Haunts – Reliquaries of the Dead, edited by Stephen Jones

Ghosts, objects with unnatural power, demons taking the place of innocent, vengeful houses, bones, doors, people possessed, all that and more can be found in this collection of supernatural tales. Comprised of twenty-five stories, this is a book I thoroughly enjoyed and while it wasn’t as horrific as I expected (not complaining, just saying) it still gave me a nightmare from which I woke, eyes wide awake, trying to remember if that black shape near the mirror was there before I went to sleep. It was.

I enjoyed reading all the stories, and I thought the introduction before each one was a nice touch. It was interesting to see how an idea based in real life evolved into a good scary story. While I can’t say I didn’t like any of the stories, a handful of them I consider a step above the others. Here they are:

The Poison Pen, by Christopher Fowler, is a tale of the occult, greed and an object with a lot of power. When a rich relative dies, his fortune is divided among his family but the favorite nephew gets nothing. This is strange, considering that at their last get-together, the wealthy uncle had promised Mark ‘something very special’. And then tragedy strikes and Mark finally realizes why he was omitted from the will. This was my favorite story.

The Door, by R. Chetwynd-Hayes
A writer with a passion for collecting old things buys a door that belonged to an old house. A massive door made of ‘solid walnut’ with ‘an intricate pattern that seemed to grow more complicated the longer it was examined’. Little does he know this is no ordinary door but something far more sinister that needs to be fed in order to maintain its power.

Grandfather’s Teeth, by Lisa Tuttle
When people die, the loved ones left behind are tempted to keep something that belonged to them, something to remember them by. For his nephew, Dougie, that keepsake was his grandfather’s fake teeth. Possessed by a fascination he could not explain, the boy keeps them in his room but they prove to be more than a harmless piece of ‘ivory-colored teeth arrayed in the pink plastic gums’. I actually cringed when I got to the end of the story.

Grandmother’s Slippers, by Sarah Pinborough, starts with the mention of a funeral and continues with the story of a pair of slippers with a purpose. What that purpose is and how they manage to achieve it, makes for an interesting story.

City of Dreams, by Richard Christian Matheson, is a story made of delicate threads; references to movies, writing, famous people, brings a sophisticated air to the narrative. It is also a story about curiosity satisfied but with a price that brings about many more questions.

A House on Fire, by Tanith Lee
Not only people have souls, but houses, too; this seems to be the main idea behind this story in which a house haunts the one who burned it down. This is no ordinary pile of wood and stone and glass, and its revenge is terrible.

The Hidden Chamber, by Neil Gaiman, it’s a beautiful poem that starts like this:
‘Do not fear the ghosts in this house; they are the least of your worries.’
I love the last part of this poem. It brings to the page a feeling of loneliness and longing, and sadness.

*Read in December, 2011

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10 Responses to Haunts – Reliquaries of the Dead, edited by Stephen Jones

  1. JoV says:

    The thing with reading spooky stories is that I am aware of those dark shadows in my rooms and start to spook myself to sleep! but it looks like a great collection of stories you read there. Happy New Year to you!

    • Delia says:

      Hi Jo,
      This is a great book, I loved it and would highly recommend it to horror fans. I used to sleep with a night light but not anymore. I have to remind myself that it’s just a story – it usually works.
      Those dark shadows are your guardian angels so don’t worry. 😀
      Happy New Year to you, too! See you in 2012!

  2. Vishy says:

    Nice review, Delia! I want to read ‘The Poison Pen’ and ‘The Door’ – they look so interesting! Interesting to know that there was a Richard Matheson story in the collection. After seeing his name, I wanted to ask you something about Matheson, but a voice told me to check in Wikipedia before asking you. And I discovered that the Richard Matheson I was referring to is Richard Burton Matheson, while the one you have mentioned in Richard Christian Matheson! Wow! How is it possible that two people have the exact name and both of them are Americans and are writing stories in the horror genre? I did some more research and discovered that Christian is the son of Burton 🙂 Have you read Burton’s ‘I am Legend’? Also have you seen the film ‘The Duel’? It is based on Matheson (the dad)’s screenplay and was Steven Spielberg’s first movie. It is extremely scary.

    • Delia says:

      Actually there is a story by Richard Matheson (the father) as well. It’s called “Two O’Clock Session” and it’s really creepy. I actually had to read the ending a few times to realize what it was about. Very good, nevertheless. It seems like the horror genre is being passed to the sons in the family. Stephen King and Joe Hill come to mind. 🙂
      I have seen the movie “I am Legend” and liked it a lot – I haven’t read the book, though.
      Extremely scary, you say? I have to look for that movie.
      Have you seen The Midnight Meat Train?

      • Vishy says:

        Yes, ‘The Duel’ is extremely scary. I won’t tell you anything about the movie. It has a most interesting character which scares the hell out of the viewer! I haven’t seen ‘The Midnight Meat Train’. How is it?

  3. Hotly Spiced says:

    Ohhh, that does sound like a story that draws you in. Love stories about Wills and the beneficiaries and how unfair the distribution of an Estate always seems to be.

    • Delia says:

      It’s a story with a twist and in the end he was given the best gift so it all went well, for him at least. 😉
      Thanks for your comment, Charlie.

  4. Hannah says:

    Wonderful review! I’ve never been a huge fan of gothic/ghost/etc novels, but you snagged me right at the end by mentioning Neil Gaiman. Now I want this book just to read his poem!

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