The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

A Little Halloween Reading…

Posted by BigWords on October 28, 2010

The best part of Halloween, for me, is rediscovering the tales I remember reading from dusty old collections and cheap paperbacks (mostly the Pan Horror collections, but the more recent Peter Haining books could count here as well), and it is one of the benefits of the digital age that most have been preserved online. There are still the odd gap here and there, and a few of the more obscure and hysterical tomes are still missing, but having the mainstays of the horror genre accounted for is enough for now. It’s not unsurprising that the effect of those Pan books especially, replete with skulls glaring out from the covers, have had a lasting impression. When I sat down to do my Halloween post (which will be the report of a week spent immersed in modern horror) I needed to pay some respect to the more traditional and – in my opinion – more lasting horror. The horror neither immediately visceral nor blatant.

I chose fourteen tales, which – by some coincidence not intended – is a fine enough number for a paperback like those I read as a child. These may represent very different styles of horror, but they are connected through a tradition of campfire and torchlit oral tradition… These are the storytellers whose work crawls into your brain, and whose ideas go beyond the mundane and everyday terrors to elicit something grander. You may argue on the inclusion of one or two of my choices (Campbell seems to be a contentious inclusion, though I have my reasons), but you cannot deny the overall strength of the horror story in short form. This is, beyond the excitement of the new, where the restless and uneasy dreams are forged.

Reading through the lists of works now committed to the grand digital libraries is like being a kid again, wide eyed and overjoyed at the way mere words on paper (or, in this case, on the screen) can hold such power. There’s really nothing like a scary story, told in the dark of night, to keep you wondering about the shadows which fall as flickering light fades away and we are left with the ghost of the day.

An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street by Sheridan Le Fanu
The Altar of the Dead by Henry James
The Call Of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft
The Gulf Between by Tom Godwin
The Judge’s House by Bram Stoker
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce
‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You My Lad’ by Montague Rhodes James
The Picture Of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
The Screaming Skull by F. Marion Crawford
There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury
Transformation by Mary Shelley
Who Goes There? by John W Campbell
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Further reading:

Baen Free Library
Buzzle.com
Horrormasters
The Literary Gothic

“Sleep, those little slices of death, how I loathe them.” Edgar Allen Poe

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