Since I spent ALL of last week reading horror short stories (among some other books and graphic novels, which I reviewed over the course of the week), I thought it would be best to compile my thoughts about the stories in one LONG mini review post. As the week went on, I added in my thoughts of each story. Some I liked, some I hated, and some I just didn’t get. Maybe it’s just the nature of the story story? Maybe I need to go back to school to learn what they’re all about? You be the judge. I’ve also included links to the stories, if you wanted to check them out yourself.
The Babysitter by Robert Coover
What the hell did I just read? Maybe it was because it was early morning when I read this one, but I didn’t get it at all. Was part of it fantasy? On the TV? Was it all real? Is it a character study of the various degrees of what actions could have been taken? It’s incredibly dated, but a super quick read. The writing is different, from different points of view and different scenarios throughout the book, it took a while to really get into how the whole story was laid out.
Was it horror? To me, not really. I read it in the dark, early in the morning and still managed to get up and wander around without the lights on. Perhaps it’s because the story is so old, but it just wasn’t scary at all. As a mother, it made me think about the whole babysitter aspect of it (no one will be bathing my child — I’m even on the fence about babysitters right now). And as a former babysitter, I wonder who the hell takes baths when they’re babysitting?!?
(Fun fact: Did you know that the 1995 movie The Babysitter with Alicia Silverstone was adapted from this story?)
Quirk Books’ Suburban Legends Short Stories
These were a treat! Not scary, necessarily, but definitely a blast from the past. I am an avid lover of those Ghost Stories From … books that are published in Canada and remember reading them late at night and being so freaked out because they were TRUE stories. These ones were kind of like that but with a few theories debunking some of these scary legends. All super short, but definitely a spookiness to them. I think the scariest one to me was the one about the school bus that was hit by the railroad tracks, which leads ghostly children hands to push your car over the tracks if you’re caught there. Spooky children get me ALL THE TIME.
Dial Tone by Benjamin Percy
Maybe it’s the fact that this one was more of a modern tale (i.e. not, the mid-1900s), but this one definitely had more of a spook factor to it. It actually made me think, as the narrator goes on about how we catch ghosts of conversation on the telephone line when we’re speaking with someone (and who hasn’t heard something on their phone line?), about my baby monitor, of all things. I only use the monitor during naps, since I like to make sure the little guy is sleeping, but sometimes he wakes up from his nap and starts crying and I’ll turn the monitor off and go get him. Then, when I put him down again, I’ll turn on the monitor and for a few seconds there’s crying on it, like a memory in the monitor. It didn’t creep me out before, but it kind of creeps me out now.
This is another story that I had to wrap my head around once I finished it. Just like the ghosts of conversations, it’s like the events in the story were ghosts themselves. I don’t want to give anything away, but all I can say is that it’s a neat little cyclical story and definitely kind of creepy. You’ll definitely never look at a telemarketer the same again …
Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman
It’s amazing how I can start reading a Neil Gaiman story, whether it’s a full length novel, a graphic novel, a kid’s book, or a short story, and I always can tell that it’s a Neil Gaiman story. He has this certain quality to his writing, this fantastical, almost dream-like something or other that’s always in his work. At first I thought this story was going to be about vampires, and maybe it still is? I’m not really sure. It’s a bit of a retelling of Snow White and it’s very creepy. I love how the whole story was just twisted and disturbing and nothing like the story of Snow White I read growing up.
Out of Skin by Emily Carroll
So creepy! I didn’t think anything of this title when I first added to my list, but since I just finished reading Carroll’s Through the Woods the other day, I knew that I had to read this one soon. Before I clicked on the link to read it, I thought it was a story in written form, so I was pleasantly surprised to see it was a web comic. I started reading it in the dark at about 4:30 in the morning after the baby got me up, so it was a nice change to be reading something spooky completely in the dark (well, along with the glow of my iPad). This story was quite spooky and very disturbing to read. You’ll never drink or eat anything without checking that your bowls and plates aren’t made of skin ever again …
The Landlady by Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl, you ask? Yes! Roald Dahl! The guy who writes all of those children books! This one, while very subtle, was quite creepy. I liked that it wasn’t written in some fancy, over the top way, but it was more like, say, Coraline, by Neil Gaiman. You know something is wrong, but you just can’t pinpoint what it is. I liked how there were these little bits and pieces to the horror part of the tale that were dropped here and there throughout the story, visible to the reader, but not the poor guy in the story just looking for a place to stay. Very clever story!
Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates
Out of everything I read so far, this was probably the least scary. I can understand where its creep factor comes from, how it was almost a hypnotic trance that took over our main character. I finished the story wondering who the bad guys in the story actually were. There was a lot of talk, not a lot of explanation, and it kind of reminded me more of what I read in my English lit classes in university, more so than a horror story. I guess a lot of the “scary” stuff in the story is what’s not being said. Was the bad guy the devil? Or was he just a bad guy? At any rate, it makes me want to think twice about being home alone …