Monday, May 31, 2010
In my view Edgar Allan Poe is the king of scary stories from 1800-1849. This is the third time he has appeared on my Top 40 countdown and it not be his last. Tomorrow I will post a link to the 16th best scary short story that was written by him. I will give you a hint: It deals with the color red.
In other news, I now have an author profile on Goodreads where I post what I am reading, etc. Since it is brand spanking new, I am looking for friends on the site and would love to hear from other Goodreads members who read my blog: Andrew Barger's Goodreads Page. Thanks!
Friday, May 28, 2010
The scary short story that George Soane titled The Singular Trial of Francis Ormiston was first published in Volume 9 of Fraser's Magazine for 1834. This was a February issue and the scary story was published anonymously. In it the protagonist is visited by a creature that is his destiny. It changes his entire disposition and life from that point forward.
I know not how long I slept— perhaps a few hours, for the moon was nigh when I was awakened from this delicious slumber by an unknown voice calling on me by name. I looked around my chamber, and in the farthest part saw a dusky figure, almost too undefined in its outlines to be described, and wrapt about with loose robes that resembled nothing so much as the palest moonlight on a dark ground. Upon the brow of the creature was a star, and the brightness of it glanced from his pale features like the cold, watery sunbeams from a rock of ice. It was as if winter had suddenly come into the room, so chilling was the air; and there I lay, numbed by frost, my teeth chattering, my limbs immovable, and the very marrow of my bones aching with intense cold. At length I managed to stammer out, Who art thou?
He is now predestined to be "a man of blood." After this visit by the creature it is not long before the protagonist fulfills his destiny and murders. First, however, he must decide on the victim. He struggles between killing a person that the world will not miss and one who will go "pure and innocent into the grave." He picks the later.
This is the first scary short story from 1800-1849 where the protagonist must chose his own murderous destiny. One feels for the characters and the writing excels. In "The Singular Trial of Francis Ormiston" George Soane has written one of the Top 20 scary stories from this fifty year period.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
When discussing horror stories for the first half of the nineteenth century, George Soane (1789-1860) is rarely mentioned. He is primarily known today as a playwright and scholarly translator of foreign poems and operas into English. Soane’s strained relationship with his famous architect father, John Soane, deflected much needed attention away from his short horror fiction. It also didn’t help his literary reputation when he started publishing many of his horror short stories anonymously. They were also spread out over a period of decades and first collected in three volumes titled, The Last Ball, and Other Stories of 1841. They are all produced at a high level. There is hardly a bad story in the lot. This is the finest, overlooked collection of horror, ghost and fantasy short stories by one author during the period in question. I hope to stem the tide of obscurity for George Sloane regarding his fine horror and ghost stories and it will begin with my next post of the 17th best horror short story from 1800-1849.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Years before the black raven was ingrained into the minds of Americans as a reminder of lost love, another sable animal gained Edgar Allan Poe fame. The Black Cat ranks as one of Poe’s best horror short stories and one of the best from 1800-1849. I have picked it as the 18th best scary short story. Poe actually owned a black cat in 1840 when he published a short article entitled “Instinct vs. Reason.” Here is a snippet: The writer of this article is the owner of one of the most remarkable black cats in the world – and this is saying much; for it will be remembered that black cats are all of them witches. The one in question has not a white hair about her, and is of a demure and sanctified demeanor. He followed this line of thinking in the tale when speaking of the fictional cat:
This latter was a remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree. In speaking of his intelligence, my wife, who at heart was not a little tinctured with superstition, made frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion, which regarded all black cats as witches in disguise. Not that she was ever serious upon this point—and I mention the matter at all for no better reason than that it happens, just now, to be remembered.
Poe was a lover of cats to be sure. Besides his black cat, he owned a tabby cat with his wife, Virginia, named Catterina. Like many of his tales, there are other autobiographical elements here. As a child Poe killed a pet bird owned by his foster mother, Frances Allan, and later felt guilt and remorse. Poe gives a similar account of the cat:
When I first beheld this apparition—for I could scarcely regard it as less—my wonder and my terror were extreme. But at length reflection came to my aid. The cat, I remembered, had been hung in a garden adjacent to the house. Upon the alarm of fire, this garden had been immediately filled by the crowd—by some one of whom the animal must have been cut from the tree and thrown, through an open window, into my chamber. This had probably been done with the view of arousing me from sleep. The falling of other walls had compressed the victim of my cruelty into the substance of the freshly-spread plaster; the lime of which, with the flames, and the ammonia from the carcass, had then accomplished the portraiture as I saw it.
"The Black Cat" was first published in the August 19, 1843 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. It employs the most effective use of an animal for any of the Top 40 scary short stories of this period. The fine writing and building terror plant it firmly as the 18th best scary short story on the countdown.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
In my view The Story of the Greek Slave is the best scary short story by Captain Frederick Marryat (1791-1848) given its dark themes and high-level of writing. Wine from the casks taste better after a corpse has been sitting in it? To which the master replies "It certainly has more body . . .." This tale wasn't originally published as a short horror story. It has been extracted from Chapter II of The Pacha of Many Tales that was published by Marryat in the Metropolitan Magazine from 1831-1835. It was presented as a series of tales that drew strong parallels to the New Arabian Nights. Marryat was no stranger to horror and the supernatural. He would later pen the haunting novel called The Phantom Ship. The high writing and horror the reader experiences as the people drink from the corpse caskets places "The Story of the Greek Slave" as the 19th best scary short story published from 1800-1849.
Friday, May 14, 2010
I pick The Greek Slave by Captain Frederick Marryat as the 19th best scary short story from the first half of the nineteenth century. Enjoy it over the weekend and I will give some background on Marryat's best horror story early next week. Thanks!
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Captain Frederick Marryat (1792-1848) is the next author to appear on my countdown of the best scary short stories from 1800-1849. He last appeared at 29 on the countdown with his chilling short story called The Legend of the Bell Rock. I have provided the link if you missed it the first time.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
A Scots Mummy first appeared in the August 1823 issue of Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. Questions remain as to how much of the scary short story was fact and how much was fiction--or at least Hogg's exaggeration of the truth. "A Scots Mummy" is based on the suicide of a boy in Scotland. When Hogg sent it to William Blackwood for consideration in the magazine in a letter dated August 7th, he called it "a curious incident that has excited great interest . . .." James Hogg, like Edgar Allan Poe and others of this period, were no strangers to literary hoaxes. Some believe that the event of the story never happened and was a figment of Hogg's imagination. Evidence of this is the shepard who appears in the horror story and is supposed to be Hogg (the Ettrick Sheppard) himself. He would later publish "A Scots Mummy" in the pages of his novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. As further evidence consider the described fashion in which the suicide hangs himself:
[T]he unfortunate young man had hanged himself after the man with the lambs came in view. He was, however, quite dead when he cut him down. He had fastened two of the old hay ropes at the bottom of the rick on one side, (indeed they are all fastened so when first laid on,) so that he had nothing to do but to loosen two of the ends on the other side; and these he tied in a knot round his neck, and then, slackening his knees, and letting himself lean down gradually till the hay rope bore all his weight, he contrived to put an end to his existence in that way. Now the fact is, that if you try all the ropes that are thrown over all the outfield hay ricks in Scotland, there is not one among a thousand of them will hang a colley dog—so that the manner of this wretch's death was rather a singular circumstance.
One hundred and five years later, when the suicide is dug up, his body is almost perfectly preserved. The lack of gruesomeness in the corpse is somehow gruesome in itself. Hogg published "A Scots Mummy" at the time when reanimation was taking center stage on the Gothic-romantic literary scene. The only fault of this story is that it lacks a certain complexity that would have placed it higher on my countdown of the best scary shortsstories from 1800-1849.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
This is a link to A Scots Mummy by James Hogg. I have picked it as the 20th best scary short story for the first half of the nineteenth century. Enjoy!
Monday, May 10, 2010
James Hogg (1770-1835) is no stranger to this countdown of the Top 40 scary short stories for the first half of the nineteenth century. He appeared at week 32 with his excellent scary story titled The Fords of Callum. Tomorrow I will post a link to an even better tale by the Ettrick Shepard.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Below is a rundown of scary short stories 40 through 21 that I have posted so far in my countdown of the Top 40 scary short stories from 1800 to 1849. You will notice some familiar names and some that may be new. With so many fine scary short stories that have appeared on the countdown already, it is hard to believe that much better ones await. I will start early next week with a post of the 20 best scary short story from 1800-1849. If you want to read any of these stories, simply scroll back through my blog. Have a great weekend!
40. 1839 Running the Gauntlet by Anonymous
39. 1823 The Mutiny by William Harrison Ainsworth
38. 1836 The Wedding Knell by Nathaniel Hawthorne
37. 1842 Ben Blower's Story; or How to Relish a Julep by Charles Feno Hoffman
36. 1827 The Bohemian by Anonymous
35. 1831 Singular Passage in the Life of the Late Henry Harris, Doctor in Divinity by Richard Harris Barham
34. 1830 Confessions of a Reformed Ribbonman by William Carleton
33. 1820 The Field of Terror by Baron Friedrich Heinrich Karl De la Motte Fouquâe
32. 1837 Cousin Mattie by James Hogg
31. 1844 Rappaccini’s Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
30. 1821 The Man in the Bell by William Maginn
29. 1836 The Legend of the Bell Rock by Captain Frederick Marryat
28. 1849 Hop-Frog by Edgar Allan Poe
27. 1832 Gabriel Lindsay by William Mudford
26. 1835 The Fiery Vault by Reithra
25. 1837 The Involuntary Experimentalist by Samuel Ferguson
24. 1831 The Lonely Man of the Ocean by Anonymous
23. 1843 Ko-rea-ran-neh-neh; or, The Flying Head by Charles Feno Hoffman
22. 1846 The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe21. 1837 Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
I am half way through my countdown of the Top 40 Scary Short Stories from 1800-1849. If you have liked the stories so far, you are going to love the rest. Please keep in mind, however, that the Top 12 will be published in my forthcoming book: The Best Horror Short Stories 1800-1849: A Classic Horror Anthology. Because of this, there are 8 stories left for posting on the blog.
If you have been following this scary short story blog, you have a good idea of what it is about. Here is a list of what it is not . . . or rather the types of short stories I have not considered: werewolf short stories, vampire short stories, witch short stories, and ghost short stories. I will countdown the best of those stories in the future. For right now I am concentrating on horror in the narrow sense of the word. Tomorrow I will list stories 40-21 that I have included so far.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Let's take a look at "[t]hat very singular man, old Dr. Heidegger" and his horrific experiment that proved the only thing worse than getting old is to be young again and then to quickly turn old once more. Dr. Heidegger's Experiment was published in 1837. In the scary short story Dr. Heidegger invites "four venerable friends" over to his place. The doctor has obtained water from the Fountain of Youth. They have a sip and their ailments due to old age begin to go away. They demand more and drink until they are young again. The effects of youth are short lived.
His guests shivered again. A strange chillness, whether of the body or spirit they could not tell, was creeping gradually over them all. They gazed at one another, and fancied that each fleeting moment snatched away a charm, and left a deepen-ing furrow where none had been before. Was it an illusion? Had the changes of a lifetime been crowded into so brief a space, and were they now four aged people, sitting with their old friend, Dr. Heidegger?"Are we grown old again, so soon?" cried they, dolefully.In truth, they had. The Water of Youth possessed merely a virtue more transient than that of wine. The delirium which, it created had effervesced away. Yes! they were old again. With a shuddering impulse, that showed her a woman still, the widow clasped her skinny hands before her face, and wished that the coffin-lid were over it, since it could be no longer beautiful.
Edgar Allan Poe enjoyed "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment." In his review of Hawthorne's Twice Told Tales in Graham's Magazine, Vol. XX, 1842, he said that it was "exceedingly well imagined, and executed with surpassing ability. The artist breathes in every line of it." The story is well written, yet lacks a building of terror throughout that would have placed it higher on my countdown of the Top 40 scary short stories from 1800-1849.