect... perhaps your grandfather projected himself where he wanted to be; amazing that his aura was wet though!

    Speaking of auras... this is the reason why I no longer merely believe but know that there are different levels of visual perception. When my younger daughter was 11, I mentioned an acquaintance who did healing and saw auras. Rhianna asked me what an aura was, and when I explained that it is like a coloured light around the body and especially head, looked at me all worried and wide-eyed: "I thought everybody can see that..." She is now 14, and as is apparently common, puberty has put an end to her ability to see auras.

  • 17 years ago

    *shiver* I have goosebumps now after reading these stories. And I agree with anyanka that that some people are more attuned to certain things. I myself have had eerie things happen that even now, looking back on them, I can find no reasonable explanation.

    Just as an example, a few weeks ago a candle that was burning steadily suddenly flickered as though someone had passed their hand through it. My hair stood on end and my skin crawled because I had the gut feeling that something had happened to either my daughter or my husband, so I looked at the clock to note the time. It turned out that at the exact time the candle flickered, my husband avoided what would have almost certainly been a fatal car accident by a hairs breadth. I told him we were lucky that the candle flame only flickered and didn't go out.

  • 17 years ago

    Interesting stories above.

    I just wanted to let you know that I have given up on Silk, described as a modern gothic horror story. The characters just didn't appeal to me (they could get eaten by a fiery demon with a lamprey mouth and I would not have cared) and halfway through, I don't know if there is a plot. Not my kind of book.

  • 17 years ago

    Re the story about the "footprints", I would have guessed a large animal, such as a bear, coming in momentarily, perhaps, to warm itself. But if the prints were those of a human, yes, that's another matter. I'm convinced that certain people are more "open" to having these experiences repeatedly, than others. Just as I am convinced, having compared and contrasted some of my own rather "psychic" dreams to others, that I have a touch of clairvoyance in that direction (having had several dreams which informed me of the deaths of those people formerly close to me, who were at that time living at a distance).