Rituals, death, the supernatural, the contrast of light and dark, man overreaching to disaster, things that lurk, unsettling nightmares and brooding landscapes, dark castles and ancient lore. Dark dreams made real. These are the creative maelstrom of gothic writing, and this collection brings together a representative sample of the best, from the finest early gothic writers.
In this volume:
- The Fall of the House of Usher, by Edgar Allan Poe. A dark story of madness, isolation and the supernatural. The eponymous house is falling apart, and with it, its occupant, Roderick Usher. This is one of Poe’s most famous stories, hailed as a masterpiece of gothic horror.
- The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James. This is his most celebrated gothic ghost story. James wasn’t exclusively a gothic writer but The Turn of the Screw is unashamedly in the gothic tradition. Like the best gothic literature it’s unsettling and unexplained, leaving a satisfying chill and a racing heart.
- The Body Snatcher, by Robert Louis Stevenson. He is possibly best known for The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, weighing in with heavy themes of good and evil, the duality of man and the limits and constraints on ambition, but two years earlier (1884) he published the story reprinted in this collection, which involves exhuming corpses, dissection and the obligatory hints of the supernatural.
- Dracula’s Guest, by Bram Stoker. An Englishman on his way to Transylvania becomes stranded in the snow, forced to shelter in a vampire’s tomb…
- The Monkey’s Paw, by WW Jacobs. A supernatural story where whoever holds a mummified Indian monkey’s paw gets three wishes – but the paw has been cursed by an Indian fakir so that dire consequences result from using the paw. This is a story about temptation and the supernatural – an undoubted classic.
- The Shunned House, by H.P Lovecraft. This is the most modern tale here, first appearing in Weird Tales in 1937, but its instincts are firmly rooted in the Victorian gothic tradition. Lovecraft’s reputation for unsettling stories was cemented with his Cthulhu mythos (first seen in 1928’s The Call of Cthulhu – also in Weird Tales), still haunting the dreams and adorning the t-shirts of modern readers. The Shunned House is set in an old and abandoned Rhode Island mansion with strange weeds in the yard and phosphorescent fungus growing in the cellar, with foul smells and vapors and the mysterious outline of a human body on the floor. Determined to solve the mysteries of this strange and chilling house, Elihu Whipple decides to spend a night there. Cue the supernatural…
- Dr Heidegger’s Experiment, by Nathanial Hawthorne. This cautionary tale is about a man who says he has water from the fountain of youth and invites his elderly friends to experiment by drinking it. But all, inevitably is not as it seems…
- The Eyes, by Edith Wharton. They appear, disembodied, to Andrew Culwin at times of pressure or when he feels guilty, an insetting, supernatural, visible sign of judgement. It’s a story of weakness and moral corruption, of consciousness and character. Classic gothic.