Jackson, Shirley. “The Beautiful Stranger” Dark Descent, by David G. Hartwell, Grafton Books, 1992, pp. 874-879.
When Margaret life is intruded upon by a “beautiful stranger” posing as her husband does she discover how unfortunate her life used to be and still is. John’s wife Margaret and children, Smalljohn and infant daughter wait at the train station for John’s return. John’s wife is nervous as they had fought prior to him leaving. When John arrives the baby gets fussy and begins to yell. A tense car ride home has Margaret questioning if the man is in fact her husband.
The stranger raises her suspicions, John sits in a new position at dinner and his overall attitude is completely altered. Margaret unpacks his suitcase only to find all of John’s clothes. Margaret begins to grow worried that the real John may return, but is relieved when the stranger returns from work. The stranger fails to answer her questions about John’s past with love interests and hobbies further cementing that she adores this stranger. Margaret calls a babysitter, and goes out shopping looking for new home decorum to gift the pleasant stranger. Unfortunately, when the cab drops her off she is unable to recognize her own home and looks at the suburban sprawl of houses completely lost.
This one just kind of bummed me out. I want to believe our distressed and possibly dementia suffering house wife so bad. I wish it was a clone or a doppelganger, or that she at least got a wish fulling substitute to her abrasive husband but we are unfortunately dealing with delusion.
This is exemplary case of an unreliable narrator as we the audience don’t get to know much about this family outside of our narrator’s perspective. We have to trust that she knows her husband’s habits and mannerisms better than us a stranger would. It’s kind of a cleverly delivered twist as a horror story as we are lead to believe that something more mischievous or unnatural may be at play here but the real horror is how awfully horrible the thought of losing yourself and your grip of reality this badly. It’s an interesting tale to look from the feminist lens as it does seem to align with critique of the domestic housewife and how those elements might have some bearing on the circumstances of the story.
The Black Wedding
Singer, Isaac Bashevis “The Black Wedding.” Masterpieces of Terror and the Supernatural, by Marvin Kaye, Little, Brown, 2001, pp. 253-261.
The Black Wedding uses the perspective of Hindele to transcribe ordinary occurrences into an account of a personal hell. Rabbi of Tzivkev, Aaron Naphtali has lost most of his followers. The rabbi contracted erysipelas and shortly fell into a state beyond recovery. After the funeral, it is arranged that his daughter, Hindele will marry Reb Simon of Yampol so that the people of Yampol and Tzivkev will return the to glory. Hindele prepares for the wedding but weeps constantly.
Hindele begins to recognize the wedding as a hoax. She discovers that her groom was a demon, and that all the guests are demonic entities of all sorts. Finding herself in a hellish landscape, Hindele is subjected to the demonic forms or rape and prostitution. Hindele desperately hopes for a miscarriage and tries to damage the womb as she’s encouraged to accept becoming one of them. Hindele enters childbirth to her demon spawn and feels her body plunge towards the castle of Asmodeus. Back in Tzivkev, news spread that Hindele had given birth to a male child but died during childbirth. The extent of Hindele’s personal tragedy was never understood by the outside world making it all the more tragic.
Mental wounds not healing, Life’s a bitter shame… boy I wish I could estranged. I just want to give kudos to myself because if cats not out of the bag at this point I basically went searching for public domain images that could visualizes these stories most of them are something completely different things but this one is actually of a Jewish wedding while also having a brooding, eerie feel to it.
This allegory really paints a descriptive hellish imagery and its provoking to explore the concept of suffering a personal hell. I mean maybe you could take it literal but it seems to clearly be a metaphorical tale meant to demonize the cultures of arranged marriages and empathize with those caught within them. Despite it being a rather brief story, you do get the sense of chaos that Singer evokes, each description topples onto of each other and you’re lost in the regression of a peaceful wedding to a hellish demon extravaganza. It short and simple but it really does capture tragedy and is similar of a romp to Jacob’s Ladder, Silent Hill exploring the horrors of a twisted perspective.
Silent Snow, Secret Snow
Aiken, Conrad. “Silent Snow, Secret Snow.” Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, by Herbert A. Wise and Phyllis Fraser, Media Production Services Unit, Manitoba Education, 2012, pp. 55–59.
Conrad Aiken’s Silent Snow, Secret Snow conveys a sorrowful connection between isolation and abnormal behavior through Paul Hasleman and his fascinations. Miss Buell gives her class a lecture on geography, however one of the students, Paul is rather distracted. Instead Paul is lost in thought recalling the sound of the mailman trekking through the snow, only to discover that it was a sunny day out. Back at home Paul’s mother worries about Paul’s frequent spacing out and wonders what goes through the boy’s head.
Paul is constantly daydreaming about snow and while he can tell the snow is not real, Paul feels he can not share his fascination with the non-existent snow. Paul decides to keep his snow a secret and progressively becomes more distracted. His mother calls in a physician to ask Paul questions to understand if there is something wrong. Paul first avoids giving specifics to what’s on his mind, but their prodding eventually forces a confession out of him. Their disapproving looks cause Paul to storm off towards his room and become defiant despite his mother’s effort to comfort him. Paul is disappointed that he is misunderstood but is comforted by the snow.
I did watch the 1960s short film of this story as a companion piece and it’s nothing special. Is it bad that I was initially interpreting this was about Autism or ADHD and not the Schizophrenia route everyone else got. Regardless this should have been titled, “Get Off My Back” because his mom, and teacher need to stop bullying that kid.
Obviously we get the perspective of the kid who is clearly having severe hallucinations, but why did everyone be so rude to him about it. Maybe if he was actually getting the problems in class wrong or if it adversely effected his home life in some way but not really. Kid is just kind of exploring a healthy imagination that he’s taking to an unhealthy place but I don’t think the parents need to stage an intervention and put him on blast like that.
The scary part of this story is that I’m actually rooting for the keep to go deeper into a state of delusion. “Yeah screw your parents go, pretend everyday is a snow day. Everyday in Topeka, Kansas can be Anchorage, Alaska if you believe hard enough!” If anything Silent Snow, Secret Snow truly proves that we do indeed, live in a society.
Dreiser, Theodore. “The Hand” The Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural, edited by Martin H Greenberg, Arbor House Pub Co, 1981, pp. 139–156.
In Theodore Dreiser’s The Hand, belief and disbelief of the supernatural leave Davidson and his doctors unaware of the true nature of what occurred. The tale begins with Davidson remembering a troubling event of how at the Monte Orte range how an old business partner Mersereau had attempted to steal his diagram. Davidson swiftly kills Mersereau with the old friend laying a threat before passing away. Davidson travels afar and meets a man named Pringle whom only amplifies his worries of Mersereau possibly enacting his revenge from beyond the grave.
Davidson begins to live his life in agonizing fear worried that the ghost of Mersereau had poisoned his food or chocks him while he sleeps. Deeply troubled, Davidson checks himself into an insane asylum so that he can be monitored safely. The doctors discover how Davidson’s delusions are caused by his suffering of not a specter but of tuberculosis and stomach spasms. While the doctors don’t have the imagination to imagine the deep psychological distraught that Davidson is in, they find it tragic when they discover him dead, clutching his own throat. While the revenge spirit was figment of the imagination it ended up being all too real to Davidson.
Similar to The Fall of the House of Usher (baby) there’s a little wiggle room for interpretation here. While there is a medical explanation to the chocking of Davidson there’s maybe something supernatural at play. The story is a fascinating tale of subjective reality, that one’s perception of what is really can really end up portraying them. Does it matter if we, an outsider belief the ghost is real or not when the sensation and haunting presence was all too real for Davidson.
This story makes me feel pain, the descriptiveness of the old man’s asphyxiation literally puts a lump in my throat. There is something terrifying about this one in that the pain of a supernatural horror can be realized in a grounded, and real way.
Featured Fright: 18 Cinema Lane
If you made it into this far into this post then there’s a good chance that you like to read or are interested in spooky tales. However, for those interested in books rather than short stories and want a more enriching perspective than be sure to go check my favorite Hallmark reviewer, Sally Silverscreen (18 Cinema Lane).
We got plenty of thriller and murder mystery novels that Sally’s recommending that will be sure to impress any book club Nancy out there. Be sure to check it out and until next time, stay spooky!