The Invisible Eye by Erckmann-Chatrian (1850s)
Emile Erckmann and Louis-Alexandre Chatrian
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror March 18, 2014
Master Christian is a struggling and penniless artist who spends his days at his window creating paintings. His room overlooks the sprawling town of Nuremberg and an intimate view of the Boeuf-Gras Inn. One night Christian observes a man hanging from the crossbeams of the inn’s sign. Christian describes the victim …
“ … the hair disheveled, the arms stiff, the legs elongated to a point, and casting their gigantic shadows down to the street! The immobility of this figure under the moon’s rays was terrible. I felt my tongue freezing, my teeth clinched. I was about to cry out in terror when, by some incomprehensible mysterious attraction, my glance fell below, and I distinguished, confusedly, the old woman crouched at her window in the midst of dark shadows, and contemplating the dead man with an air of diabolic satisfaction.”
This old wretch is famous among the local folk for her hideous grimaces of pointed teeth, beady green eyes, puckered cheeks. She is known as Fledermausse, from whom all children flee and adults shun. Even societies of cats decline her company; not a single sparrow comes to rest under her roof.
We soon learn that three victims have hung themselves on that the Inn’s crossbeam, and all three were occupants in the inn’s “Green Room.” Christian is convinced that Fledermousse is somehow responsible for their suicides. He suspects the old hag has occult powers and is preparing another snare from her darkness.
Christian follows Fledermausse for weeks. He must know what powers she possesses as she moves about town with a basket on her arm and then climbs up her stairway covered in old shells to her worm-eaten balcony. Then one night, Christian sees that the Green Room has a new occupant. He cannot sit idly by this time; he must act and act quickly if he is to save the innocent man who has entered the Green Room.
Will Christian succumb to Fledermausse’s evil powers?
Read The Invisible Eye online at Gutenberg.org (Library of the World’s Best Mystery and Detective Stories).
Listen to the audio at Librivox
Hardly anyone reads these guys anymore. So, I figured it was time for a reminder. Known as “The Twins,” this famous French duo wrote many tales of the supernatural during the mid- to late-1800s. The Crab Spider, The Man-Wolf, The Wild Hunstman received much praise from M.R. James. H.P. Lovecraft admired their work; Flaubert had nothing kind to say about them. Together they published 60 volumes of short stories, novels, and plays.
Some of their other titles you might like: The Murderer’s Violin, The Owls’s Ear, The Three Souls, The Child Stealer. I found The Owl’s Ear to be an especially creepy and suspenseful read. You can listen to The Owl’s Ear at Librivox.
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