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Kiernan, Peter Straub, and more, bringing you tales of postmodern hauntings. It's stories go beyond body horror and gross-outs, landing firmly in the realm of existential terror with tales of spiritual alienation, metaphysical disconnect, and social isolation. From the killing fields of Jonestown to a ghost spaceship, its stories bring the supernatural genre to the 21st century.

It is truly one of the most frightening anthologies I've ever read, and one of my favorites. Keep your library fashionably up to date with this brilliant collection. But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater: the classics help inform our appreciation of the living masters, and this Oxford anthology ingeniously surveys the genre of the Victorian ghost story. This study specifically focuses on that genre, so don't expect weird tales or body horror "The Squaw" and "The Great God Pan" won't be found here , but expect the breathy, existential anxiety that typifies the Victorian ghost story.

While Victorian ghost stories often lack the intensity and emotion of modern supernatural fiction, they work in the margins, weaving a sinister subtext that many modern stories bypass. As a result, these stories are disturbing far less for what they show than what they imply: we sense unspeakable atrocities in the background of these polite, courtly stories, and when read by dim lamplight on a windy autumn evening, they can often be surprisingly powerful to the 21st century imagination.

Absolutely no library of ghost fiction should be without this sumptuous sampler of the Victorian era's greatest frights. You'll be introduced to the titans of terror -- M. James, Blackwood, Jacobs, Nesbit, and more -- as well as woefully underappreciated genius of the genre like Capes, Molesworth, Broughton, Loring, and Pain. A must-have. This extremely wide-ranging anthology -- one of a long series from Greenburg and Sarrantonio -- could almost stand alone as a introductory primer for the entire genre of horror, and for all of its immediately apparent cheapness, it could easily be used as a textbook for a survey class on horror fiction from the s to the 21st century.

Grant, and Manly Wade Wellman. But some of the most fun in this hefty tome comes from the imaginative universes of writers whose names you're unlikely to encounter except in the most thorough of horror surveys: Chet Williamson, Frances Garfield, William F. Nolan, Joe R. Lansdale, Donald A. Wolheim, Bill Pronzini, Barry M. Walzburg, and Sarrantonio himself. Their brutal, vicious, and shockingly imaginative horror fiction serve as a psychedelic counterpoint to the stately self-control of the Victorian classics beside them.

If you only read one book on this list, this mixture of masterworks and hidden gems will serve as a stalwart introduction to the genre. Few books have haunted me like this one. Short only 13 tales included but brilliantly edited, it only has room for the most troubling, lingering, and imaginative of ghost stories. Some might balk at this anthology because it contains overly-anthologized pieces, and because of its shortness, but I read it every year I first read it during my study halls as a 13 year old because its dedication to pathos and spiritual anxiety makes it one of the most expertly selected little books that I know of.

It's central thread is one of sweet sadness and cosmic despair -- tones that we often neglect in our age of body horror, sexual violence, and gross-outs. Gentle, lonely, and crushing, its soft ghost stories booby-trapped with three truly terrifying masterworks will leave you thinking and wondering days after you've put it back on the shelf. These are stories that end with sighs The creme-de-la-creme. The king of anthologies. The model which I have shamelessly copied as the prototype of Oldstyle Tales. Henry Mazzeo's "Hauntings" first came to me when I was scouring my local library for ghost lore at the age of eleven.

It was my first introduction to literary ghost stories I had been on the hunt for "true" ghost stories, but was far from disappointed. If you haven't yet been introduced to the great ghost story writers of the first half of the 20th century -- M. Priestley, Alfred Noyes, E. Benson, H. Wakefield, Robert Aickman, H. The Great Ones. Bolstered with wistful illustrations from the courtly hand of Edward Gorey, the book begins and ends each story with commentary from Mazzeo a touch that I have included in all of our annotated books , giving it a conversational tone that feels like a guided tour through a museum of great ghost stories.

If you like supernatural fiction but don't know where to start, here is a book dominated by the greats: each name deserves individual study and each author offers up a chilling sacrifice of well-controlled, beautifully written horror. Cannot you see, my friend? We have here our laboratory specimen, an uncompleted suicide with the redolence of this mysterious scent upon it. Help me lift him in the car, mon vieux ; we have things to say to this one. We shall ask him, by example, why it was —— ". If your supposition proves correct and he is of the obstinacy, you shall see a beautiful example of the third degree.

You shall see me turn him inside out as if he were a lady's glove. I shall creep into his mind, me. I shall— mordieu , before the night is done I damn think I shall have at least a partial answer to the good Costello's puzzle! Come, let us be of haste; en avant! D espite his height the salvaged man did not weigh much, and we had no trouble getting him inside the car. Drink, my friend, drink all you wish, for the evening is still young and we have many things to talk of, thou and I.

The visitor eyed him sullenly as he took a sip from his fresh glass. Le bon Dieu did not put us here to —— ". De Grandin lowered his arching brows a little; the effect was a deceptively mild, thoughtful frown. You feel that you have been cast off, that —— ". Didn't we—I—cast Him out? It is easier to spit against the hurricane than jeer at Him. Besides, He is most merciful, He is compassionate, and His patience transcends understanding.

Wicked we may be, but if we offer true repentance —— ". You had a mother, one assumes; you may have sinned against her grievously, disappointed her high hopes in you, shown ingratitude as black as Satan's shadow, abused her trust or even done her bodily hurt. Yet if you went to her sincerely penitent and told her you were sorry, that you truly loved her and would sin no more, parbleu , she would forgive, you know it!

Will the Heavenly Father be less merciful than earthly parents? Very well, then.

A Pickpocket’s Tale

Who can say that he has sinned past reconciliation? We cast God out and embraced Satan —— " Something that was lurking horror seemed to take form in his eyes, giving them a stony, glazed appearance. It was as if a filmy curtain were drawn down across them, hiding everything within, mirroring only a swift-mounting terror. Let me out of here, I'm going to —— ".

You will tell of tills transgression which has caused three deaths already and almost caused a fourth. Do not fear to speak, my friend. We are physicians, and your confidence will be respected. On the other hand, if you persist in silence we shall surely place you in restraint.

You would like to be lodged in a madhouse, have your every action watched, be strapped in a straitjacket if you attempted self-destruction, bein? I'll tell you everything if you will promise —— ".

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T he visitor drew his chair up closer to the fire, as if a sudden cold had chilled his marrow. He was some forty years of age, slim and quite attractive, immaculately dressed, well groomed. His eyes were brown, deep-set and drawn, as if unutterably weary, with little pouches under them. His shoulders sagged as if the weight they bore was too much for them.

His hair was almost wholly gray. I nodded. Jim Balderson had been a senior when I entered college, and his escapades were bywords on the campus. Nothing but the tolerance which stamps a rich youth's viciousness as merely indication of high spirits had kept him from dismissal since his freshman year, and faculty and townsfolk sighed with relief when he took his sheepskin and departed simultaneously.

Drunken driving, divorce cases, scandals which involved both criminal and civil courts, were their daily fare. Two of them had died by violence, one in a motor smash-up, one when an outraged husband showed better marksmanship than self-restraint One had died of poison liquor in the Prohibition era. We had just saved die sole survivor from attempted suicide. I bent my brows a moment.

Dad got bulletproof commissions for the older boys, but wouldn't hear of my enlisting in the Navy. Dad didn't know what he was doing to me. Things might have turned out differently if I'd gone in the service. Fellows were leaving right and left, enlisting from the campus or being called by draft boards, and I was pretty miserable. One day as I was walking back from science lab. You look as if you'd lost your last friend. I have, almost," I answered. I can make you —— ' He stopped abruptly, and it seemed to me he looked ashamed of something, but he'd got my curiosity roused.

Everybody said so. He couldn't have been much past thirty; yet his hair was almost snow-white and there was a funny sort o' peaceful expression on his smooth face that reminded me of something that I couldn't cruite identify. He had the schoolmaster's trick of speaking with a sort of pedantic precision, and he never raised his voice; yet when he spoke in chapel we could understand him perfectly, no matter how far from the platform we were sitting.

I'd never seen him show signs of excitement before, but now he was breathing hard and was in such deadly earnest that his lips were fairly trembling. Wine and song and gayety and women—beautiful, lovely, cultured women, not the street-trulls that you'd meet in France—you can have all this and more, if you want to, Balderson. There are some things you'll have to do, some promises to make, something to be paid —— ". Dad was liberal with me. I had a hundred dollars every month for spending money, and I could always get as much again from Mother if I worked it right.

All we ask is that you give the Master something which I greatly doubt you realize you have, my boy. Count me in,' I told him. They're all pretty good eggs, and I know they crave excitement —— '. Be sure to bring them. It's agreed, then?

Weird Tales/Volume 31/Issue 3/Incense of Abomination

Next Wednesday night at twelve, at my house. The dominoes were fiery red, with hoods that pulled up like monks' cowls; the masks were black, and hideous. They represented long, thin faces with out-jutting chins; the lips were purple and set in horrid grins; the eyebrows were bright scarlet wool and at the top there was another patch of bright red worsted curled and cut to simulate a fringe of hair. I'd seen the place as I drove past, and had often wondered why it was unoccupied, for it stood up on a hill surrounded by tall trees and would have made an ideal summer home, but I'd been told its well was dry, and as there was no other source of water, nobody wanted it.

Nobody said a word, and we walked through a basement entrance, down a long and narrow hall, and turned a corner where we met another door. Here Herbules went through the same procedure, and the door swung back to let us in. Rows of folding chairs like those used at bridge games—or funerals—were arranged in double rows with a passage like an aisle between, and at the farther end of the big room we saw an altar. Oh, it was sufficiently impressive, but it had a sort of comic—no, not comic, grotesque, rather—note about it.

A reredos of black cloth was hung against the wall, and before it stood a heavy table more than eight feet long and at least six wide, covered by a black cloth edged with white. It reminded me of something, though I couldn't quite identify it for a moment; then I knew. I'd seen a Jewish funeral once, and this cloth was like the black-serge pall they used to hide the plain pine coffin! At each end of the altar stood a seven-branched candelabrum made of brass, each with a set of tall black candles in it. These were burning and gave off a pale blue glow.

They seemed to be perfumed, too, and the odor which they burned with was pleasant—at first. Then, as I sniffed a second time it seemed to me there was a faint suspicion of a stench about it, something like the fetor that you smell if you're driving down the road and pass a dog or cat that's been run over and has lain a while out in the sun—just a momentary whiff, but nauseating, just the same. Before the cross there was a silver wine goblet and a box of gilt inlay about the size and shape of a lady's powder-puff box.

He'd been brought up an Episcopalian and knew about such things. He turned half round to leave, but I caught him by the sleeve. These, we knew, were kept for us, but when we looked about for Herbules he was nowhere to be seen; so we went forward to our seats alone.

We could hear a hum of whispering as we walked up the aisle, and we knew some of the voices were from women; but who was man and who was woman was impossible to tell, for each one looked just like his neighbor in his shrouding robe. Every neck seemed suddenly to crane, every eye to look in one direction, and as we turned our glances toward the right side of the cellar we saw a woman entering through a curtained doorway. She wore a long, loose scarlet cape which she held together with one hand, her hair was very black, her eyes were large and luminously dark, seeming to have a glance of overbearing sensuousness and sweet humility at once.

Her white, set face was an imponderable mask; her full red lips were fixed in an uneven, bitter line. Beneath the hem of her red cloak we saw the small feet in the golden, high-heeled slippers were unstockinged.

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As she neared the altar she sank low in genuflection, then wheeled about and faced us. For a moment she stood there, svelte, graceful, mysteriously beautiful with that thin white face and scarlet lips so like a mask; then with a sudden kicking motion she unshod her feet, opened wide her cloak and let it fall in scarlet billows on the dull-black carpet of the altar steps. She was a thing of snow and fire, her body palely cool and virginal, her lips like flame, her eyes like embers blazing when a sudden wind stirs them to brightness.

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The flame of her raced in my blood and crashed against my brain with almost numbing impact. I felt myself go faint and sick with sudden weakness and desire. Her eyes were closed as though in peaceful sleep, but her bosoms rose and fell with her tumultuous breathing. She had become the altar! He wore a priest's vestments, a long red cassock, over it the alb and stole, and in his hand he bore a small red book.

Behind him came his acolyte, but it was not an altar-boy. It was a girl, slender, copper-haired, petite. She wore a short surcoat of scarlet, cut low around the shoulders, sleeveless, reaching just below the hips, like the tabards worn by medieval heralds. Over it she wore a lace-edged cotta. Otherwise she was unclothed.

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We could hear the softly-slapping patter of her small bare feet upon the altar-sill as she changed her place from side to side, genuflecting as she passed the reversed crucifix. She swung a brazen censer to and fro before her and the gray smoke curled in spurting puffs from it. But even in this mummers' parody the service was majestic. I could feel its power and compulsion as it swept on toward its climax.

Herbules took up the silver chalice and held it high above his head, then rested it upon the living altar, placing it between her breasts, and we could see the flesh around her nails grow white as she grasped the black-palled altar table with her fingers. Her body, shining palely on the coffin-pall under the flickering candles' light, was arched up like a tauted bow, she shook as if a sudden chill had seized her, and from her tight-drawn, scarlet lips there issued little whimpering sounds, not cries nor yet quite groans, but something which partook of both, and at the same time made me think of the soft, whining sounds a new-born puppy makes.

Herbules came down and stood above us, and each of us was made to kiss the red book which he held and take a fearful oath, swearing that he would abstain from good and embrace evil, serve Satan faithfully and well, and do his best to bring fresh converts to the worship of the Devil. Should we in any manner break our oath, we all agreed that Satan might at once foreclose upon his mortgage on our souls, and bear us still alive to hell, and the sign that we were come for was to be the odor of the perfume which the candles and the censer gave that night.

I could hear the others mumble something, but could not understand their words. At any rate, when Herbules bent over me I muttered, 'I wish the pater would bump off:. As I put out my hands to take his I saw by my wristwatch that it was exactly half-past twelve. The farmhouse windows had been boarded up and curtained, and inside the rooms were literally ablaze with light. Men and women, some draped in their red dominoes, some in evening dress, some naked as the moment that they first drew breath, mingled in a perfect saturnalia of unrestrained salacity.

On tables stood ice-buckets with champagne, and beside them tall decanters of cut glass filled with port and sherry, tokay, madeira, muscatel and malaga. Also there was bottled brandy, vodka and whisky, trays of cigarettes, boxes of cigars, sandwiches, cake and sweetmeats. It was like the carnival at New Orleans, only ten times gayer, madder, more abandoned.

I was grasped by naked men and women, whirled furiously around in a wild dance, then let go only to be seized by some new partner and spun around until I almost fell from dizziness. Between times I drank, mixing wine and spirits without thought, stuffed sandwiches and cake and candy in my mouth, then drank fresh drafts of chilled champagne or sharp-toned brandy.

Turning, I beheld a pair of flashing eyes laughing at me through the peep-holes of a mask. The little room we entered was entirely oriental. A Persian lamp hung like a blazing ruby from the ceiling, on the floor were thick, soft rugs and piles of down-filled pillows. There was no other furniture. It rippled in a cascade to her waist—below, nearly to her knees—black and glossy as the plumage of a grackle's throat, and as it cataracted down she swung around, shrugging her shoulders quickly, and let the scarlet domino fall from her. An upswing of her hand displaced the black-faced, purple, grinning mask, and I looked directly in the face of the pale girl who half an hour earlier had lain upon the altar of the Devil.

Her lips clung to my mouth as though they were a pair of scarlet leeches; through her half-closed lids I saw the glimmer of her bright black eyes, burning like twin points of quenchless fire. Sometime about eleven, as I rose to get a drink of water, a knock came at my door. It was a telegram that stated:. My father's death had startled—frightened—me, but I put it down to coincidence. Besides, the longing for the celebration of the sacrilegious Mass with its sensual stimulation, followed by the orgiastic parties, had me in a grip as strong as that which opium exerts upon its addicts.

Herbules, the head and center of the cult, was a priest stripped of his orders. Pastor of a parish in the suburbs of Vienna, he had dabbled in the Blade Art, seduced a number of his congregation from their faith, finally celebrated the Black Mass. The ecclesiastical authorities unfrocked him, the civil government jailed him on a morals charge, but disgrace could not impair his splendid education or his brilliant mind, and as soon as his imprisonment was over he emigrated to America and at once secured a post as teacher.

Though his talents were unquestionable, his morals were not, and scandal followed every post he held. He was at the end of his string when he managed to worm his way into the Horton trustees' confidence and secured the post left vacant by the former headmaster's entrance in the Army. She was my constant partner at the orgies, and bit by bit I learned her history.

Only nineteen, she was the victim of a heart affection and the doctors gave her but a year to live. When they pronounced sentence she was almost prostrated; then in desperation she turned to religion, going every day to church and spending hours on her knees in private prayer. But medical examination showed her illness was progressing, and when she chanced to hear of Herbules' devil-cult she came to it.

I never injured Him. All right, if He won't have me, Satan will. He'll give me life and happiness and power, let me live for years and years; keep me young and beautiful when all these snivelling Christian girls are old and faded. What do I care if I go to hell to pay for it? I'll take my heaven here on earth, and when the bill's presented I won't welch!

He must have had to put in a whole set of books when Marescha was converted to our cult. She was attractive as a witch, had no more conscience than a snake, and positively burned with ardor to do evil. Night after night she brought new converts to the cult, sometimes young men, sometimes girls.

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This is our religion, the oldest in the world; it's revolt against the goody-goodies, revolt against the narrowness of God; we live for pleasure and unbridled passion instead of abnegation and renunciation—life and love and pleasure in a world of vivid scarlet, instead of fear and dreariness in a world all cold and gray. That's our creed and faith. We're set apart, we're marked for pleasure, we worshippers of Satan.

The laugh that prefaced Balderson's reply was like the echo of a chuckle in a vaulted tomb. Herbules had just completed invocation, raised the chalice overhead and set it on Marescha's breast when we saw her twitch convulsively. The little whimpering animal-cries she always made when the climax of the obscene parody was reached gave way to a choked gasping, and we saw the hand that clutched the altar-table suddenly relax.

She raised her head and stared around the chapel with a look that sent the chill of horror rippling through me, then cried out in a strangled voice: 'O Lord, be pitiful! Her dark hair had come unbound and fell about her face as though it sought to hide it. Her eyes were not quite closed, nor fully open, for a thread of gray eyeball was visible between the long black lashes. Her mouth was partly open,, not as though she breathed through it, but lax, slack, as though she were exhausted.

Where a line of white defined the lower teeth we saw her tongue had fallen forward, lying level with the full, red lip. Chairs were overturned, gowns rustled, whispered questions buzzed like angry bees. Then the woman sitting next me screamed again: 'This is no natural death, no illness killed her; she's been stricken dead for sacrilege, she's sacrificed for our sins—fly, fly before the wrath of God blasts all of us! A mask as of some inner feeling, of strange, forbidden passions, of things that raced on scurrying feet within his brain, seemed to drop across his features.

His face seemed old and ancient, yet at the same time ageless; his eyes took on a glaze like polished agate. He raised both hands above his head, the fingers flexed like talons, and laughed as if at some dark jest known only to himself. Karl Erik Herbules, renegade Christian priest, brilliant scholar, poisoner of souls and votary of Satan, was mad as any Tom o' Bedlam!

They pushed and fought and scratched and bit like frenzied cats, clawing and slashing at one another till they gained the exit, then rushing pellmell down the hill to their parked cars without a backward look, leaving Herbules alone beside the altar he had raised to Satan, with the dead girl stretched upon it. He kept reciting passages from the Black Mass, genuflecting to the altar, filling and refilling the wine-cup and stuffing his mouth with the wafers meant to parody the Host.

So Trivers, Eldridge, Atkins and I took Marescha's body to the river, weighted it with window-irons and dropped it in the water. But the knots we tied must have been loose, or else the weights were insufficient, for as we turned to leave, her body Boated almost to the surface and one white arm raised above the river's glassy face, as though to wave a mute farewell. It must have been a trick the current played as the tide bore her away, but to us it seemed that her dead hand pointed to us each in turn; certainly there was no doubt it bobbed four times above the river's surface before the swirling waters sucked it out of sight.

The farmhouse burned that night and because there was no water to be had, there was no salvage. Still, a few things were not utterly destroyed, and people in the neighborhood still wonder how those Persian lamps and brazen candlesticks came to be in that deserted house.

There was hardly a cent left, for he'd financed his whole grisly farce of Devil worship with the money he embezzled. The trustees made the losses good and gave up in disgust. Ours was the last class graduated. When the autopsy disclosed she'd not been drowned, but had been put into the river after death from heart disease, the mystery was deepened, but until tonight only four people knew its answer.