Oates, Joyce Carol. “The Doll.” The Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural, edited by Martin H Greenberg, Arbor House Pub Co, 1981, pp. 514-535.
Florence Parr’s turmoil over her inner struggles possibly shattering the façade of her exterior is the central conflict of “The Doll”. On her fourth birthday, Florence Parr was gifted a Victoria style dollhouse. The young girl has a deep adoration for the dollhouse and dolls having vivid description of the minute details of each. Decades past, and Parr is preparing to give her address on Humanities for Champlain College.
However, Parr discovers a house on East Fainlight Avenue that has an uncanny resemblance to her beloved doll house. Parr attempts to ring the door but gets discouraged by how she may be perceived and returns to her car. While rehearsing and preparing her speech, Parr is rather reflective thinking of how people act with a false niceness, that she might practice herself. Parr visits the house and strikes the nerve to visit the house and is surprised by the resemblance the house has to her childhood dollhouse. Parr’s false niceties end with her angering the house owner. Parr gives the speech but lacks the amount of care for it or her audience to recall it like her precious dollhouse or the experience she had with the man who owned it.
The Doll is a story of pain staking detail, it adds to the atmosphere but I swear I don’t need to know even speck of dust or stain on every window pane?!?! I do enjoy a premise based on ominous serendipity, what are the odds your dollhouse looks like this actually house you stumble upon all these years later.
The Doll unapolegtically confuses me, and that’s why it sticks out in my head but at the same time is why I find it slightly annoying. The whole story builds up to this encounter with raggedy Andy that I want to know more on what happened then just him to get upset about chocolate on the floor and spanking her…..just to curtly cut back to how her speech ends. What? I don’t care about a college lecture, I don’t care when I’m the one receiving the lecture let alone when it’s a fictional one.
It also has this nice moment of representing anxiety, I do find it a little silly to chant your name when you’re anxious but I understand the reliability of personal ticks so it was a nice depiction of that.
Death in the School-Room
Whitman, Walt. “Death in the School-Room.” Masterpieces of Terror and the Supernatural, by Marvin Kaye, Little, Brown, 2001, pp. 437-442
After rumors of a thief, Mr. Lugare’s violent discipline reveals not a guilty party, but death in the classroom. The teacher, Mr. Lugare calls forth a group of boys who he assumes know about a thief stealing fruit from Mr. Nichol’s garden. He singles out Tim Barker as the primary suspect, who has a cheeky expression during this confrontation. Tim confesses to being in Mr. Nicol’s garden the other night, but adamantly denies the accusation.
Lugare is very hostile to the boy, as the boy dodges the questions with a nervous yet sickly manner. Tim had a history of illness, being a rather emaciated infant yet has since recovered rather remarkably. Because of this, the local farmers gifted Tim a sack of potatoes which is confused by Lugare to be a sack full of fruit from Mr. Nichol’s garden. Frustrated by Tim’s silence the teacher decides to discipline the child by lashing him with a rattan. They find Tim despondent, drawing the conclusion that Lugare’s vicious assault had been performed on a fragile corpse. Mr. Lugare performs a great display of ignorance as his demands to catch a culprit leaves him blind to the warning signs of the boy’s health.
As shocking as this story is, this teacher probably didn’t even get fired… he’s got pension what can you do? I mean the kid should have known that he has to say “may I use the restroom” not “can I use the bathroom”. Why am I making light of this seriously effed up story, jeez. Sometimes your so caught up in your passion or way of thinking that a real tragedy can sneak up on you and that’s pretty spooky.
The Furnished Room
Henry, O. “The Boarded Window.” Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, by Herbert A. Wise and Phyllis Fraser, Media Production Services Unit, Manitoba Education, 2012, pp. 488-494.
The Furnished Room opens with Mrs. Purdy, a house keeper of a westside boardinghouses invites a man to tour an available room. While the man notices the foul air and despair of the home, Mrs. Purdy assures him of the appeals of the furnished room: a wide closet, plenty of chairs, and even a convenient gas tap. The man is unsure about the room, but Mrs. Purdy persuades him with conveying the room’s rare vacancy given its proximity to the theater district. The man questions Mrs. Purdy about whether a former guest had been a Miss Eloise Vashner.
The man recounts his desperate search for Eloise and is disappointed to realize he has failed yet again. Left alone in the room, the man proceeds to act manic breaking into a frenzy motivated by a strange certainty that Miss Eloise must have resided in this very room. When Mrs. Purdy assures him that his suspicions are false, the man uses the gaslight to commit an act of suicide. Unfortunately, the end reveals a conversation between Mrs. Purdy and Mrs. McCool who discuss how Purdy concealed knowledge of the previous tenant’s suicide as to not effect the sale value of the house.
This story just kind of glosses over the fact that this man has been following someone…. I feel they make it sound like unrequited love but I got stalker vibes from it. I hope Eloise is okay, is it implied that she was the previous tenant? It’s a twist that doesn’t effect the story but just damn, screw you Mrs. Purdy.
The Bottle Imp
Stevenson, Robert Louis. “The Bottle Imp.” Masterpieces of Terror and the Supernatural, by Marvin Kaye, Little, Brown, 2001, pp. 49–75.
A Hawaiian man named Keawe gets entangled with a magic bottle with a hefty price if the owner fails to continue the line of transaction. Keawe meets an old man with a mystical glass bottle that bounces like a ball. The old man explains the lamp contains an imp that will grant Keawe his desires. However, a set a rules: the seller must down sell its price, must inform the buyer of these rules, and ending up with the bottle upon death will end in eternal damnation.
Keawe buys the lamp and learns that his wishes of great fortune have come true but at the morbid cost of it being through gaining his uncle’s estate. Keawe uses the bottle to earn great fortune and romance before pawning it to a friend. Keawe contracts Leprosy and must find the bottle to cure it. Keawe follows the bottle’s travels and finds it now costs only 1 cent. Keawe and his wife scheme a loophole to buy the bottle from one another but a double cross from Boatswain man leaves Keawe to finally have a happy ending proving that happiness come genuine emotion and not wish fulfillment or monetary gain.
Ah yes a story about the horror of…. foreign currency exchange rate? Why didn’t I think of that? Genies are admittedly spooky with their conniving abuse of word play and weird CGI Will Smith faces; but this story makes the lamp or better yet the bottle the real spooky aspect. It’s an interesting thought experiment to put yourself in this situation and to what degree you’d be willing to suffer for promised riches and rewards.
The Quest for Blank Clavering
Highsmith, Patricia. “The Quest for Blank Clavering.” Masterpieces of Terror and the Supernatural, by Marvin Kaye, Little, Brown, 2001, pp. 33-46.
The Quest for Blank Claveringi is Professor Clavering’s ambitious search for monstrous snails that ends being more dangerous than anticipated. Inspired by a book on Mollusks Avery Clavering, a zoology professor decides to study the exotic snails of the uninhabited island of Kuwa. Clavering purchases a boat, The Samantha and despite Doctor Stead warning about “pursuit of the non-existent” he forges on. Upon arriving, Clavering encounters 15-foot-tall snail. Clavering makes attempts to photograph the snail, but cautiously keep safe. Clavering schemes to hide between trees only for the snail to bend them over.
Clavering makes attempts to deter the but they are to no avail. Clavering kills one but, he stumbles allowing the snails finally catches him and gnaws on his shoulder. Using the rest of his energy Clavering maneuvers to the shore where he sees Doctor Stead and a group of natives rowing nearby. Clavering tries to get their attention but they swiftly row away after noticing the snails. Clavering must decide whether to drown or be devoured but while being indecisive the snail lungs on him and seals his fate to both gruesome deaths. Clavering learns that chasing blind ambitions will lead to unforeseen consequences.
Of all the stories that I’ve read for this month content, this one is honestly one of my favorites. When I think of terrifying things, snails was not high on my list. However, after this and Uzumaki it now gets a 20 minute segment in all my therapy sessions.
Snails actually have quite a bit of teeth and with their tough shell and weird slimy self I wouldn’t want to be hunted by these beasts. Snails are actually utilized to make this one very dramatically satisfying tale. The whole story is about the futility and vunerability of humans and by putting us in an area with pathetic snails but give them the size advantage and the tables have turned.
I enjoyed that the story rewards you for thinking and trying to come up with survival strategy. I thought that snails don’t like salt and the ocean is full of it so why doesn’t he try doing that. It’s satisfying that he does and worrying that it fails miserably. They use the slowness to create this slow burn horror of dying slowly and the dire hopelessness of being pushed towards exhaustion.
Then we are faced with the ultimatum: drown or be devoured? I thought that leaving us with the ultimatum was the perfect place to end it, let us the reader chose our fate… but I also enjoy the story decides to personally attack me for being indecisive and if you haven’t decided by the time it takes to read the paragraph; congratulations you can be eaten alive while drowning. This snail island is honestly depicted more horrifying than Jurassic World and for that I am spooked.
Featured Fright – The Highland Fling Murders
My friend over at 18 Cinema Lane is doing a fantastic job with complimenting my bite-sized horrors with full reads that you can really invest your time into if your looking for something spooky. She just reviewed: Murder, She Wrote: The Highland Fling Murders which if you’re a fan of the show or in need of a good read this review might let you know where to look.
Thanks everyone, stay spooky!