I’ve been in a very Halloween mood this year, and with the holiday almost upon us, I thought I would share one more post about classic horror. This time, I want to focus on the classic illustrations that accompanied a lot of stories in their original magazine and book runs from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. These days, we don’t really associate literary horror with illustrations, but it was a pretty common experience at the time!
In this post, I will share a lot of classic illustrations, where they first appeared, and link to the stories they accompanied! I’ve included some of these, directly and indirectly, in previous posts, but it’s nice to have them all together.
Warning: these images contain spoilers of the stories in question, so read at your own risk! I have placed the images after the stories, so you can look after reading. Also, most of these stories are so well-known that they can’t be spoiled very much, anyway!
The Vacant Lot, by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman (1903), in The Wind in the Rose-Bush. Illustrated by Peter Newell. The Townsend family gets a home in the city for a ridiculously low price, which they view as a sign of their good fortune. But strange events start happening, centered upon the vacant lot next door, culminating in horrific apparitions.
The Thing in the Hall, by E.F. Benson (1912), in The New Broadway Magazine. Illustrated by Franklin Booth. When a brain researcher indulges in a study of spiritualism, he “throws open the door” to any supernatural being that chooses to come through. Unfortunately for him — and others — the thing that comes through is decidedly not friendly, nor human.
Lot No. 249, by Arthur Conan Doyle (1892), in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. Illustrator uncredited (and I can’t read his signature). When people are attacked by a mysterious being around the University of Oxford, Abercrombie Smith suspects his fellow student Edward Bellingham, a collector of Egyptian antiquities, is somehow involved. By Smith’s questioning soon turns him into a target…
The Colour Out of Space, H.P. Lovecraft (1927), in Amazing Stories. Illustrator uncredited. I was quite surprised to learn that many of Lovecraft’s stories had illustrations accompanying them! It is fascinating to see how artists of the time interpreted his cosmic horrors. In Colour, a meteorite lands on the farm of Nahum Gardner, and brings with it something that cannot be understood by ordinary physics — something decidedly deadly.
Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook, by M.R. James (1905), in Ghost Stories of an Antiquary. Illustrated by James McBryde. McBryde tragically passed away after doing only four illustrations for James’ book, but he did amazing work! A tourist visiting an aging French cathedral is encouraged by its sacristan to purchase an old an unusual manuscript. Little does he know, however, that the manuscript comes with a horrifying companion.
The Monkey’s Paw, W.W. Jacobs (1902), in The Lady of the Barge. Illustration by Maurice Grieffenhagen. One of the very best tales of terror ever, often anthologized, parodied (e.g. The Simpsons) or made into TV episodes (this week’s Creepshow). When a family takes possession of a monkey’s paw reputed to grant three wishes, they are skeptical but jump at the opportunity to better their lives. When the first wish does not go as planned, a rash attempt to undo its effects may bring even more horror to the family.
The Bus Conductor, E.F. Benson (1902), in The Pall Mall Magazine. Illustrations by A. Wallis Mills. Perhaps one of the most famous classic ghost stories of all time! A man encounters a terrifying specter of a hearse driver, beckoning to him. The vision is unsettling, but it portends something very real — and deadly — in the man’s future.
The Shadows on the Wall, by Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman (1903), in The Wind in the Rose-Bush. Illustrated by Peter Newell. This is Wilkins-Freeman’s most famous tale of terror, and it is well-deserved recognition. In the midst of grieving over a death, members of the Glynn and Brigham families are tormented by a sinister apparition: a shadow in a room which should not exist and looks disturbingly like their late relative.
Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad, by M.R. James (1905), in Ghost Stories of an Antiquary. Illustrated by James McBryde. A brilliant story about a very unusual ghost. When a man finds an old Roman-era whistle during a beach stroll, he impulsively blows it. But as the title suggests, when you whistle, something will come calling…
At the Mountains of Madness, by H.P. Lovecraft (1936), in Astounding Stories. Illustrator unknown. We conclude this post with Lovecraft’s masterpiece: a novella about Antarctic explorers who discover a massive, previously-unknown mountain range and the remains of the utterly inhuman beings that used to populate it. But not everything that once occupied the city is completely dead…
The story was printed in three parts, leading to a lot of glorious illustrations.
Let me end this post with a shoutout to the artists who originally illustrated these tales! It is a genuine treat to see how they interpreted the visions of the authors.
I’ll be trying to track down more classic tales in the future, so there may be another post like this soon!