November 25, 2011
Matt has graciously given us a list of 13 classic horror stories that he feels are must reads. And who am I to argue? The man knows his stuff. He knows the genre. As you’ll read below, his list has stories first published in 1851 and runs all the way up the years to 2001. Much as I like to think I am well read, I had only previously read six stories on the list, and one of them I only read since Matt had previously recommended it. And even worse, I have to admit that I had not even heard of three of the authors. So if I am going to stubbornly still claim to be well read, I am going to have to expand my reading list because Matt is truly well read.
He writes as well. He is published. No mere blog for him, I envy the fact that his work has been printed. It is bound, it is mass-produced, it is on sale. It will live forever. As Burgess Meredith’s Henry Bemis discovers in the Twilight Zone’s Time Enough at Last, when the day comes that the world has come to crisis, when the internet is gone, and even this little site is lost and forgotten, it is the books that will survive, the stories on the printed page, his stories among them.
There is a nobility in the printed page. As much as I love gadgets and electronics, and I adore my Kindle, the stories below pre-date the age of e-readers. Sure, you can find many, if not all, available online and I urge you to read them in any form. But I feel, and I hope Matt would agree, that if you are so moved, hop over to your local bookstore (or better yet, your local non-big chain, Mom and Pop used bookstore, if any still exist) and track down some of these awesome horror gems.
Article by Matt Cowan
I want to thank BMJ2K for giving me the opportunity to share my enthusiasm for classic horror stories on his great blog. My name is Matt Cowan, and I’m addicted to reading and writing horror stories. I’ve had a handful of my own tales published, but here I want to share a few of the classics that have influenced me over the years. The list that follows contains 13 of my favorite classic horror stories. I can’t rank one over the other, so I’ve listed them in the order in which they were published. I don’t think you you’ll be disappointed with any of them and there’s a good chance they’ll whet your appetite for more. So without further ado…
“Schalken the Painter” by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (1851) – Ghoulish events are set in motion following the arrival of a hideous man who offers a king’s ransom to an artist for the rights to marry his daughters, despite their never having met.
“The Yellow Sign” Robert W. Chambers (1895) – A painter, falling in love with his young model, becomes distracted by an odd watchman who patrols the churchyard near his house. The artist claims the watchman reminds him of a “coffin worm”. Things worsen when the model begins to read from the cursed play “The King in Yellow”.
“The Mezzotint” by M.R. James (1904) – The printed image of a house and its grounds keeps changing to display a skeletal figure moving closer to the structure.
“Thurnley Abbey” by Perceval Landon (1908) –A soldier, who boasts to friends about what he would do if he ever encountered a ghost, has his claims put to a horrifying test.
“The Whistling Room” by William Hope Hodgson (1909) – The great ghost-finder Carnacki investigates his most bizarre case. It involves a room in a castle where loud whistling can be heard despite its being empty.
“Caterpillars” by E.F. Benson (1912) –A man keeps seeing a huge mass of unearthly caterpillars writhing upon a bed in a cursed room.
“The People of the Pit” by A. Merritt (1917) – An injured man crawls into the campsite of two men exploring the North Pole at the foot of a mountain shaped like a giant hand. The crawling man tells them a fantastic tale of his excursion upon the mountain and the things that reside within.
“The Beast with Five Fingers” by W.F. Harvey (1919) – The chilling story of a man’s hand, capable of automatic writing during his life, and what it chooses to do after his death.
“The Music of Erich Zann” by H.P. Lovecraft (1921) – A student moves into a cheap apartment on a twisted street. He enjoys listening to the bizarre music that reaches him from the mute old man above. Soon, the student attempts to learn more about the strange music the man plays and what it is that answers from beyond his shuttered top floor window.
“Pomegranate Seed” by Edith Wharton (1928) – This supernatural tale centers on a happily married woman who becomes concerned with notes her husband receives periodically over the course of their brief marriage. He is secretive about them, but it is apparent they disturb him greatly.
“Notebook Found in a Deserted House” by Robert Bloch (1951) –Written as if it were a notebook written by a 12 year old boy, this story recounts his time spent trapped in a secluded farmhouse by ancient evil beings that lurk in the forest outside.
“The Calamander Chest“ by Joseph Payne Brennan (1954) – A man keeps seeing a ghostly dead finger poking out of a recently purchased calamander chest, scratching at its surface with a long black fingernail.
“Worse Than Bones” by Ramsey Campbell (2001) – A man who loves books, particularly ones that have been written in by previous owners, receives one he titled Tales of the Ghostly. The book’s previous owner made numerous comments on each story, much to his delight. He becomes less enamored with the book when the notations begin to take on a dark, personal tone.
There are many more I could list, and each month I go more in depth with these and other classic horror writers over at http://vintagehorror.com/home/author/matt. As to my own writing, I have new short stories presently available in both INDIANA HORROR ANTHOLOGY 2011 and INDIANA SCIENCE FICTION ANTHOLOGY 2011.