The Specialist’s Hat by Kelly Link (1999)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror October 29, 2013 Women In Horror
On Halloween, take a clean whiff of the air. I mean really breathe in the landscape. Daylight is full of the toasted scent of rusty leaves. Maybe there’s a cider sunshine that sweetens the sky. But once that moon rises, the night’s scrim evokes thin spirits among the haunted oak trees, a bit smoky with tart of crab-apple, spice of pumpkin. And while the dead leaves crack at you like popped corn, taste the descending wind as it turns to cold ash when midnight strikes.
I love Halloween! So, for this week’s Women In Horror, let’s go contemporary. I know we love classic tales of terror, but I thought I’d divert in honor of Halloween and offer you a modern-day Woman of Horror: Kelly Link. Her short story The Specialist’s Hat won the 1999 World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction.
In The Specialist’s Hat, we are in a two-hundred year old house called Eight Chimneys. Claire and Samantha are twins spending the summer there with their father who is writing a history of the house. The mother is dead.
The girls like to play the Dead game. The caretaker Mr. Coeslak says the woods aren’t safe. And here’s the thing. Neither is the attic safe. Don’t go into the attic. This night, the little girls are with a babysitter, playing their Dead game.
“This house is haunted,” Claire says.
“I know it is,” the babysitter says. “I used to live here.”
Something is creeping up the stairs,
Something is standing outside the door,
Something is sobbing, sobbing in the dark;
Something is sighing across the floor.
Would you like to go into the attic and play the Dead game with Claire and Samantha?
Read The Specialist’s Hat at KellyLink.net
Kelly Link is the author of three collections of short stories, Stranger Things Happen, Magic for Beginners, and Pretty Monsters. Her short stories have won three Nebulas, a Hugo, and a World Fantasy Award. Stranger Things Happen, was a Firecracker nominee, a Village Voice Favorite Book, and a Salon Book of the Year.
And for my diehard classic fans, I bring you two stories from another Woman of Horror: Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Braddon was a prolific writer with over eighty novels, her most popular novel Lady Audley’s Secret (1862) and the highly acclaimed ghost story At Chrighton Abbey.
The Cold Embrace (1860) is a chilly tale of love and romance. Gertrude is hopelessly in love with a handsome and charming artist, who swears his passion for her as well. But the golden dawns and rosy sunsets don’t last for long. How easily some men are bewitched.
Read The Cold Embrace at Gaslight.
In Braddon’s The Shadow in the Corner (1879), Michael Bascom does not believe that Wildheath Grange is haunted. Until the young maid Maria comes to the old house. Read Shadow in the Corner at Gaslight. Listen to the narration at Librivox Recording
I hope you’ve enjoyed October’s Women in Horror at Tales of Terror. If you have a title or author you’d like to share, please drop a line in a comment box. And if you’d like more about Women in Horror, I have a guest blog at Monster Librarian, “Literary Ladies of Horror’s Haunted Mountain” where you’ll find a number of titles and authors, classic and contemporary.
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