Every year since I started this blog back in 2007, I’ve been posting a collection of “Halloween Treats”: classic short stories of horror that are freely available to read on the internet. You can read my previous editions: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012 and my 2010 post on the true story of the “Lady of the Lake“. (Hopefully the older links still work!) I have been trying not to repeat myself in these posts, which makes it a little harder every year to find great stories to link to, but I still managed to find a great collection! (It doesn’t hurt that I have a gazillion books of horror in my library.)
Without further ado, here are 2013’s picks:
The Gateway of the Monster, William Hope Hodgson (1910). This is the very first of Hodgson’s classic stories about Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder, a paranormal researcher with both scientific and supernatural methods. Carnacki shares the story of his investigation of “The Grey Room,” a chamber in a man’s ancestral home that a source of violent nighttime disturbances and was the location of a horrible set of strangulations 150 years past. Carnacki’s studies eventually lead to him spending a night in the room, where a catastrophic miscalculation on his part puts him in deadly peril.
Pickman’s Model, H.P. Lovecraft (1927). This is one of my favorite stories written by the master of horror H.P. Lovecraft, and possibly my very favorite. Richard Upton Pickman is a Boston artist whose talent is immeasurable but whose horrific choice of subjects — monsters, ghouls, subterranean terror — leads him to be shunned by the art community at large. When Pickman’s agent agrees to visit the artist’s private gallery, hidden amongst the anonymous back alleys of the Boston slums, he learns the true depths of Pickman’s depravity and the source of the artist’s inspiration.
LD50, Laird Barron (2013). I’ve raved about Laird Barron on this blog numerous times (e.g. here, here and here), as I consider him to be one of the best authors of horror, living or dead, and he can capture the essence of the twisted and macabre like no one else can. This year, he generously made one of his stories freely available on the internet. In LD50, a transient woman starts an affair with a cowboy in the wilds of Washington State. The region is in a panic because someone is horribly dismembering family pets in the area… and people who enjoy killing animals eventually start on humans…
The Thing From the Lake, Eleanor Ingram (1921). This is an entire novel, which I’ve blogged about before! Roger Locke, a successful composer from New York City, purchases a home in rural Connecticut as a private working retreat. On his very first night there alone, however, he is visited in the pitch blackness by two beings: a woman named Desiree Mitchell, who warns him of unholy danger, and an inhuman Thing that wages a battle of wills for Roger’s very soul. He survives the night, but Roger is as intrigued by Desiree as he is horrified by the Thing, and he resolves to get to the bottom of the mystery. The situation becomes even more unusual as he learns that over 100 years earlier, a woman named Desiree Mitchell was burned at the stake for witchcraft in the region. Roger wages a psychic battle with the Thing at night, and his strength begins to wane even as he grows closer to the ephemeral Desiree. A series of events forces a final confrontation, in which more than one soul is at stake.
Polodo, L.P. Hartley (1948?). What could be nicer than an afternoon picnic on a small remote island outside of Venice? A brother and sister decide that the island of Podolo would make for a pleasant getaway, though their enjoyment is dampened somewhat by the discovery of a starving stray cat. Angela attempts to do right by the animal, in her own way, but before long her actions will be writ large in a horrifying way on the island — which is inhabited by more than just a cat.
The Mark of the Beast, Rudyard Kipling (1890). In India, a drunken Englishman, Fleete, arrogantly defiles the temple of Hanuman, the monkey god, and is bitten by the Silver Man — a leper priest of the temple. Fleete shrugs off the action, but it soon becomes evident that he has been struck with a devastating curse, and that its cure may be even more terrible than the curse itself.
A Night at an Inn, Lord Dunsany (1916). How about a little stage play to wrap things up? To conclude, I have to recommend this horror play written by Lord Dunsany, who is known for imagining the incredible fantasy world of Pegana. Dunsany was absolutely brilliant in capturing the frightening spirit of old folk tales, religions and ghost stories, and he imbues this spirit into this simple tale of a band of thieves who steal from the wrong temple and suffer the consequences.
One more thing: while I’m at it, here’s a real-life unexplained horror story that happened in 1959: the Dyatlov Pass incident.
Have a Happy Halloween!