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Twilight Zone

After a magical realism spree (3 books), it’s time to shake things up. In keeping with the seasonal sentiment, how about some spook? DuMaurier, Poe, and Christie. These authors often use power of association to induce fear. You don’t just see a corpse. What scares the most is when it doesn’t show anything explicit. Terror shows a white sheet over something that might be a body or could be something else. Rather than focus on the shock factor, terror fiction forces you to approach problems logically.

After Rebecca, I have become a huge fan of Daphne du Maurier. While Jamaica Inn (which was written before Rebecca) is not quite on par with her later works, it’s the suspense, which du Maurier ramps up from start to finish, that got me to buy the book at the first place. Aside from this, I’m also reading Poe’s short stories. The required readings back in high school didn’t make me appreciate him. I explore him on my own.

Berenice. “There came a light tap at the library door, and pale as the tenant of a tomb, a menial entered upon tiptoe. His looks were wild with terror, and he spoke to me in a voice tremulous, husky, and very low…” This horror story about teeth sounds very creepy.

The Black Cat. Probably his best-known short story, a drunk man kills his cat and it comes back to haunt him. In Poe’s usual style, the narrator of the story is the killer and we see things through his eyes. Quite a horrific tale.

The Tell-Tale Heart. It’s murder announced. “I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening; — just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.”

The Fall of the House of Usher. It’s the tale of a creepy guy living in a haunted house.

The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar. A man dying from tuberculosis asks his friend, the narrator of the story, to hypnotize him just before death. The event is witnessed by two doctors and a medical student. The results are interesting to say the least.

For me, no Halloween is complete without reading Agatha Christie. She’s just clever. I love that you never know what you’re going to get until you’re smack in the middle of the story and even then you might be in for a surprise. Even with knowing the ending before I read the book I still found And Then There Were None to be the scariest of her novels.

8 Responses

  1. I always love to read The Raven around Halloween time. I’d not heard of the Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar. I have a Poe collection and will have to see if that’s included.

    • Iliana, thanks for mentioning The Raven. I have never read it and it’s not included in my copy of Poe’s short story collection. Hmmm. I’ll include it in my reading this weekend.

  2. And Then There Were None (although when I read it the title was still Ten Little Indians), Rebecca and The Raven are a few of my favorites. I also usually re-read Ray Bradbury’s Halloween Tree or Something Wicked This Way Comes around this time of year…

    • Just finished And Then There Were None and I’m spooked! Now I’m off to watch the black-and-white movie. I have to check out Raven and Something Wicked This Way Comes which I have never read.

  3. Ah I remember Poe from my teenage years. My husband is currently reading him now and really enjoying it. I have downloaded a couple of ghost stories on my kindle which Im looking forward to.

    • Poe is the firm advocate of “totality”, where every element and detail is related and relevant. I tend to spend more time reading his physical descriptions as they become very important to the story itself. I’ve been re-reading Poe because I feel I have missed out so much when I skimmed through it in high school. 🙂

  4. The Raven is one of my favorite Poe poems although I love the other most famous one – Annabel Lee as well. But Raven is more appropriate for this occasion since it’s quite brilliantly scary. You can practically hear the heart pumping and quickening at times that he feels fright 🙂 The opening is a masterpiece :

    Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
    Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
    As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
    `’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door –
    Only this, and nothing more.’

    Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
    And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
    Eagerly I wished the morrow; – vainly I had sought to borrow
    From my books surcease of sorrow – sorrow for the lost Lenore –
    For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore –
    Nameless here for evermore.

    🙂

    I love Edgar’s stories, some of them are the work of genius.
    I also loved Rebecca, both the book and Hitchcock movie with Sir Lawrence Olivier. Have you read Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey ?
    As for Christie – for me her books are not that scary, although And Then There Were None is the possible exception (probably since there’s no Poirot:) Some time ago there was this documentary (or smth) on H channel I think about Agatha’s method of writing. It seems that (sub)consciously she used words in such a manner as to build up on anxiety of a reader and to “hook” him so that he couldn’t stop reading. This she managed by repeating some words or using their synonyms in quite a few number even on one single page.

  5. I think Christie is known for her many false trails and red herrings which boggle the readers. Many of the works are not scary, but they leave readers wondering who might have committed the murders.

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