Tag Archives: horror genre

The Dark Mother: A Short and Most Hideous Horror Story

Graveyard Shift   by Richard Matheson (1960)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   July 22, 2014

What portal do we enter when we confront the dark mother?

 

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This short story by the esteemed Richard Matheson (1926-2013, author of I am Legend, Hell House, What Dreams May Come, Stir of Echoes) is a story that has all the elements of true horror, empathy, and shock. Matheson’s gift in this story is a perspective into the “dark mother.” Do you have one of these or know a dark mother who rules harshly, extolling her powers of fear and control? Have you witnessed the dark mother at her darkest, the woman who has the capacity to harm or neglect her child? She is the “shadow archetype” named by Carl Jung—who suggests that our negative emotions are part of the whole of the power we possess and part of our human experience (in order to appreciate the light, we must know the dark). The dark mother is taboo, of course; we don’t like to talk about mothers harming their children. I certainly don’t.

Nott_paintingHowever, I do like when horror stories get into the grit of a soul in order to enhance our understanding of our dark sides. And we all have a dark side somewhere, buried or not, and isn’t that why many of us love to explore horror fiction? Because we can dig up this dark side within the safety of fiction, recognize it, feel it, and do no real harm. I guess what I’m suggesting here is that if we didn’t read horror stories and enter this imaginary world, we might feel the need to act out our dark sides in the real world. Reading the news is an example of how many people actually do act out their shadow sides.

 

In Graveyard Shift, we have three letters (epistolary fiction) from Luke to his father Sam, from Sam to George and a letter from George to Sam. The widow Blackwell is found dead. Her little boy Jim is the only one alive in the cabin. To say more about this story would diminish its effects and Matheson deserves your clean eye and mind on the page … as you experience the shadowy portal of the dark mother.

 

The PDF link below may or may not be working. I think copyrights are still legal, preventing free reads. You can read it in the anthology “Masterpieces of Terror and the Supernatural,” selected by Marvin Kaye on Amazon (a fine selection of offbeat and rare stories), or likely borrow this book at your local library (try WorldCAT to locate in a library near you).

Try this PDF link to read Graveyard Shift (Scroll to Story #12):

http://ny.iadicicco.com/Finished/20,000%20Ebooks/Richard%20Matheson/Richard%20Matheson%20-%20Short%20Story%20Collection%20Volume%20I.pdf

 

 

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In literature/mythology, other dark mother themed stories are Lamia who was a child-eating demon (also the poem Lamia by John Keats in 1820), Medea, Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel, Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic, Bloch’s Norma Bates in Psycho, and contemporary Neil Gaiman’s novel Coraline. There are others, of course, and if you have a short story or novel in mind, please post it in the comments below.

 

 

Lamia

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Bibliophilica.com

Horror Novel Reviews   Hell Horror    HorrorPalace

HorrorSociety.com

 Monster Librarian  Tales to Terrify       Spooky Reads

 Lovecraft Ezine      Rob Around Books    The Story Reading Ape Blog

     The Gothic Wanderer   Sirens Call Publications  The Fussy Librarian

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror classic Authors.

 

 

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Filed under dark fantasy, fiction, horror, horror blogs, short stories, tales of terror

Quiet Horror, Still the Darling of the Horror Genre

There is a power in quiet horror novels.

September 15 is the anniversary of the death of author Charles L. Grant, who most will agree was the best-selling modern-day master of quiet horror novels. A rigorous talent, a legend to many of us, Grant had hundreds of books, novels, short stories and anthologies published and won three World Fantasy Awards and two Nebula Awards. Grant wholeheartedly believed in the atmospheric quiet horror story as a serious fiction form.  Descriptions of Grant’s riveting prose and pace are phrases like lulls you into the dark,  subtle thrillsliterary prowess,  creates a luring suspense.  Well-crafted, horror fiction is an art. Read a Grant story and you’ll see why.

Grantimages

Because we remember the loss of this treasured author (and because I admire the craft of quiet horror novels, love to read them and write them), it seems appropriate to revisit this enduring genre for September.

Horror is defined as painful and intense fear, something that horrifies. So when you think of reading a horror novel or story, what do you desire? Horror that is raw, explicit, and loud like pulp slasher shock? That would be the assault of splatterpunk. How about all-powerful monsters? Super-intelligent aliens? Sexy vampires that no one can resist? Are you curious about a shuttered gray house with a man skulking on the front porch, eyes searching every child who walks by? What a shudder that story might bring. Or maybe you love the Lovecraftian style with demigods from ages past like Cthulhu, written in deep prose and pessimistic themes. Psychological horror is a grabber, especially if you’re battling demonic possession, the ultimate evil challenge.

Stephen King is well known for saying that horror arouses our “phobic pressure points.” And maybe it’s true that triggering these fears becomes very personal for horror fans, provoking a response from the physical to the emotional to the psychological.

When did society decide that reading tales of the supernatural and terror would be entertaining? Maybe it’s the fight or flight response we still crave. Maybe reading horror is a catharsis. One of the very first horror novels was The Castle of Otranto written by Horace Walpole in 1764. Then we quickly move into the Gothic horror era with Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Poe, Hawthorne, Henry James and you know the rest of them, all the way to Grant, King, Koontz, and Rice.

But let’s get back to the  power in quiet horror. What is it exactly?  Quiet horror stories do not feed you blunt visceral violence: no gore-is-more philosophy; no bloody slasher meisters, no cheap thrills. Quiet horror hits a high key when it stimulates the intellect (sometimes even to the point of being a tad cerebral). It evokes  dark emotions and conjures imagery, artistically hitting your fear buttons, teasing you with clues, and employing the suggestive-then-cut-away Hitchcockian style of suspense. Delicious!

And often, this quiet darkness will hold a message that is not only cleverly hidden but  also symbolic. That “Ah-ha” moment is one we all love to experience.

Look at the success of John Harwood’s chilling The Séance;  Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black;  Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s enduring short story The Yellow Wallpaper. If you’ve ever read W.W. Jacob’s The Monkey’s Paw, you can experience this understated but powerful dark message of  regret.

Charles Grant said in an interview that the most powerful books are the ones who force the reader to use the imagination. He saw the reader’s imagination as a highly effective tool. If we look to Lovecraft about horror, he advised writers never to state a specific horror element when it can be suggested. So, are writers who spell out every bloody and violent detail cheating readers from creating their own pleasurable visualizations?

In Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, the narrator says that he worked hastily and in silence to cut off the head, arms and legs of his victim. He uses the word “blood” only once …

There was nothing to wash out—no stain of any kind—no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all!

Any reader with half an imagination can see the blood inside that tub and imagine the dismembered parts with a ghastly effect. Maybe Strunk & White are right when they said, “It is seldom advisable to tell all.”

When you read horror, do the words on the page manipulate your thinking or stimulate your imagination? How deep is your well?

A search on Amazon.com for quiet horror novels offers four of Grant’s novels:
The Sound of Midnight
The Bloodwind
The Last Call of Mourning
The Grave

Search Barnes & Noble and you’ll find more traditional titles like Northanger Abby by Jane Austin, The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

Amazon lists these as their top FIVE selling quiet horror novels:
In the Night Room, Peter Straub
The Fall of Never, Ronald Damien Malfi
The Snowman’s Children, Glen Hirshberg
Nightmare House, Douglas Clegg
Atmosphere, Michael Laimo

Of course there’s lots more quiet horror out there, but it’s not so easy to identify these novels. Right now on the New York Times best sellers list, two novels that fit quiet horror are Night Film by Marisha Pessi (pitched as occult horror, literary thriller, and mystery thriller) and Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Sometimes these authors are known as dark fantasy authors. Writers like Joyce Carol Oates, Ramsey Campbell, James Herbert, Arthur Machen, Elizabeth Massie.

My favorite authors of quiet horror are the classic masters: Nathaniel Hawthorne, M.R. James, Poe, Henry James and too many more to list here. I loved The Dead Zone by Stephen King. What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson, The Grave by Charles L. Grant, The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper, Seduction by M.J. Rose.

So, what horror stories spark your imagination? Is there a horror novel that has awakened your heart and soul?

I leave you with one last thought …

“Where there is no imagination, there is no horror.” Arthur Conan Doyle

Whether you are a reader, author, publishing pro, or literary hound, I invite you to post your thoughts here. Are you a fan of Charles  Grant?  Do you prefer splatterpunk or bizarro and tell us why. What is your favorite horror novel? I see this post as a running commentary about horror—quiet or loud, gothic, splatterpunk, dark fantasy, supernatural, ghosts, mystery, fabulist, Lovecraftian, satanic, or bizarro.

If you are new to this blog, I am a novelist and short story writer, living in New York, posting classic Tales of Terror every week, most of which are quiet horror, supernatural, and lots of ghost stories because … I am a haunted writer. Not only do I believe in ghosts, but I’ve got one sitting next to me right now.  He’s a writer, of course, about ghosts and witches—and he is my mentor. The number seven has particular significance to his greatest known work. If you know this house in Salem, Massachusetts pictured below, you know this author.

HouseSeven_GablesLARGE_(1915)

You can view my novels, Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural and The Dazzling Darkness in the above tabs on this site, but I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically suggest you experience the novels of Charles L. Grant and the other fine authors mentioned here if you really want to walk on the dark side with the best of  literary artists.

Here are a few worthy web sites in your search for horror and the supernatural.

CharlesLGrantWebSite

Horror Novel Reviews

Too Much Horror Fiction Blogspot

Hell Notes

Spooky Reads 

Monster Librarian

Horror World

HellHorror

Horror-Web

Horror Palace

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Filed under dark fantasy, Hawthorne, horror, horror blogs, Night Sea Journey, quiet horror, soft horror, tales of terror, The Dazzling Darkness

“Run! Run! It is after me.”

The Haunters and the Haunted  by Edward Bulwer-Lytton  (1859)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   April 30, 2013

“The house is haunted; and the old woman who kept it was found dead in her bed with her eyes wide open. They say the devil strangled her.”

Well, this is a provocative beginning to the story, isn’t it? Being strangled in your bed by the devil? I’ve had nightmares like that so this line really lured me in.

Our author, Edward Bulwer-Lytton was well known in the horror genre from the 1850s, but he also had a political career and wrote historical novels. Mary Shelley called him “a magnificent writer,” but he is probably one of the most neglected authors of our time. Some called him the British “Poe,” while other literary contemporaries at the time proclaimed him a terrible writer (he penned the much ridiculed “It was a dark and stormy night.”). I chose him because The Haunters and the Haunted is one of the earliest haunted house stories, immensely readable, suspenseful, and probably one of the first “psychic phenomena” stories at that time. And, the story carries a certain diabolical reverence.

The House and the Brain is the alternate title and important to note because this story hinges on the scientific elements of the human brain meshed with the spiritual elements. The narrator reporting theses events believes that apparitions or ghosts are not supernatural but within the laws of nature (“our nature” that is), the laws of nature that we do not fully understand yet.

Okay, so here we go. Our narrator decides to spend the night in this haunted house where the woman was strangled by the devil.  Does he in fact see a ghost? He does: “livid face, long drowned … bloated, bleached, sea-weed tangled in its dripping hair … shadows, malignant serpent eyes.”

Our calm and objective narrator explains that he believes there is a power that extends over the dead, over certain thoughts and memories that reside in the brain of the dead.  And this brain “is of immense power, that it can set matter into movement …”

Exactly what power is this? Are you ready for this material force and what it is capable of doing to our narrator … or should I say, do to you as the reader?

Listen … can you hear the sinister laughing in the dark chink of your brain?

This story is a must read for those of us who adore the classic ghost story that goes beyond the supernatural.

Read it here on Read Book Online:

http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/9478/

One more quick note. My second novel, The Dazzling Darkness, was just released April 27th by KDP on Amazon (ebook). Can I tempt you into taking a look at my own supernatural mystery? Click on the link:

The Dazzling Darkness by Paula Cappa on Amazon

http://www.hellhorror.com/links/

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Filed under fiction, ghost stories, Ghosts, Hauntings, horror, occult, paranormal, short stories, supernatural, tales of terror