October 29 2016
Witches and Ghouls! Vampires and werewolves! And worst of all, Trump and Hillary! GAH!
But let’s make Halloween great again. This year, I have for you a special treat from a pair of great artists. Mike Mongello has already graced this site with his wonderful illustrations, and tonight’s piece shows he just keeps getting better.
I’ve also shone the spotlight on Matt Cowan and his lists of great horror tales before, though he hardly needs me to publicize him. He’s an award-winning author and I’ll tell you more about him later.
Here’s Mike’s original piece, created especially for Halloween 2016.
I love it. This really captures a sense of creepiness. That grin and those teeth tell me that this isn’t just a guy in a mask, this is a Halloween nightmare. And the ax? I don’t think he’s on his way to chop down a cherry tree.
How did this come to be? Here’s a peek at an early sketch.
Great as always!
Matt has provided us with a list of Ten Classic Horror Stories for Halloween and as usual, I’m put to shame about how few of them I’ve read. Also as usual, there are a few authors on the list that are new to me. My reading list keeps growing and growing and growing…
TEN CLASSIC HORROR STORIES FOR HALLOWEEN
Every year over at Horror Delve I put together a list of spooky tales to help set the mood for the Halloween season. Given the honor of guest posting here at BMJ2K, I’ve chosen 10 of my all time favorites from those lists.
- “The Haunters and The Haunted” or “The House and The Brain” by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1859) – After hearing a notoriously haunted house is available to let, a fearless man, excited to experience and find an explanation for the haunting, goes there to check it out with a trusted servant and dog. The descriptions of the bizarre manifestations in the house are superb and make this one of the best haunted house stories ever written. I’ll say that I’ve read both the more standard, edited version and its original version, which contains a plodding, wordy latter third of the story that attempts to explain the haunting. I feel this is a prime example of how less is often more.
- “The Phantom Coach” by Amelia B. Edwards (1864) – A headstrong soldier, anxious to return home to see his wife, takes a ride inside an old stagecoach filled with disturbing passengers. The beginning of this tale meanders a bit, but the chilling end is worth the wait.
- “Number 13” by M.R. James (1904) – A man staying in room 12 of a hotel begins to realize another room takes the space between his and room 14 at times during the night. There was no room numbered 13 due to superstition. In the mysterious extra chamber, from which an eerie red glow emanates, he hears strange talking and sees disturbing shadows. This is a favorite of mine. The bizarre things attached to this spectral room point to a diabolical, demonic entity taking up residence in the extra-dimensional room.
- “How Fear Departed from the Long Gallery” E.F. Benson (1912) – Church-Peveril is a large manor house so full of spectral emanations the family and staff have become accustom to them. There is one manifestation they must take steps to avoid, however. Long ago, an evil man strangled two young twins who were the rightful successors to the estate and cast them into the vast fireplace in the gallery hall. Since then, anyone remaining in the hall after sunset encounters the pitiable twins and suffer a horrible death soon afterward. Benson masterfully relates the terror of being caught after sunset in the dreaded gallery, and the scene where a woman experiences a nightmare on a green couch is so weird and unsettling, it will stay with me always.
- “The Beast With Five Fingers” W.F. Harvey (1919) – Adrian Borlsover was a kind, well-liked man, who although blind, was unusually adept with his hands. Two years before his death he developed the psychic ability of automatic writing, where a disembodied presence took control of his hand to write while he slept. After Adrian dies, his nephew Eustace Borlsover receives a box containing one of his severed hands with a letter from those in charge of Adrian’s burial claiming they received a letter reversing his desire to be cremated, instead asking to be embalmed with the hand cut off and sent to Eustace. The hand has a life of its own, able to scuttle about, climb things, write messages and even kill. This is a great story about a possessed hand that is cunning, elusive, and evil.
- “The Night-Wire” by H.F. Arnold (1926) – An uncannily adept radio operator types out reports of emergencies that come in from across the world. One evening he begins to receive transmissions from a town he and his coworker have ever heard of named Xebico which is being overwhelmed by an intense fog that coincides with strange colored skies. As the fog spreads, screams are heard coming from it. A local priest claims the fog originated from a nearby graveyard. Things grow more dire with each report.
- “Ghost Hunt” by W.F. Harvey (1938) – A radio host broadcasts a live ghost hunt in a house in London where there has been “no less than thirty suicides”. Most have run from the house at night to throw themselves off the cliff and into the nearby river. The radio broadcaster is joined by a paranormal investigator. The investigation proves all-too successful in this chilling story. It was masterfully adapted for the radio program Suspense in 1949 (Relic Radio has a download of it here:http://www.relicradio.com/otr/2011/02/h292-ghost-hunt-by-suspense/ ).
- “The Calamander Chest” by Joseph Payne Brennan (1954) – A man finds a large calamander chest cheaply priced. He buys it and takes it home. Over time he begins to see a long white finger protrude from the lid to tap and scratch at the chest with its hideous black fingernail. It vanishes whenever the man approaches, and the box is empty when he checks it. His attempts to get rid of the chest repeatedly fail for seemingly natural reasons. Things ramp up when he starts to dream of the finger beckoning him closer to the chest.
- “The Pennine Tower Restaurant” by Simon Kurt Unsworth (2010)– An unusual architectural tower has a bizarre and dangerous history. All the deaths, disappearances, and ethereal glimpses attached to the structure are documented here. This riveting tale, presented as fact, comes complete with detailed, collaborating footnotes.
- “At Lorn Hall” by Ramsey Campbell (2012) – Seeking to escape a rain storm, a man enters a rundown manor where he finds a set of headphones. He puts them on and proceeds to embark on tour of the house “guided” by the recorded voice of its old master whose image is depicted in the hanging portraits of every room. His eerie comments makes the trespasser think someone else may be inside the house with him just out of view. I loved this story! Great atmosphere that keeps you unsettled throughout.
Matt Cowan’s love for the horror genre stretches back beyond his earliest childhood memories. At a young age he stopped having nightmares when he began enjoying them too much. His primary literary influences are Ramsey Campbell, M.R. James, and Algernon Blackwood. In addition to writing fiction, Matt also writes about some of the legendary names in the field at his Horror Delve blog (horrordelve.com). He lives with his wife Lynne in Indianapolis, Indiana where he’s currently working on more stories.
“The Collective of Blaque Reach” was originally published in 2008 by Dead Letter Press as the bonus story chap book for the BOUND FOR EVIL: CURIOUS TALES OF BOOKS GONE BAD anthology. It was also featured on The Tales To Terrify Podcast in 2013 (read on episode #90).
He’s had stories in INDIANA HORROR ANTHOLOGY’s 2011 and 2012, INDIANA SCIENCE FICTION 2011, and INDIANA CRIME REVIEW 2013 from James Ward Kirk Fiction.
“Numen” won an Editor’s Choice Award for the CELLAR DOORS: WORDS OF BEAUTY, TALES OF TERROR anthology in 2013 from James Ward Kirk Fiction.
“Christmas Wine” appeared in the O LITTLE TOWN OF DEATHLEHEM from Grinning Skull Press in 2013.
A shorter version of “Here He Comes A Wandering” was originally read on The Pod Of Horror Podcast (Episode #58) as the winning entry in their Christmas Horror Story Contest that year (2009).
Thanks Matt and Mike!