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