This week’s read for Books Read in 2010 is a collection of shorts called American Fantastic Tales, Terror and the Uncanny from the 1940s to Now, edited by Peter Straub. This a great collection to give the chills…and with tales from classic authors like Ray Bradbury, John Cheever and Shirley Jackson it is quite a ride. Though I found some of the stories too dull to find out what the creepy chill was all about, some sent me over the edge. A few I’d read previously, like Shirley Jackson’s Daemon Lover, and an especially strange story, which over the years I’ve always called “the rabbit story” call Stone Animals by Kelly Link. (this story has nothing to do with Easter, I warn you, but plenty to do with haunted houses and haunted rabbits).
One of the best surprises, and perhaps the scariest short story ever written was Prey by Richard Matheson. I remember this story made into a short horror film for a TV series called Trilogy of Terror in 1975. It is one of those movies that you see as a kid and always remember. It starred Karen Black (a cool horror actress around that time, boy could she scream!) as the main character, Amelia, who buys a creepy looking Zuni Warrior doll as a gift for her boyfriend. It is said that the spirit of the warrior is locked in the doll. You can probably guess what happens–yeah, it comes to life and tries to kill her. I actually found the film on YouTube but I cannot get the link to work, so if you’re interested just type in Trilogy of Terror on You Tube home page. It will come up in 3 short parts. It seems a bit cheesy now, but when you’re a little kid, you know?…. The written story was better and I even jumped when the phone rang as I was reading it…
Other best stories to note: Jack Finney’s I’m Scared, Joyce Carol Oates’ Family, The General Who Is Dead by Jeff Vandermeer, Nocturne by Thomas Tessier, and my favorite short story by Stephen King called That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French. (This is a suspenseful story that is obviously about deja vu, and after reading it the first time in King’s collection I thought it was so well written I seriously wondered if any writer could top it. I still wonder.)
If you feel the need for a chill…pick this one up or check your local library.