Category Archives: tales of terror

The Willows, a Chilling Tale for Halloween

The Willows   by Algernon Blackwood (1907)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror  October 16, 2018

 

What better story for the Halloween season than a haunted forest?  A haunted river, perhaps? In Algernon Blackwood’s The Willows there is a prevailing secret in nature. Even the landscape here is haunted. In this story, our narrator takes on a canoe trip down the Danube River. Two men come upon a location of fierce desolation and loneliness and yet everything is alive here. Even the Danube is personified—and full of tricks.  Once set up with tent and fire, the two friends settle in, until the first thing they see is something odd floating on the Danube.

“Good heavens, it’s a man’s body!” he cried excitedly. “Look!”

A black thing, turning over and over in the foaming waves, swept rapidly past. It kept disappearing and coming up to the surface again. It was about twenty feet from the shore, and just as it was opposite to where we stood it lurched round and looked straight at us. We saw its eyes reflecting the sunset, and gleaming an odd yellow as the body turned over.  Then it gave a swift, gulping plunge, and dived out of sight in a flash.

 

This mystery lends its own power about nature, humanity, and good old-fashion fear. I challenge the readers here not to feel a high amount of dread in the reading. This is so evocative, so sinister—an excellent mix of terror. Classic ‘quiet horror’ for Halloween reading time!

 

 

Algernon Blackwood had a persistent interest in the supernatural and spiritualism. He is famous for his occult tales and a master at chilling you to the bone. He firmly believed that humans possess latent psychic powers. His writing soars with an acute sense of place. All his fiction is charged with hidden powers. He published over 200 short stories and dozens of novels.

“All my life,” he said, “I have been strangely, vividly conscious of another region–not far removed from our own world in one sense, yet wholly different in kind–where great things go on unceasingly, where immense and terrible personalities hurry by, intent on vast purposes compared to which earthly affairs, the rise and fall of nations, the destinies of empires, the fate of armies and continents, are all as dust in the balance”  Blackwood. The Willows

 

 

Read the short story at Algernonblackwood.org

http://algernonblackwood.org/Z-files/Willows.pdf

 

 

Listen to the audio on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QN_bbDrW7_M

 

 

 

More Blackwood short stories here at Reading Fiction Blog in the above INDEX.

Don’t forget to view the INDEX 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, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction.

Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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The Pale Man, a Weird Tale

The Pale Man by Julius Long (1934)

Tuesday’s Weird Tale   October  2,  2018

 

This story first appeared in Weird Tales. Our narrator is on leave from his university job and stays at a dreary hotel. He sees a rather pale man in the hotel who is quite mysterious.  The pale man is staying in Room 212 but changes rooms, and, each time he gets a room closer to our narrator’s room. Eerie and queer, this is vintage Halloween style with a dash of Poe going on and a tidy suggestion to choose your lodgings carefully. A quick black-and-white read full of shadows for October story time.

 

Read it at American Literature: https://americanliterature.com/author/julius-long/short-story/the-pale-man

Listen to the 10-minute audio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvsEZMeGDSc

 

Few people know about author Julius Long (1907-1955), a short story writer of detective and supernatural fiction: The Dead Man’s Story, Nightcap of Terror, Death’s Dancing Master, Merely Murder, Over Many Dead Bodies to name a few. All his stories are in the public domain for free reading. Long was a lawyer, lived in Ohio, and was a collector of guns.

 

 

Watch for lots of ghost stories for Halloween posts this month of October

here at Reading Fiction Blog!

Don’t forget to view the INDEX 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, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction.

 Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

 

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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2081, Vonnegut’s Timely Satirical, Dystopian Science Fiction

Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut  (1961)

Tuesday’s Tale of Science Fiction    September 11, 2018

 

How does a democracy die? Do democracies die with a military force of boots on the streets? Or revolutions? Or do people end up being hoodwinked and surrendering with a whimper? This blog doesn’t do politics but this week’s short story by Kurt Vonnegut has opened the door to thoughts and questions about authoritarianism, fascism, human rights and equality, and connects us to today’s erosion of democratic norms in the political system. Vonnegut knew about mass gullibility and maybe we are seeing some of that today. Journalist Bill Moyers called our current era Trump and the Dark Age of Unreason. 

Vonnegut’s opening paragraph of Harrison Bergeron is a stunning one.

‘THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.’

 

For this kind of ‘equality’ to be reality, people cannot be their natural selves and must wear heavy devices on their bodies that handicap them. For example, ballet dancers cannot use their natural grace and beauty, so they are required to wear weights and masks to make all the ballerinas equally clumsy and hide their individual faces.

The story focuses on a U.S. government controlling the lives of individuals, even the potential of individuals. Free thought, free expression, truth, and the hunger for power and defiance are elements. It’s a timely story for 2018 in our hot political climate where free speech and a free press are being attacked (the demise of a free press is one of the first warning signs that democracy is dying). The New Yorker Magazine in March of this year featured Exposed, Trump with no clothes, as the American Emperor. Many saw this as a reference to Hans Christian Anderson’s tale The Emperor’s New Clothes, where fear of the emperor keeps people from speaking the truth.

Research today suggests that democracies around the world may be at serious risk of decline. Reading Harrison Bergeron is an irresistible dive into a world that will make you shudder.

 

‘Clanking, clownish, and huge, Harrison stood in the center of the studio. The knob of the uprooted studio door was still in his hand. Ballerinas, technicians, musicians, and announcers cowered on their knees before him, expecting to die. “I am the Emperor!” cried Harrison. “Do you hear? I am the Emperor!’

How would a  government enforce such an absurd and extreme equality? Would the government look like Russia or other totalitarian nations that suppress human creativity, free speech, and personal expression? Why would a government even want to do this? Who has the courage to rebel? Vonnegut answers all these questions in his 1961 story of Harrison Bergeron.

What do you think? Do leave a comment!

 

Read the short story Harrison Bergeron in the year 2081 (20-minute read) here at Archive.org

https://archive.org/stream/HarrisonBergeron/Harrison%20Bergeron_djvu.txt

 

Listen to the audio on You Tube (13 minutes):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aAH_G5hcAg

 

Kurt Vonnegut is most famous for his Slaughterhouse-Five, published in 1969—the Vietnam war, racial unrest, and cultural and social upheaval.

 

 

 

“That Time in 1969 When Kurt Vonnegut Accurately Profiled Donald Trump”

by Seth Shellhouse.   At Medium.com:

https://medium.com/@ALRIGHTbrother/that-time-in-1969-when-kurt-vonnegut-accurately-profiled-donald-trump-c9f544aba736

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX 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, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction.

 Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Death on a Bridge

 An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce  (1890)

Tuesday’s Tale of Mystery  August 7, 2018

 

 

‘A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man’s hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck.’

 

 

What greater opening of a story is more compelling than an execution? Not much, and this mystery will hold you all the way through to the last lines. The time is Civil War era. Our character, a young man named Peyton Farquhar is about to be hanged. What goes through a condemned man’s mind in the moments before he knows his life will end? Is it possible Peyton could escape and return to his wife and child?

Author Ambrose Bierce is at his finest writing as this story is rich with symbolism and foreshadowing and not without its twists. The imagery is high quality in a tale well told.

 

What is your take on the ending? Were you shocked? Please feel free to comment!

Read the short story at AmericanLiterature.com:

https://americanliterature.com/author/ambrose-bierce/short-story/an-occurrence-at-owl-creek-bridge

Listen to the audio by Librivox: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lgCO_l-pgQ

Watch the YOUTUBE film (23 minutes):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHqnSX4SJ_A

 

 

Ambrose Bierce was an American journalist, satirist, and short story writer, many stories about death. He is famous for his The Devil’s Dictionary.  He disappeared in Mexico in 1914 and his final fate is recorded as “unknown.”

 

You can find more of his short stories here at Reading Ficiton Blog  in the INDEX under Ambrose Bierce.

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX 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, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction.

 Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Horror Story

Horror Story by Carmen Maria Machado  (2018)

Tuesday’s Tale of Horror  July 17, 2018

 

Carmen Maria Machado is an author of stories published in New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, Guernica, Electric Literature, AGNI,  Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy, Best Horror of the Year, Year’s Best Weird Fiction. She has just published her first collection of short stories Her Body and Other Parties: Stories (finalist for the 2017 National Book Award and finalist for the Kirkus Prize). If you are ready to discover a modern writer of ghost stories and horror, vivid and surreal, this is your gal. She likes to write about the spaces between the fantastic and reality. This writer goes deep.

In this week’s story, Machado writes about a haunted house. Not at all what you might expect.

‘It started so small: a mysteriously clogged drain; a crack in the bedroom window. We’d just moved into the place, but the drain had been working and the glass had been intact, and then one morning they weren’t. My wife tapped her fingernail lightly on the crack in the pane and it sounded like something was knocking, asking to be let in.’

 

At 1300 words, this is a quick 15-minute read. This story was originally published in Granta.

Read the short story at Nightmare Magazine:

http://www.nightmare-magazine.com/fiction/horror-story/

 

 

“When you enter into horror, you’re entering into your own mind, your own anxiety,

your own fear, your own darkest spaces.”

Carmen Maria Machado.

 

Visit Carmen Maria Machado at her website: https://carmenmariamachado.com/fiction/

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX 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, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction.

 Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

Leave a comment

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A Beautiful Death

The Fullness of Life  by Edith Wharton  (1891)

Tuesday’s Tale of Supernatural   July 3,  2018

[“The Wicket of Paradise,” by American illustrator Howard Pyle]

 

“I have sometimes thought that a woman’s nature is like a great house full of rooms: there is the hall, through which everyone passes going in and out; the drawing room, where one receives formal visits; the sitting room, where members of the family come and go as they list; but beyond that, far beyond, are other rooms, the handles of whose doors perhaps are never turned; no one knows whither they lead; and in the innermost room, the holy of holies, the soul sits alone and waits for a footstep that never comes.”

This is the voice of our narrator, who has died. She meets the Spirit of Life and enters Eternity. Written in beautiful details about real life and the poetries of life, the story takes us into the afterlife to explore love, desires, and the search for a soulmate. This quiet little supernatural tragedy is an unflinching observation into how the soul loves and the search for a soulmate. A story that will haunt you long after you’ve read the last lines.

When reading the quote above—and after reading this story—do you agree “that a woman’s nature is like a great house full of rooms,” with a private chamber that houses her soul? What kind of love holds a marriage together? Wharton is masterful at scratching our thoughts. Please comment!

 

Read the 30-minute short story at East of the Web:

http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/FulnLife.shtml#2

Listen to the audio by Librivox:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=gUjoRnbxFSk

 

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Edith Wharton said of her early stories that “all were written at the top of my voice, and The Fullness of Life is one long shriek.”

Wharton broke through the tight societal strictures to become one of America’s greatest writers. Author of The Age of Innocence, Ethan Frome, and The House of Mirth, she wrote over 40 books in 40 years, books of poetry and nonfiction. She was the first woman awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Wharton has 17 short story collections.

I am an incorrigible life-lover & life-wonderer & adventurer.”

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX 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, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction.

Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Passionate Throbs in The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898)

 Tuesday’s Tale of Ghosts   June 12, 2018

The quintessential ghost story of all time is … Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. As far as literature goes, academic or otherwise, this blog would be faulty if it didn’t feature James’ most famous ghost story. The story is a dark and rich suspense, full of passionate throbs both horrific and psychological. James has had his criticism about his overburdened sentences and his fussy and prudish style. Too Freudian was another swipe at him because his ghosts had their foundation in ourselves. But this story, after more than a century,  hasn’t lost its power.

The Turn of the Screw first appeared in serial format in Collier’s Weekly magazine (1898). James is famous for writing about the nature of evil in a quiet way. This short story fulfills the three –S’s in ghostly fiction: suspenseful, sinister, and strange. Gothic, of course, since the story takes place at the House of Bly. The story is both supernatural and psychological. James adapted this story from a tale told him by the archbishop of Canterbury. James was said to claim that his intention was to entertain. You will certainly find this story entertaining, disturbing, but also an exploration of good and evil.

The story opens with a prologue of backstory and then Chapter One is told by the governess (unnamed) who goes to Bly House in the English countryside to care for two children: Miles and Flora. Ghosts of unspeakable evil appear to the governess: Peter Quint and Miss Jessel. But are these apparitions only seen by the governess?

Do Miles and Flora observe as well? And what about the knowledgeable and reliable housekeeper Mrs. Grose? Truths, tricks, and the state of mind of our governess all play roles and so does supernatural powers.

A clever story, this is, and beautifully written. Writers of ghost stories can learn a lot by reading it carefully. The puzzle of the storytelling is cut expertly! The structure perfection. The tone mystifying. Still, literary critics debate if true evil ghosts haunt Bly House or is it the haunting from the madness of the governess.

For me, to take away the ghosts’ reality weakens the story and dilutes the fear. James insists we see the ghosts  just as the governess sees them, thereby maintaining the horror. And yet he sprinkles doubt at every turn, which enhances the suspense.

Read The Turn of the Screw at Gutenberg.org

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/209/209-h/209-h.htm

Listen to the audio at Librivox.org.

https://librivox.org/the-turn-of-the-screw-by-henry-james/

 

I’d love to read your comments and reactions to this story. What kind of psychological realism or supernatural realism did you find in the story? 

Watch the film with Deborah Kerr, directed by Jack Clayton (vintage black and white)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=gwmp2I0A0Eg

 

 

There are other adaptations for film:
—1991 film with Lynn Redgrave, directed by Dan Curtis
—1999 film with Colin Firth, directed by Ben Bolt
—2009 film with Dan Stevens and Michelle Dockery of Downtown Abbey, directed by Tim Fywell (available Amazon Prime Streaming)

 

Henry James was an American author, born in New York in 1853. He is considered to be one of the greatest novelists in our literature. The Portrait of a Lady and Daisy Miller are his most widely read and best known works.  He accomplished 22 novels, more than a hundred short stories, autobiographical works, several plays and critical essays. The Wings of Dove (1902) is a beautifully written love story and a film.  In Edith Wharton’s autobiography, she recalls how she and James sat by a ditch at Bodiam Castle, in East Sussex. ‘For a long time no one spoke,’ writes Wharton, ‘then James turned to me and said solemnly: ‘Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.’

Don’t forget to view the INDEX 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, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction. Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Filed under classic horror stories, fiction, fiction bloggers, free horror short stories online, free short stories, free short stories online, ghost stories, ghost story blogs, Ghosts, Gothic fiction, Gothic Horror, haunted mind, horror, horror blogs, literary horror, psychological horror, quiet horror, Reading Fiction, READING FICTION BLOG Paula Cappa, short stories, short stories online, short story blogs, soft horror, supernatural fiction, supernatural mysteries, supernatural tales, suspense, tales of terror