The Festival
December 24, 2011 3:23 PM   Subscribe

Since the time of Dickens there has been a long-standing tradition of telling spooky stories on Christmas Eve... Who better to be a guide to a selection of ghostly tales than faux-Edwardian and author of Supernatural Horror in Literature, Mr. Howard P Lovecraft? Scaretastic suggetions from some of his favourite authors within...

From Ambrose Bierce:
The Death of Halpin Frayser - "[A] permanent mountain-peaks of American weird writing... a body skulking by night without a soul in a weird and horribly ensanguined wood"

From Edgar Allan Poe:
Ligeia and The Fall of the House of Usher -
"[The] very summits of artistry whereby Poe takes his place at the head of fictional miniaturists. Simple and straightforward in plot, both of these tales owe their supreme magic to the cunning development which appears in the selection and collocation of every least incident."

From Algernon Blackwood:
The Willows - "...the nameless presences on a desolate Danube island are horribly felt and recognised by a pair of idle voyagers. Here art and restraint in narrative reach their very highest development, and an impression of lasting poignancy is produced without a single strained passage or a single false note."
The Wendigo - "we are confronted by horrible evidences of a vast forest daemon about which North Woods lumbermen whisper at evening. The manner in which certain footprints tell certain unbelievable things is really a marked triumph in craftsmanship."

From Matthew Phipps Shiel:
The House of Sounds. This story ... deserves a place among the foremost things of its kind. It tells of a creeping horror and menace trickling down the centuries on a sub-arctic island off the coast of Norway; where, amidst the sweep of daemon winds and the ceaseless din of hellish waves and cataracts, a vengeful dead man built a brazen tower of terror.

From Arthur Machen:
The Great God Pan - "No one could begin to describe the cumulative suspense and ultimate horror with which every paragraph abounds without following fully the precise order in which Mr. Machen unfolds his gradual hints and revelations."

The White People - Mr. Machen’s narrative, a triumph of skilful selectiveness and restraint, accumulates enormous power as it flows on in a stream of innocent childish prattle; introducing allusions to strange “nymphs”, “Dôls”, “voolas”, “White, Green, and Scarlet Ceremonies”, “Aklo letters”, “Chian language”, “Mao games”, and the like.

From Walter de la Mare:
The Listeners - "the Gothic shudder to modern verse."

From M R James:
Count Magnus - "There were hideous screams in the woods, and near the tomb of Count Magnus an unnatural laugh and the clang of a great door. Next morning the priest found the two men; one a maniac, and the other dead, with the flesh of his face sucked from the bones."

Less seriously, what would have happened if Ambrose Bierce, Edgar Allan Poe and HP Lovecraft all lived together in a grotty boarding house? Find out in The Spinechillers
posted by Artw (13 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
If I was going to suggest just one of these it would have to be The Willows: It's like Lovecraft, but writtern before in more modern seeming prose, with his cosmic horror tropes done better and without the Yog-Sothery.

I suppose Lord Dunsany and Robert Chambers should be in there but I don't really want to split up The King In Yellow and I never really got on with Dunsany... pick something from The Book of Wonder I guess?

I wanted to do "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You My Lad" for M R James, but he barely mentions it.

Oh, and HPL probably would have picked everything that Poe had written ever rather than just two.
posted by Artw at 3:24 PM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's funny you made this post because earlier today I heard the song "most wonderful time of the year" and I was wondering about the lyric that was about "scary ghost stories". Now I know. Cheers!
posted by aclevername at 3:27 PM on December 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Previous M R James
posted by Artw at 3:33 PM on December 24, 2011

I heard a nice rendition of Frederick Forsyth's The Shepherd on the CBC's As It Happens last night. Very fitting for the day.
posted by greatgefilte at 4:09 PM on December 24, 2011

Oh, great. I love many of these already, but new ones will be perfect to share with my fellow horror fans this christmas.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 4:13 PM on December 24, 2011

Heed my warning concering Chambers' The King in Yellow: stop reading after the fourth story. Such horrors that follow are not meant for mortal eyes! That infernal shmoopiness will be your end!
posted by JHarris at 4:16 PM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Schalken the Painter (Part one of five)
posted by Grangousier at 4:16 PM on December 24, 2011

I love that "favorite authors" page. Fascinating.
posted by jayder at 5:32 PM on December 24, 2011

"Usher" ... displays an abnormally linked trinity of entities at the end of a long and isolated family history—a brother, his twin sister, and their incredibly ancient house all sharing a single soul and meeting one common dissolution at the same moment.

This is the first time anyone's really explained the end of "The Fall of the House of Usher" convincingly to me. They're the three remaining parts of a single creature -- the dynasty of the House Of Usher imagined as an organism long in dying -- trying to reunite, drawn together by a force stronger than death, stronger than the separation between the inorganic and organic.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 5:52 PM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure what HPL meant by 'the bottom-touching implications' of dear Arthur Machen. Didn't mention any such proclivity in the biography I read.
posted by tigrefacile at 5:56 PM on December 24, 2011

I'm not sure what HPL meant by 'the bottom-touching implications' of dear Arthur Machen.

I dunno, but I've been re-reading Things Near And Far, the 2nd volume of Machen's autobiography, which covers his role in the literary scene of the "Gay Nineties." In the middle of a tangent about how everybody has his own aesthetic blind spots, he remarks:
Oscar Wilde confessed to me once, with shame be it said, that he thought absinthe a detestable drink.
It's not totally clear to me why this digression is there, since he starts the chapter spinning out a philosophy of aimless wandering which is now called "Psychogeography," but it may explain why Machen gets associated with the erotic underside of the 1890s aesthetic crowd...
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 8:13 PM on December 24, 2011

Of course, when it comes to erotic undersides everyone thinks of dear Arthur.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 8:33 PM on December 26, 2011

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