Category Archives: Penny Dreadful

Author of the Week, Charles L. Grant, April 11

AUTHOR OF THE WEEK  April 11

Charles L. Grant

American Author and Editor

(Short Stories and Novels: Quiet Horror and Dark Fantasy)

 

 

Grant was esteemed for building foreboding atmosphere, a slow burn of dramatic tension in his plots, settings, and characterization. His trademark is a story steeped in palpable dread with high suspense, yet without descriptive bloodshed or graphic violence. Thus, the beauty of  quiet horror. Grant wrote 70 novels, 150 short stories, and edited two dozen anthologies. A master in this subgenre that is still popular.

Grant is revered by Stephen King as an “autumnal writer” because the reader closes his book with far more than a scare. We read his stories and receive a deep sense of  awe, intelligence, and the imaginary that rises far above most other writers in the genre.

Charlie Grant will give you a story so memorable, you’ll want more.

 

“I like to set up as real a situation as possible, then twist it just enough and bring in whatever I want to bring in. It is more startling and entertaining to use real people with real-world problems.”

“The goal is not to scare people, just make them uncomfortable. I work to make you really, really nervous, so that it will take you a long time to get over it. I want to make you see shadows where there is no light to cast them.”

“If all the world’s a stage and all the people players, who in bloody hell hired the director?”

When asked why horror is so popular, he replied “It is a safe way of looking at death.”

Charles L. Grant (1942 – 2006)  received the British Fantasy Society’s Special Award in 1987 for life achievement; and he was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association, Nebula Awards and three World Fantasy Awards.

The Shadow Series is ten anthologies, including short stories by Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Robert Bloch, and many others. The first five novels he wrote didn’t sell but he went on to achieve great success and admiration. In cinematic terms, Grant is thought to have more likeness with the horror film classics of Val Lewton and Roman Polanski—Grant’s work strong on hinting at madness and violence, a writer certainly gifted at suggestion and subtleties. He and his wife, editor and novelist Kathryn Ptacek, had lived in a 100-year-old haunted Victorian house in Sussex County, New Jersey.

SlipofthePen.com

 

Podcast about Charles L. Grant at LovecraftEzine.com

https://lovecraftezine.libsyn.com/charles-grants-quiet-horror-chet-williamsons-sequel-to-psycho-and-more

[Personal Note: Because almost all my published fiction is quiet horror, and I read so much of it, I have a special place for Charlie. I did a blog on him in September 2013, link below. Another favorite quiet horror author is Shirley Jackson The Haunting of Hill House. And I can add Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black.]

Quiet Horror, Still the Darling of the Horror Genre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visit Charlie’s Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Charles-Grant/e/B000AQ1O8G

 

Please join me in my reading nook and discover an author on Mondays once a month at Reading Fiction Blog!

Browse the Index of Authors’ Tales above to find over 250 free short stories by over 150 famous authors. Once a month I feature a FREE short story by contemporary or classic authors. Audios too.

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Author of the Week, Algernon Blackwood, March 14

Author of the Week,  March 14,  Monday

Algernon Blackwood

(Short Story Writer and English Novelist of Mysteries and Supernatural)

 

“Certain houses, like certain persons, manage somehow to proclaim at once their character for evil.”

“But the wicked passions of men’s hearts alone seem strong enough to leave pictures that persist; the good are ever too lukewarm.”

“Ritual is the passage way of the soul into the Infinite.”

 

 

Algernon Blackwood (1869 to 1951) was one of the most prolific writers of ghost stories in the history of the genre. His two best known stories are The Willows and The Wendigo. His first book of short stories, The Empty House (1906) was when he became a full-time fiction writer. Later collections include John Silence (1908), stories about a detective sensitive to extrasensory phenomena, and Tales of the Uncanny and Supernatural (1949), 22 stories selected from his nine other books of short stories.

Today is Blackwood’s anniversary of his birth, March 14, 1869.  As fiction readers we love to pay tribute to authors on the birth or death dates as a memoriam by reading their work.  Blackwood’s mysterious tales and atmospheric ghostly stories  bring our imaginations into other worlds. He is a master at going deep into the psychological elements of ghosts and the element of human fear and desire. His stories are a treat into vintage fiction!

On this blog, I have featured seven of Blackwood’s stories (In the Index of Authors’ Tales above). He is a worthy favorite of mine. You won’t be disappointed.

Interview with Andrew McQuade about Blackwood’s Fiction: http://satanicpandemonium.blogspot.com/2012/12/algernon-blackwood-interview-with.html

 

Audio of Algernon Blackwood Reading Pistol Against a Ghost. A quick story that will make you smile! (7 minutes):

 

 

And here is audio of The Wood of the Dead (35 minutes):

 

 

 

 

 

Visit Algernon Blackwood’s Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Algernon-Blackwood/e/B001IO9NQO 

There are a number of Blackwood’s stories free on Kindle.

 

 

Please join me in my reading nook and discover an author on Mondays once a month at Reading Fiction Blog!

Browse the Index of Authors’ Tales above to find over 250 free short stories by over 150 famous authors. Once a month I feature a FREE short story by contemporary or classic authors. Audios too. 

Comments and Likes are welcome!

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Author of the Week, Susan Hill, February 7

AUTHOR OF THE WEEK   February 7   Monday

Susan Hill

(Novels/Short Stories, Mystery and Ghost Fiction)

 

“Ghost stories … tell us about things that lie hidden within all of us, and which lurk outside all around us.”

“I wrote ghost stories because I’d always enjoyed reading them, and they seemed to be fizzling out… I don’t take them terribly seriously. It’s like a cake, with ingredients.”

“Though they don’t always have to be set in fog, weather is incredibly important in ghost stories. As is suspense: you’ve got to turn the screw very, very slowly.”

“I have only read very classic traditional English ghost stories, other than Henry James, who wrote some magnificent short ones as well as the longer ‘Turn of the Screw.’ He, Dickens, and M.R. James are my influences.”

 

 

Dame Susan Hill, Lady Wells, DBE is an English author of fiction and non-fiction works. Her novels include The Woman in Black, The Mist in the Mirror, and I’m the King of the Castle, for which she received the Somerset Maugham Award in 1971. Other awards include Whitbread Novel Award for The Bird of Night (1972); and the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for The Albatross (1971), a collection of short stories.

Her Simon Serrailler Crime Mysteries are popular novels, beginning with the first in the series The Various Haunts of Men.

Reviews:

“A gripping whodunnit and a subtle study of the mind of a psychopath”  Daily Mail 

“I loved this book. Masterly and satisfying” Ruth Rendell 

“This book must be judged as a potential successor to the great sequences of detective writing by PD James and Ruth Rendell…excellent” Daily Telegraph 

“She has the priceless ability to construct a solidly-researched narrative that keeps the reader turning the pages”  Independent  

Interview with Susan Hill speaking about wickedness, her dark new novella – and why she would never read the latest Man Booker winner.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/25/susan-hill-books-interview

Interview about ghost stories:

 

Here is the trailer for The Small Hand, a short story by Susan Hill

Visit Susan Hill’s Amazon Book Page: https://www.amazon.com/Susan-Hill/e/B096X8W23Z

 

 

 

Please join me in my reading nook and discover an author

on Mondays at Reading Fiction Blog!

Browse the Index of Authors’ Tales above to find over

200 free short stories by over 100 famous authors.

Once a month I feature a FREE short story by contemporary and classic authors, audios too.

 

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Dabbled in Blood, the Masked Figure

Tuesday’s Short Story, January 25, 2022

The Masque of the Red Death  by Edgar Allan Poe (1842)

 

 

This month of January is the anniversary of  Edgar Allan Poe (birth January 19, 1809). What better time to mark our appreciation of this great writer than to read one of his stories?

The Masque of the Red Death is fast 20-minute read for readers who love supernatural and mystery. I think this story has a timeliness during this Covid pandemic when we are all wearing masks and where many of us wish we could run away to our private abbeys to stay safe.

“The “Red Death” had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous.”

Prince Prospero summons his dominions to his castle, an abbey in the far hills. Here the ‘gay society’ is safe to enjoy themselves in the seven rooms of different colors—which have its own mystery. We are at a masked ball with music and dancing, but who arrives? An uninvited mysterious figure. In the seventh room that is draped in black velvet with blood red window panes, our tale goes deep with supernatural, psychological, and horrific elements in grand Poe style. This is soooooo Gothic!

Read the short story at Gutenberg.org

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/1064/1064-h/1064-h.htm

 

Listen to the audio read by Sir Christopher Lee:

 

Watch the film created at the University of Technology, Sydney for Media Arts and Production (15 minutes). Sweeping, baroque, and spooky.

 

 

Poe wrote in many genres. He was the first to include deep psychological and intuitive horror in his stories. His tales often reflect that the true monster of evil is within each person and what happens when that evil is acted upon. His most famous work is The Raven.

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX OF AUTHORS’ TALES above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories (some with audio), by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, crime, sci-fi, romance, ‘quiet horror,’ and mainstream fiction.

 

 Follow or sign up to join me in reading one short story every month. 

Comments are welcome!

Feel free to click “LIKE.”

 

 Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

      Monster Librarian     

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

Literature Blog Directory   

Blog Collection

Blog Top Sites

Discover Author of the Week posted on Mondays!

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Bad Moon Rising Interview for Halloween

I am pleased and honored to have this interview at Teri Polen’s BAD MOON RISING at her blog Books and Such.  It is always a treat to be featured at Halloween time for my supernatural fiction. Teri writes a weekly blog, introducing authors and new writers to readers, featuring some of the best books and talent in the industry.

 

 

You can read my interview about my fiction  at Bad Moon Rising,

October 30, 2021.

https://teripolen.com/2021/10/30/badmoonrising-wild-darkness-by-paula-cappa-shortstory-thriller-mystery/ 

 

Teri Polen reads and watches horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. The Walking Dead, Harry Potter, and anything Marvel-related are likely to cause fangirl delirium. She lives in Bowling Green, KY with her husband, sons, and black cat. Sarah, her debut novel, was named a horror finalist in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

Visit her author page on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Teri-Polen/e/B01MYOUA6V 

Happy Halloween!

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The Haunted House in the Square, for Halloween

The Empty House  by Algernon Blackwood  (1906)

October’s Short Story for Halloween,  October 21, 2021

 

What could be more satisfying than to read a classic haunted house mystery during Halloween season? Especially a gabled house surrounded by dark gardens that cry out and air fragrant with ruin. Inside lurking staircases flicker shadows, and a faceless clock ticks away on the threshold of midnight.

Dean Koontz says of haunted houses: “We are haunted and regardless of the architecture with which we surround ourselves, our ghosts stay with us until we ourselves are ghosts.” How utterly delightful to be a ghost! Maybe our DNAs truly are blueprints of the past.

One of the absolute finest writers of ghost stories is Algernon Blackwood. Here at Reading Fiction Blog, you will find six of his stories to read for free—because Blackwood is a master at ghosts, psychological chills, and performing the highest atmospherics. He has been considered the foremost British supernaturalist. His skills lie in drawing upon Oriental thought, psychology and philosophy, which bring an intelligence to his stories.

The Empty House is a simple story, a fiction over 100 years old. There was a murder in this house that is now empty and shunned by the village folk.  Aunt Julia and her nephew Jim Shorthouse spend a night in The Empty House.

 

We walk through this house with Aunt Julia and Jim, not as observers, but as participants in seeking the ghost.  The atmospherics do it all to illicit fear  and trembling as the characters engage in the supernatural events. Pay close attention to the narrative closure. It sneaks up on the reader, leaving you breathless in the sea air.

 

The original chatter about this story was that Blackwood personally experienced some of these ghostly events during his ghost hunting work at the Society of Psychical Research in London. We are in a well-written “quiet horror” of supernatural literature.

 

Read it here at Gutenberg.org

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/14471/14471-h/14471-h.htm

 

Listen to the audio on YouTube.com:

 

More of Algernon Blackwood’s free short stories here at Reading Fiction Blog:

Blackwood, Algernon  Ancient Sorceries, February 5, 2013

Blackwood, Algernon  Wood of the Dead, September 9, 2014

Blackwood, Algernon  House of the Past, November 9, 2015

Blackwood, Algernon  The Glamour of Snow,  March 1, 2016

Blackwood, Algernon A Psychological Invasion, Case 1,  June 28, 2016

Blackwood, Algernon  The Willows, October 16, 2018

 

Have a Happy Halloween!

Don’t forget to view the INDEX OF AUTHORS’ TALES above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, crime, sci-fi, romance, ‘quiet horror,’ and mainstream fiction.

 Follow or sign up to join me in reading one short story every month. 

Comments are welcome!

Feel free to click “LIKE.”

 

 Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

      Monster Librarian     

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

Literature Blog Directory   

Blog Collection

Blog Top Sites

Discover Author of the Week posted on Mondays!

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Haunts of Halloween

Haunts of Halloween

October 31, 2016

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Let’s go poetry. There are stories in poems, images and insights, song and emotion … and other worlds. Let your mind play with the patterns and sink into the symbolism. Be illuminated this Halloween!

 

The Ghost House by Robert Frost (1906)

Gloomy, dark, mysterious, and beautifully vague.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WK92957YzI

Read it below or here online: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/ghost-house

 

ghost-house

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I dwell in a lonely house I know

That vanished many a summer ago,

And left no trace but the cellar walls,

And a cellar in which the daylight falls

And the purple-stemmed wild raspberries grow.

 

O’er ruined fences the grape-vines shield

The woods come back to the mowing field;

The orchard tree has grown one copse

Of new wood and old where the woodpecker chops;

The footpath down to the well is healed.

 

I dwell with a strangely aching heart

In that vanished abode there far apart

On that disused and forgotten road

That has no dust-bath now for the toad.

Night comes; the black bats tumble and dart;

 

The whippoorwill is coming to shout

And hush and cluck and flutter about:

I hear him begin far enough away

Full many a time to say his say

Before he arrives to say it out.

 

It is under the small, dim, summer star.

I know not who these mute folk are

Who share the unlit place with me—

Those stones out under the low-limbed tree

Doubtless bear names that the mosses mar.

 

They are tireless folk, but slow and sad—

Though two, close-keeping, are lass and lad,—

With none among them that ever sings,

And yet, in view of how many things,

As sweet companions as might be had.

ghosthouseimages

 

 

ghost-phantom

 

 

Haunted Houses by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1858)

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All houses wherein men have lived and died

Are haunted houses. Through the open doors

The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,

With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

 

We meet them at the door-way, on the stair,

Along the passages they come and go,

Impalpable impressions on the air,

A sense of something moving to and fro.

 

There are more guests at table than the hosts

Invited; the illuminated hall

Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,

As silent as the pictures on the wall.

 

The stranger at my fireside cannot see

The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;

He but perceives what is; while unto me

All that has been is visible and clear.

 

We have no title-deeds to house or lands;

Owners and occupants of earlier dates

From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,

And hold in mortmain still their old estates.

 

The spirit-world around this world of sense

Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere

Wafts through these earthly mists and vapours dense

A vital breath of more ethereal air.

 

Our little lives are kept in equipoise

By opposite attractions and desires;

The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,

And the more noble instinct that aspires.

 

These perturbations, this perpetual jar

Of earthly wants and aspirations high,

Come from the influence of an unseen star

An undiscovered planet in our sky.

 

And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud

Throws o’er the sea a floating bridge of light,

Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd

Into the realm of mystery and night,—

 

So from the world of spirits there descends

A bridge of light, connecting it with this,

O’er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,

Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.

 

images

 

“And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
                Shall be lifted- nevermore!”

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Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 170 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery,  supernatural, horror, and ghost stories. Join me in reading one short story every other week! Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

 HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian     HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

 

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Filed under Edgar Allan Poe, fiction, ghost stories, Ghosts, Halloween, Halloween stories, horror, horror blogs, mysteries, paranormal, Penny Dreadful, Reading Fiction, short story blogs, supernatural, tales of terror

Why Do We Love Horror?

In the words of Arthur Conan Doyle ( and as a companion post with this week’s featured author, 1-5-2016 Tales of Terror, “The Horror of the Heights”),

“Where there is no imagination, there is no horror.”

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So, let’s see now, why do we love to read horror stories and terrifying suspense mysteries? Why do we watch horror movies? Is it to stimulate our imaginations? Is it because some of us love gore-watching or identifying with killers? Or maybe it’s because we like to face the unknown safely in our reading chairs or comfy movie theater seats. As an avid reader, film lover, and writer of supernatural, mystery, and horror, I ask these questions all the time.

 

Below is a link to  FilmmakerIQ.com John P. Hess’ 15-minute vimeo on this very subject.  Hess explores the “Psychology of Scary Movies” theories from contemporary scientific professionals to Freud, Jung, Aristotle and much more. When I came across this vimeo some time ago, I found it  informative and insightful. I hope you do too.

 


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/77636515″>The Psychology of Scary Movies</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/filmmakeriq”>FilmmakerIQ.com</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

 

We could say there is no single answer to the question, but if you have a theory, agreement or disagreement, please post.

img-thing

 

 

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Filed under classic horror stories, crime thrillers, fiction, Halloween stories, Hauntings, horror, horror blogs, literary horror, literature, murder mystery, mysteries, Penny Dreadful, Psycho, psychological horror, quiet horror, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, soft horror, Stephen King, supernatural, supernatural thrillers, suspense, tales of terror, weird tales

Night Sea Journey, 99 cents, November

Last weekend (November 6, 7, 8, 2015) for this sale at 99 cents for Night Sea Journey. This supernatural mystery recently hit the Amazon best seller list for 4 days in occult and supernatural genres.  After winning an Eric Hoffer Book Award this year, Night Sea Journey has connected to readers who love to explore fiction about the mysteries of the subconscious mind, art, and spirituality … and a firehawk.

Eric-Hoffer-Award-Seal

U.S. Review of Books “Stunning and absorbing plot on par with—if not better than—a Dan Brown novel. Truly an outstanding read, Night Sea Journey is one book that is hard to put down!”

ERIC HOFFER BOOK AWARD, 2015. “This romantic fantasy is propelled by gorgeous language and imagery…angels and demons…The grime of inner city Chicago, the tranquility of the Rhode Island coastline, and the depths of a phantasmagoric ocean are the stages for this conflict.”

SAN FRANCISCO BOOK REVIEW ★★★★★ posts “NIGHT SEA JOURNEY is like reading a Dan Brown book with a wicked twist: it has real demons. Readers will be taken on a continual thrill ride, impossible to put down, a fast-paced thriller.”

READERS’ FAVORITE REVIEWS ★★★★★ “Marvelous, atmospheric and, oh, so very, very good. Profound, vibrant, and intensely moving. Highly recommended. Brava!”

★★★★★ Grady Harp, Amazon Hall of Fame Reviewer Gives 5 STARS. “A talent that will draw even those who are not keen on supernatural stories into her fold.”

 

Come meet Kip Livingston’s firehawk  …

FireHawkdreamstime_m_3134182

 

Trade Paperback Published by Crispin Books

Buy the eb00k     $2.99

Buy the trade paperback  $16.95

Amazon.com

Amazon UK 

Barnes & Noble.com

Smashwords

Apple iTunes

CappaNightSeaJourneyERICHFinalSept (1)

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Penny Dreadful Stories, Read ‘em Here!

Penny Dreadful, Read ’em Here (1830s — 1900s)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    July 1, 2014

 

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Imagine you are in Victorian England. While you cannot afford to buy one of Charles Dickens’ stories at twelve shillings, you can afford to buy a Penny Dreadful (also known as “bloods” or “shilling shockers”) for one penny and dive into the scintillating stories of vampires, wehr-wolves, pirates, robbers, Roman gladiators, Highwaymen, Goths, and so much more.

At the time, the readers of Penny Dreadfuls were the semi-literate, working class British. The stories were written by hack writers (bad writing is not a crime so let’s keep an open mind) who were paid a penny a line for their—what was considered ‘vulgar’—stories. The readers at the time were mostly young adults, and far more male readers than females. Today, statistics say that males account for only 20% of the fiction readers.

Varneyp1Probably one of the most enticing parts of these stories were the lurid illustrations (woodcuts). Don’t we all have a taste for the visually sensational? And don’t we rely on literature to satisfy our needs for melodrama and murder?fVarney7a

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Today we have Penny Dreadful, the current TV-series on ShowTime, created by screenwriter John Logan. If you are looking for a throttling psychosexual horror drama, this will fulfill (see it “On Demand”). We have the beautiful vampire huntress Vanessa Ives, a sharpshooter Josh Harnett, African explorer and vampire hunter Sir Malcolm Murray, a prostitute dying of consumption Brona Croft, Frankenstein (and his monster), and Dorian Grey. This drama is for adults, and it’s far from any kind of  hack writing. It is profoundly well written, rich in story, and a stunning interweaving of compelling characters. Thrills and chills for sure!

penny-dreadful

But, if you want to experience the original Penny Dreadful from Victorian England, I’ve found four stories online for your blood-thirsty pleasures: Varney the Vampire; The Mysteries of London; String of Pearls (A Romance) The Demon Barber of Fleet Street; Wagner the Wehr-Wolf. These are not short stories but more novella length, and were presented in the Penny Dreadful editions as a weekly or monthly series. I’ve included a paragraph of text for you to get a flavor of the writing.

 

Varney the Vampire by Thomas Preskett Prest

200px-Varney_the_VampireThe solemn tones of an old cathedral clock have announced midnight—the air is thick and heavy—a strange, death like stillness pervades all nature. Like the ominous calm which precedes some more than usually terrific outbreak of the elements, they seem to have paused even in their ordinary fluctuations, to gather a terrific strength for the great effort. A faint peal of thunder now comes from far off. Like a signal gun for the battle of the winds to begin, it appeared to awaken them from their lethargy, and one awful, warring hurricane swept over a whole city, producing more devastation in the four or five minutes it lasted, than would a half century of ordinary phenomena.

Read Varney the Vampire at Gutenberg.org

Listen to audio version at Librivox.org  (read in a lovely English accent)

 

. .

The Mysteries of London by George W.M. Reynolds

MyseriesofLondonprologueCrime is abundant in this city: the lazar-house, the prison, the brothel, and the dark alley, are rife with all kinds of enormity; in the same way as the palace, the mansion, the club-house, the parliament, and the parsonage, are each and all characterised by their different degrees and shades of vice. But wherefore specify crime and vice by their real names, since in this city of which we speak they are absorbed in the multi-significant words – WEALTH and POVERTY … From this city of strange contrasts branch off two roads, leading to two points totally distinct the one from the other. One winds its tortuous way through all the noisome dens of crime, chicanery, dissipation, and voluptuousness: the other meanders amidst rugged rocks and wearisome acclivities, it is true, but on the wayside are the resting-places of rectitude and virtue.
    Along those roads two youths are journeying. They have started from the same point; but one pursues the former path, and the other the latter. Both come from the city of fearful contrasts; and both follow the wheels of fortune in different directions. Where is that city of fearful contrasts? – Who are those youths that have thus entered upon paths so opposite the one to the other? And to what destinies do those separate roads conduct them?

.Read Mysteries of London at VictorianLondon.org

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String of Pearls (A Romance), The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

images-3“Before Fleet-street had reached its present importance, and when George the Third was young, and the two figures who used to strike the chimes at old St Dunstan’s church were in all their glory – being a great impediment to errand-boys on their progress, and a matter of gaping curiosity to country people – there stood close to the sacred edifice a small barber’s shop, which was kept by a man of the name of Sweeney Todd).  How it was that he came by the name of Sweeney, as a Christian appellation, we are at a loss to conceive, but such was his name, as might be seen in extremely corpulent yellow letters over his shop window, by anyone who chose there to look for it. Barbers by that time in Fleet-street had not become fashionable, and no more dreamt of calling themselves artists than of taking the Tower by storm; moreover they were not, as they are now, constantly slaughtering fine fat bears, and yet somehow people had hair on their heads just the same as they have at present, without the aid of that unctuous auxiliary. Moreover Sweeney Todd, in common with his brethren in those really primitive sorts of times, did not think it at all necessary to have any waxen effigies of humanity in his window. There was no languishing young lady looking over the left shoulder in order that a profusion of auburn tresses might repose upon her lily neck, and great conquerors and great statesmen were not then, as they are now, held up to public ridicule with dabs of rouge upon their cheeks, a quantity of gunpowder scattered in for a beard, and some bristles sticking on end for eyebrows.
     No. Sweeney Todd was a barber of the old school, and he never thought of glorifying himself on account of any extraneous circumstance. If he had lived in Henry the Eighth’s palace, it would have been all the same to him as Henry the Eighth’s dog-kennel, and he would scarcely have believed human nature to be so green as to pay an extra sixpence to be shaven and shorn in any particular locality.
     A long pole painted white, with a red stripe curling spirally round it, projected into the street from his doorway, and on one of the panes of glass in his window was presented the following couplet: Easy shaving for a penny, As good as you will find any.”

Read String of Pearls (Demon Barber) at VictorianLondon.org

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Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf George W.M. Reynolds

Wagner the Wehr-WolfIt was the month of January, 1516. The night was dark and tempestuous; the thunder growled around; the lightning flashed at short intervals: and the wind swept furiously along in sudden and fitful gusts. The streams of the great Black Forest of Germany babbled in playful melody no more, but rushed on with deafening din, mingling their torrent roar with the wild creaking of the huge oaks, the rustling of the firs, the howling of the affrighted wolves, and the hollow voices of the storm. The dense black clouds were driving restlessly athwart the sky; and when the vivid lightning gleamed forth with rapid and eccentric glare, it seemed as if the dark jaws of some hideous monster, floating high above, opened to vomit flame.

And as the abrupt but furious gusts of wind swept through the forest, they raised strange echoes—as if the impervious mazes of that mighty wood were the abode of hideous fiends and evil spirits, who responded in shrieks, moans, and lamentations to the fearful din of the tempest. It was, indeed, an appalling night! An old—old man sat in his cottage on the verge of the Black Forest. He had numbered ninety years; his head was completely bald—his mouth was toothless—his long beard was white as snow, and his limbs were feeble and trembling.”

Read Wagner the Wehr-Wolf at Gutenberg.org

 

If you’ve read any of these stories, I’d love to hear your comments. Have you been watching Penny Dreadful on ShowTime? Don’t be shy about comments. We all friendly here: no bites or blood-sucking allowed. And of course, if you prefer the quieter side of horror (more psychological or ghostly without blood and violence), there’s plenty of free short stories in the archives (browse the Index above). Since I’m a quiet horror reader and writer, most of the stories here are at the soft-core horror level.

 

 

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     The Gothic Wanderer   Sirens Call Publications  The Fussy Librarian

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