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Horror Reads

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Plain old horror reads. Make you jump six inches when someone comes up behind you. Crawl under the cover, or leave the lights on.

Christie Halloween

I love the new Harper Collins trade paperback series on the Hercule Poirot Mysteries. A total of 37 titles are available and many of which I haven’t read. I picked up all that the local bookstore has in stock, which amounts to a third of this series. In light of the occasion, of course, I’ll start with Hallowe’en Party. At a Hallowe’en party, a 13-year-old girl boasted that she once witnessed a murder. When no one believes her, she storms off home. Without a few hours her body is found, still in the house—drowned in an apple-bobbing tub. Poirot is summoned to find the murderer, or the “evil presence.” Perfect for reading under the sheet with flashlight.

What are you reading this Halloween?

Horror

Halloween is tomorrow, but Halloween parties had begun Friday night. It’s been a parade of alter-personalities all weekend. A mummy behind the wheels. Alice with long eye-lashes walking through la-la-land. Cross-dressers and people of ambiguous gender. The walk up Buena Vista Park with the dogs this morning afforded some dreadful sights: stilettos with gnarled straps, lacy underwear, spray cans, broken beer bottles…

My kind of Halloween is to barricade myself at home with the lights off. The room is dark except for the cold glare of a lamp on my night table. I would sink deep within the covers, only my head poking out from the blanket. Everything is quiet. (Too quiet.) There is only the sound of pages turning, and my heart beating, hammering, echoing in your ears. I have been reading Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of the Hill House and An Anthology of Horror Stories.

“Hear the tolling of the bells—
Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!” (The Bells, Edgar Allan Poe)

“It was the devil that was omnipresent. It was the dead who squeezed the living between fragments of time, on both sides, the past and the future, making of humanity a ghoulish sandwich of doomed meat that had yet to learn to stop kicking.” (The Cold One, Christopher Pike)

“Th (e most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.” (The Call of Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft)

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.” (The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson)

“He had been looking for an honestly haunted house all his life. When he heard of Hill House he had been at first doubtful, then hopeful, then indefatigable; he was not the man to let go of Hill House once he had found it.” (The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson)

“No human eye can isolate the unhappy coincidence of line and place which suggests evil in the face of a house, and yet somehow a maniac juxtaposition, a badly turned angle, some chance meeting of roof and sky, turned Hill House into a place of despair, more frightening because the face of Hill House seemed awake, with a watchfulness from the blank windows and a touch of glee in the eyebrow of a cornice.” (The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson)

“At first cock-crow
The ghosts must go
Back to their quiet graves below.” (The Neighbors, Theodosia Garrison)

“One need not be a chamber to be haunted,
One need not be a house;
The brain has corridors surpassing
Material place.” (One Need Not Be A Chamber To Be Haunted, Emily Dickinson)

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” (Supernatural Horror in Literature, H. P. Lovecraft)

“The true weird tale has something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule. A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present, and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain — a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space.” (Supernatural Horror in Literature, H. P. Lovecraft)

“True! –nervous –very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses –not destroyed –not dulled them.” (The Tell-Tale Heart, Edgar Allan Poe)

“It’s from the mysterious that we make the leap to godly grace or evil.
And only from there.” (When the Penny Drops, Jack Ketchum)

Have a fun and safe Halloween.

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.

Booking Through Thursday | Oh Horror!

Have it been a week again for Booking Through Thursday?

What with yesterday being Halloween, and all . . . do you read horror? Stories of things that go bump in the night and keep you from sleeping?

I spent the night watching Ringu, a Japanese horror movie. Ringu (リング) means ring in Japanese. It’s an unusual psychological horror story that begins when a bunch of high school kids received a fatal phone call and died of acute heart attack. Halfway through the movie my telephone went off and I couldn’t help belching out in horror! An English translation of the original novel is also available.

I have also read a few stories from Selected Tales of Edgar Allan Poe for Halloween. Most of the stories are more suspenseful than frightening, a bit unsettling. A personal favorite that I re-visit over and over again is The Tell-Tale Heart. I also read The Fall of the House of Usher, The Black Cat, and The Murders in the Rue Morgue.