Thursday, April 29, 2010

Author of the 21st Best Scary Short Story 1800-1849 is Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864 ) has already appeared two times on this countdown of the 40 best scary short stories from 1800-1849. The first appearance was at 38 with The Wedding Knell. Hawthorne next appeared at 31 with Rappaccini's Daughter. This week will be his third appearance and tomorrow I will post a link to his next scary short story that was first published in 1837.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Andrew's Thoughts on "The Cask of Amontillado" Scary Short Story by Edgar Allan Poe

In November of 1846, when The Cask of Amontillado was first published, Poe was living in his Fordham, New York cottage with his sick wife Virginia and his aunt Maria Clemm. They were in abject poverty. Poe was, however, finally gaining recognition (though little money) despite the literary barbs thrown at him by Hiram Fuller in the New-York Mirror. Thomas Dunn English, a friend of Fuller’s, parodied Poe's scary short story The Black Cat two years earlier in a story called “The Ghost of a Grey Tadpole” that portrayed Poe as a drunken fool. English then went so far as to defame Poe and challenged him to bring suit in the New-York Mirror, knowing Poe could barely keep his family feed let alone fund a lawsuit. When co-editors Fuller and Augustus Clason, Jr. refused to print a retraction, Poe brought suit to clear his name. Poe used an attorney friend and won the case. He received $225 in damages, assuring that English would be his antagonist until the end.
Earlier in 1846, English published a novel titled “1844, or, the Power of the S.F.,” which had Marmaduke Hammerhead as a central character, the popular author of “The Black Crow.” Hammerhead is a drunken liar. A chapter of “1844” takes places in an underground vault and here Poe takes it to a much deeper level. English uses the turn of phrase “For the love of God” in “1844, or, the Power of the S.F.,” and Poe spits it back to him in this story.

In The Cask of Amontillado, Fortunato, dressed as the motley fool, is the arrogant Thomas Dunn English and Poe in his black mask is Montessesor who has purchased a very expensive Spanish wine to which Fortunato wants to imbibe. The name Fortunato hints at English’s literary success resulting from luck. The crest of Montessesor is a foot crushing the head of a snake that has bitten into his heal. Although Fortunato does not consider Montessesor part of the “brotherhood” of freemasons (as a play on the secret Whig societies that were used in English’s story), he seeks this spirit, which is a metaphor for Poe’s imagination.

There is a similar reference to the great imaginative stories of the court jester in Poe’s Hop-Frog. To demonstrate he is in fact a mason, Montessesor pulls out a trowel, a tongue-in-cheek barb at the freemasons. Luchresi (pronounced, look-crazy) is Hiram Fuller. He is said to have “a critical turn.” The sherry (cheap wine and plentiful) and Amontillado (a brand of expensive and rare wine) are a contrast of non-literary and literary writing styles. Luchresi cannot tell the difference, which causes Montessesor to remark to Fortunato “some fools will have it that his taste is a match for your own.” Fortunato desperately wants to drink of the Amontillado of which Montessesor has an overabundance. Here Poe once again masterfully combines political satire and uses words as his weapon to slay his literary enemies.

As a result of the above and fine writing, The Cask of Amontillado is Edgar Allan Poe's best scary short story of revenge. Read about more the scary shorties by Poe in Edgar Allan Poe Annotated and Illustrated that I edited. Thanks!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Author of the 22nd Best Scary Short Story 1800-1849 is Edgar Allan Poe

Any scary short story countdown from the first half of the nineteenth century must include Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849). He has already appeared once in my countdown with Hop-Frog. That devilish tale of revenge weighed in at number 28. Now he appears again, six spots lower, with the 22nd best scary short story. I will give you a hint, it involves underground cellars and Poe's best tale of revenge.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Andrew's Thoughts on Ko-rea-ran-neh-neh; or, The Flying Head - Scary Short Story

The little-known horror short story Ko-rea-ran-neh-neh; or, The Flying Head was first published by Charles Feno Hoffman (18-6-1884) in The American Monthly of 1836. It was successful and republished a number of times as a result. It is the only horror story in this countdown of the Top 40 horror short stories from 1800-1849 that contains a flying head. This was based on a legend told by the Iroquois. Consider this summary of it in a 1904 book called "The Legend of the Iroquois":
THERE were many evil spirits and terrible monsters that hid in the mountain caves when the sun shone, but came out to vex and plague the red men when storms swept the earth or when there was darkness in the forest. Among them was a flying head which, when it rested upon the ground, was higher than the tallest man. It was covered with a thick coating of hair that shielded it from the stroke of arrows. The face was very dark and angry, filled with great wrinkles and horrid furrows. Long black wings came out of its sides, and when it rushed through the air mournful sounds assailed the ears of the frightened men and women. On its under side were two long, sharp claws, with which it tore its food and attacked its victims.
The Flying Head came oftenest to frighten the women and children. It came at night to the homes of the widows and orphans, and beat its angry wings upon the walls of their houses and uttered fearful cries in an unknown tongue. Then it went away, and in a few days death followed and took one of the little family with him. The maiden to whom the Flying Head appeared never heard the words of a husband's wooing or the prattle of a papoose, for a pestilence came upon her and she soon sickened and died.
One night a widow sat alone in her cabin. From a little fire burning near the door she frequently drew roasted acorns and ate them for her evening meal. She did not see the Flying Head grinning at her from the doorway, for her eyes were deep in the coals and her thoughts upon the scenes of happiness in which she dwelt before her husband and children had gone away to the long home.
The Flying Head stealthily reached forth one of its long claws and snatched some of the coals of fire and thrust them into its mouth—for it thought that these were what the woman was eating. With a howl of pain it flew away, and the red men were never afterwards troubled by its visits.
Apparently the legend carried over among the Mohawk American Indians of this scary short story. Hoffman tells how a group of people are killed and decapitated. Their bodies are burned to ash and the heads taken together by a Mohawk for dumping into the middle of the lake. While he is doing this, he gets tangled in the net and falls into the lake with the heads. This is what ensues:
The morning dawned calmly upon that unhallowed water, which seemed at first to show no traces of the deed it had witnessed the night before. But gradually, as the sun rose up higher, a few gory bubbles appeared to float over one smooth and turbid spot, which the breeze never crisped into a ripple. The parricides sat on the bank watching it all the day ; but sluggish, as at first, that sullen blot upon the fresh blue surface still remained. Another day passed over their heads, and the thick stain was yet there. On the third day the floating slime took a greener hue, as if coloured by the festering mass beneath; but coarse fibres of darker dye marbled its surface; and on the fourth day these began to tremble along the water like weeds growing from the bottom, or the long tresses of a woman's scalp floating in a pool when no wind disturbs it. The fifth morning came, and the conscience-stricken, watchers thought that the spreading-scalp—for such now all agreed it was—had raised itself from the water, and become rounded at the top, as if there were a head beneath it. Some thought, too, that they could discover a pair of hideous eyes glaring beneath the dripping locks. They looked on the sixth, and there indeed was a monstrous Head floating upon the surface, as if anchored to the spot, around which the water—notwithstanding a blast which swept the lake—was calm and motionless as ever.
This scary short story of severed and flying heads nearly cracked the Top 20 of this countdown if not for its lack of fluency of story and lack of character generation. Given the Indian legends, its full originality is also called into question. Still, it is a story to be read and discovered for the first time by many in the horror community.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The 23rd Best Scary Short Story 1800-1849 is Kor-rea-ran-neh-neh; or, The Flying Head

I have picked the little-known Kor-rea-ran-neh-neh; or, The Flying Head by Charles Feno Hoffman as the 23rd scary story in my countdown of the Top 40 horror short stories from 1800-1849. Enjoy it this weekend and I will discuss it next week.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Charles F. Hoffman - Author of the 23rd Best Scary Short Story 1800-1849

The 23rd best horror short story comes to us from Charles F. Hoffman (1806-1884). His scary short story titled: Ben Blower's Story appeared at number 37 on my countdown of the Top 40 horror short stories 1800-1849.

During the fifty-year period in question he was known for a detailed and observant writing style. Hoffman's tales: "A Winter in the West," "Adirondacks," "Romance of the Mohawks," and "Greyslaer" earned him popularity among the literati of the day. "A Winter in the West" is really a collection of short stories. He also wrote poetry, much of it anonymously, and penned three hit songs. Hoffman was also a magazine editor and Edgar Allan Poe submitted Mystification to the American Monthly Magazine when Hoffman was the editor. "Mystification" was accepted for publication.

The only hint I will give as to which story of Hoffman's will appear next, is that it contains flying heads!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Andrew's Thoughts on the horror short story: The Lonely Man of the Ocean


This scary horror short story of pestilence on the high seas titled The Lonely Man of the Ocean,  was first published anonymously in Whitaker’s Monthly Magazine for February 1831 and soon thereafter in The Antheneum, or Spirit of the English Magazines, Volume I, April to October, 1831, on page 40. The only hint given as to the authorship of “The Lonely Man of the Ocean” comes from The Antheneum, which states that it was “by the author of ‘The Demon-Ship.’"

In the January, 1831 issue of The Antheneum, we find on page 374, The Demon Ship, the Pirate of the Mediterranean. It appeared two months later in Louis Godey’s Lady’s Book. The infuriating practice of publishing horror stories, and many others, anonymously during the first half of the 19th century leaves us without proper attribution for “The Lonely Man of the Ocean.” As late as 1871 it was still being republished in literary magazines and was reprinted at least five times during the half century in question. The writing of this scary story is at a very high level and haunting to its core.

Loëffler made several attempts to descend into those close and corrupted regions ere he could summon strength of heart or nerve to enter them. A profound stillness reigned there. He passed through long rows of hammocks, either the receptacle of decaying humanity, or—as was more often the case—dispossessed of their former occupiers, who had chosen rather to breathe their last above deck. But a veil shall be drawn over this fearful scene. It is enough to say that not one living being was found amid the corrupted wrecks of mortality which tenanted the silent, heated, and pestiferous wards of the inner decks. Loëffler was Alone in the ship! His task was then decided. He could only consign his former companions to their wide and common grave. He essayed to lift a corpse ; but—sick, gasping, and completely overcome—sank upon his very burden! It was evident he must wait until his strength was further restored ; but to wait amid those heaps of decaying bodies seemed impossible.

In reference to  the abject horror and descriptive writing that exists at a very high level in the scary short story, one is able to forgive the rushed ending and stilted dialogue. One is even able to forgive the unorthodox way the author switches between the protagonist’s first name “Christian” and surname “Loëffle” throughout. With the horror short story "The Lonely Man of the Ocean" we have the best anonymous horror tale published from 1800-1849.


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Friday, April 9, 2010

The 24th Best Horror Short Story 1800-1849 is The Lonely Man of the Ocean ((tags: thomas hood horror story, lonely man of the ocean, scary horror story)

This is a link to The Lonely Man of the Ocean, which I have picked as the 24th best horror short story for the period in question. This scary tale of the sea was published anonymously by Thomas Hood. I will let you know how I put together the literary puzzle to learn it was by him in my next post. Enjoy!

Posted via email from Best Classic Horror, Ghost, Vampire, & Werewolf Short Stories

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Author of the 24th Best Horror Short Story 1800-1849 is Thomas Hood

Thomas Hood (1799-1845) is the next author in my countdown of the Top 40 horror shorts stories from 1800-1849. He was British and found modest fame in midlife through poetry and satire. Edgar Allan Poe turned the tables on Hood when he satired Hood in Four Beasts in One: The Homo-Cameleopard (human, camel, lion, leopard), which I detailed in the background of Edgar Allan Poe's Annotated Short Stories.
Thomas Hood penned only a handful of horror short stories and two of them involved the plague. It is one of those horror stories that appears as the 24th best in my countdown and I'll provide a free link to it in my next post.