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C-Dawg Fangston recommends: grisly October lit!

Some more scary, scary-ish, spookily mysterious, pleasingly hair-raising treats for rainy October days and crisp October nights. All of the words variety this time.

1969's Hallowe'en Party is lesser Agatha Christie, but it's fun to see her trying to do "with it" slang writing, citing the Counterculture, drugs, sex, and rock and roll. Someone is murdered via bobbing for apples. They'd have to be in a book with this title, from a writer like this, wouldn't they?

Lord Byron got in awfully early on the vampire game with "Fragment of a Novel" in 1819, the eventual result of the ghost story writing contest that Byron undertook with Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley, and John Polidori in Geneva in 1816. Shades of Stoker: it's an epistolary work involving a young man with an elderly man on a Grand Tour. Old man--the vampire--dies, young man buries him in a Turkish cemetery, and what was supposed to happen next--according to Polidori--was that the young man returns home to find the old man alive again, and courting his sister. Contains the immortal lines, "Let's get you penetrated!" That's not true. I made that up.

How neat is this? It's the script for Orson Welles's War of the Worlds radio-play, performed eighty years ago this Halloween. Note the sound effects directions. They tell their own story. Pay special attention to the one at the bottom of page seven. It calls for dead air. This was, up until that point, the most radical sound--the absence of sound--ever heard on American radio. That is the stuff of genius. That is as exciting as art gets. That is also just flat out balls.

Fingers of Fear is a bonkers 1937 horror novel by J.U. Nicolson about a man named Seldon Seaforth who has lost everything in the stock market crash, who is then given a gig cataloging a library by a rich former classmate at the latter's remote sprawling home in the Berkshire hills. There's a vampire, a werewolf, some bad, bad dogs, and a kind of succubus that the hero has a crush on.

Montague Summers was an English clergyman who had a thing for the occult and folklore. Thus, it was natural that he'd write a kind of grand history of the unnatural phenomenon that Lon Chaney, Jr. later made famous with his The Werewolf in Lore and Legend (1933). And despite being a clergyman, Summers also enjoyed writing on de Sade. Sounds like a fun dude.

What is the scariest ghost story ever written? Is it Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw"? Oliver Onions' "The Beckoning Fair One"? Ambrose Bierce's "The Boarded Window"? F. Marion Crawford's "The Upper Berth"? Saki's "Laura"? I'd throw my opening "sequence" of "Sequentials"--"The Window Well"--into this ring. Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher"? Edith Nesbitt's "Man-Size in Marble"? Either way, Algernon Blackwood's "The Willows" must be up there. It's about two buddies on a canoe trip on the Danube. Their big, bad, scary problem? Trees. H.P. Lovecraft rated it as his favorite all-time story.


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