It’s like if Tim Burton hosted an international buffet
Title: Short & Shivery a.k.a. “The Wide World of Horror”
Author/Editor/Reteller: Robert D. San Souci
Illustrator: Katherine Coville
Summary: Everyone loves a spooky story. Don’t you?
Welcome to a chilling world of hair-raising tales! The thirty stories in this book were gathered from around the world, selected for their ghastly details and terrifying twists. Come inside and meet the young miller’s daughter in “The Robber Bridegroom,” who may have discovered too late that she has been betrothed to a madman; the dancing skeleton who returns from the dead to haunt the friend who betrayed him in life; the Golem, who tires of serving his greedy master and suddenly turns evil; and intriguing characters in stories from the Brothers Grimm, Washington Irving, and other world-famous authors. But before you settle down in your cozy reading chair, check behind you… and keep all the lights on!
We’ve finally reached the end of the first “Short And Shivery” collection after six long months. In August I’ll start a recap for the second book.
Luckily this book’s got three different water-related tales to fit in with my June theme, and luckily for YOU Wing we’ve finally reached the werewolf story. UNluckily for you this is also the portion with the giant spider story. Sorry. [Wing: Werewolf outweighs giant spider, mostly. Though: WHY IS IT ALWAYS GIANT SPIDERS? I just had to talk someone out of doing it as a decoration at work this fall, too.]
[Wing: Editing to add a link to this great comment from Sarah about the golem story in this recap, the use of mythology versus theology versus folk tale (her suggestion and the best one) and the history of the golem as a response to anti-semitism. I really appreciate her taking the time to share her perspective and want to highlight it.]
[Wing: As if “Africa” is one country. Fuck out of here, editor and publisher.]
In a village in a faraway land there was a young woman who refused to marry anyone, and so this got her called “Stubborn” by her parents. No matter what sort of dowry the men offered her family, she turned them down flat. Her parents eventually decided to marry her off to the next guy who proposed, regardless of what she had to say in the matter.
One night the village held a big party where people from all the other villages attended. One very good looking man arrived, wearing a gold headband. The young woman was the first to speak to him, and when the dancing began the man tried to get close to her and she immediately fell in love. Clearly THAT isn’t suspicious.
The man asked for the woman’s hand in marriage, and her parents were thrilled. But during the following celebration, the woman’s little brother noticed the man had A SECOND MOUTH ON THE BACK OF HIS NECK. [Wing: Horrifying. I just had to check the back of my neck a couple times, this made my skin crawl so much.] Brother realized this man was a demon and tried to tell his mother. Mother thought he was making up shit and called him wicked for trying to ruin his sister’s happiness. Father said the same thing but also threatened to beat him for causing problems. None of his friends believed Brother, too.
Sister and the stranger were married and left the village a week later. Neither of them knew Brother was following behind out of fear for Sister’s life. The couple walked for ages, with Husband asking questions like if Sister could see the smoke from her village, or the hills behind her home. When they were far enough away that Sister couldn’t see any of those things, Husband announced they were in his land.
Sister was shocked to see her new home was a one-room hut made of mud and straw, like one of the temporary homes people built. There was no vegetable garden and the hut was surrounded by a fence made of thorny branches. It was more like the kind of enclosure built for cattle. GEE I WONDER WHERE THIS IS GOING.
Far away Sister could hear the sound of a river, and inside the hut was just as depressing as the outside. All she could find were broken pots and scraggly straw mats. Sister tried to be upbeat and asked what she could use to make dinner. Husband only said he’d be eating later. But apparently he didn’t even have any “Shihango,” a type of roasted meat people kept for emergency provisions.
After that, Husband only sat in the door of the hut and watched as Sister tried to keep busy cleaning up. When night began to fall, Husband left without saying a word. He ignored Sister’s pleas not to be left alone as he walked into the forest.
During all this, Brother had kept hidden and waited for Husband to leave the hut. He followed Husband into the forest and watched the man transform into a hyena. [Wing: Were-hyena. Hearts and stars in my eyes.] Brother realized Husband truly was a demon, communing with the other monstrous beings living in the woods and discussing his plans to devour Sister. He headed back to the hut to warn Sister, and at first she didn’t believe him until she thought about Husband’s behavior.
Figuring they couldn’t outrun Husband and the other beasts, Brother and Sister altered the thorny fence to stop anything else from entering. When the creatures appeared and saw the thorny circle was closed, they snarled and paced around it in frustration. But Husband was larger than the other creatures and leaped over the thorns. Brother and Sister barricaded themselves in the hut, but knew this wouldn’t hold Husband off for long. They climbed out a small window and made their way up a nearby tree.
Husband and his gang of creatures surrounded the edge of the tree on the other side of the thorn fence and started chewing at the trunk. Brother and Sister jumped over to the next tree, and the pack of hyena creatures followed. The pattern repeated until they reached the last tree on the edge of the river, so Brother and Sister had no choice but to plunge into the water. Only Husband dared to follow the siblings into the river while his animal cohorts snapped their jaws on the shore. Sister feared neither would be able to escape, and offered to sacrifice herself to buy Brother time. Brother wouldn’t hear of it and the two managed to reach the other side of the river as dawn broke.
Upon the end of night, Husband involuntarily transformed back into his human form but was still determined to catch his prey. Brother and Sister held him off by pelting rocks at Husband to stop him from reaching the shore. Husband threatened and cursed them but the siblings were unrelenting. Soon Husband no longer had the energy to go after them and tried to swim to his side of the river, but was so weak the currents overpowered him and he drowned.
Brother and Sister returned to their parents and their village praised Brother’s heroism. [Wing: Uh pretty sure Sister had a lot to do with their survival, too, village.]
In Virginia there’s a swamp with a stretch of water located at its very heart. Some call it Drummond’s Pond, [Wing: Mr Drummond, is that you?] others call it the Lake of the Dismal Swamp. And this is the story of two of the ghosts that haunt it.
200 years ago, a young woman contracted swamp fever. She spent days wasting away while her lover clung to her side, thinking if he did so he could hang onto her life. Unfortunately she died and her family buried her at the edge of the swamp.
The young man refused to accept that she was dead. He didn’t go to her funeral, and he wouldn’t eat or sleep or acknowledge his family. Eventually, his relatives managed to get through to him and he recovered a little. But they couldn’t convince him to move on from his lover’s death. The young man started to believe his love was out there somewhere in the swamp, trying to hide from Death’s bony grip. He was sure she was waiting for him, waiting for when it was safe to leave. And if it wasn’t, he’d find her and hide her himself so Death would never claim her.
The man’s family feared he might try to hurt himself, so they attempted to keep him under house arrest and watched him night and day. Yet he somehow managed to slip away and went looking for his lost love. Deep in the swamp he could hear his family calling after him, but the young man ignored them and went deeper until he couldn’t hear their cries anymore.
He wandered the swamp for days, surviving on wild berries and sleeping on dank grass or in cypress trees. He gradually became a ragged, muddy mess and had to keep avoiding the poisonous animals that lived in the swamp. When he finally reached Drummond’s Pond he found a will-o’-the-wisp floating in the dark distance, and he thought this was his lover holding a lantern to light his way. The young man fashioned together a raft from cypress boughs and used a tree limb as a pole to stir the rickety boat onto the water. He was sure the light was his lover, smiling and beckoning to him. But as he got closer, his shoddy raft fell apart and he went into the water where he drowned.
Hunters who’ve wandered too deeply into the Dismal Swamp have sworn they’ve seen a man and woman navigating through the dark waters on a raft made of cypress boughs. The man uses a tree limb for a pole, and the woman holds a lantern to light their way out of the swamp. [Wing: At least they’re together in the end?]
The Shetland Islands were once haunted by a creature they referred to as “Boneless,” or sometimes “It.” You see, no one could figure out what the creature’s true appearance was. It would always appear differently to those who saw it. The only common aspect it shared in all its forms was that it was bone white. Of the forms it took, Boneless was described as:
Yet despite how huge Boneless was, it moved with astonishing speed. Often, people were only able to catch a glance of the creature before it vanished which is why there was so much confusion about its appearance.
Boneless was particularly active during Christmastime when the nights are longest, and there was one farm it really enjoyed bedeviling during the holiday season. For years, Boneless would terrorize the barn animals and frighten the family who lived in the farmhouse until they were too exhausted to properly enjoy Christmas. The farmer and his wife would sometimes spot what appeared to be something huge, wet and white like a giant fish belly pressed against the windows in the kitchen or parlor. Always the creature would disappear when they noticed it, but its mischief continued. By the time Boneless was done frightening the household, the occupants were a mess.
One year, the farmer had enough and decided to take care of Boneless once and for all. His wife begged him not to, reasoning Boneless hadn’t actively hurt anyone and fearing what would happen if her husband angered the creature. What was Boneless really capable of?
On Christmas Eve night, the farmer asked his wife to bring their children and the servants into the parlor where he read aloud from a bible by candlelight. He kept an ax near his chair. It was around midnight when the occupants heard the sound of something large, like a sack of wet meat, hitting against their front door. Grabbing the bible and ax, the farmer ran outside in time to see something huge and wet shuffling away towards the cliffs overlooking the sea. As Boneless was about to make it over the cliff, the farmer shouted “The Good Lord guide my hand” and threw the ax at the monster.
Boneless made no sound, appearing to drop dead with the ax buried in its side. The farmer was smart enough not to approach Boneless alone, and returned to the farmhouse to get help from his servants. They returned to see Boneless was still dead, and decided to bury the creature. While digging the impromptu grave, none of the group could figure out what they were looking at. They weren’t even sure if it was dead, and no one wanted to touch the ax in its side.
After they finished burying Boneless, the men proceeded to dig a trench around the grave so no one would disturb it. It’s not like anyone wanted to go near the site, anyway.
Months later when spring arrived, the farmer received a visitor from a the mainland. The farmer’s friend heard about the Christmastime exploits and wanted to know the story. The friend only thought the story a superstition, so he decided to check out Boneless’s grave for himself. And it was super easy to reach, because part of the ditch wall collapsed making it easier to get to the mound.
The man dug with his bare hands, but the more he dug the more he realized a nasty looking light was spilling out from the hole. The light turned into a milky, dense fog, as if it came from the sea. Getting pretty scared, the guy got out of the ditch just in time to hear something scramble out the other side and make its way to the cliff. Back at the farmhouse, the man was sure it was some wild animal, maybe an otter or seal, that jumped into the sea.
The farmer disagreed.
“We all know there’s many kinds of life that live in the air, on the earth or in the water. And we, poor mortals, have not the power to understand the like of some of them.”
The farmer’s friend didn’t have the energy to argue, though he did think the farmer was a superstitious nut.
A few nights later the farmer’s friend was out and about, trying to find his way back to the village when he saw something stretched across the road. It was big, it was white, and it was coming towards him. He thought at first it was mist but then he realized it appeared to be alive. The thing overtook the man and started smothering him, like he was being choked by a wool blanket soaked in sea water. The man felt glowing tentacles wrapping around his arms, legs and waists, and they started dragging him to the cliff. He was scared he couldn’t even scream.
The man struggled to dig his hands into the road to hold onto something, but Boneless just dragged him harder towards the edge of the cliff overlooking the sea. At last the man grabbed onto an outcropping of rock and held on for dear life. Boneless continued to drag the man, or tried to drag him, down, and the man thought if he didn’t let go he’d be ripped in two.
The man desperately said “Sweet Lord” and suddenly Boneless’s grip lessened just a bit. Remembering his farmer friend had a bible with him during his story, the man frantically tried to recall a coherent prayer to try and banish the creature. The only one he could recall was “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.”
Boneless couldn’t let go of the man fast enough and threw itself back into the ocean.
The moment the man made it to the village, he demanded to know when the next boat would be leaving for London. He never returned to Shetland. [Wing: So Boneless? Is an idiot. Why in the world would it want to kill the man who set it free again? Idiot.]
It was 1851, before New Mexico was officially a state. Fort Union was the only semblance of “Civilization” for miles, 90 miles northeast of Santa Fe and built to protect people from the “Savage” Apaches. The Fort operated as a safe haven and trading station so merchants could stop and deliver goods to Santa Fe or St. Louis.
Elizabeth Bidwell moved to Fort Union to live with her sister and brother-in-law, Captain Moore, after Elizabeth’s aunt fell ill and couldn’t look after her. She was considered the prettiest woman living within the walls of the fort and caught many an eye of the men stationed around her. She thought it was all terribly exciting that at any point Indians could raid the fort, seeing life among soldiers as some game or sideshow for her amusement. Because we all know Indians are a sideshow. *Ugh*
Anyway, Elizabeth was one of the few ladies at Fort Union who was young, pretty, and unmarried, so naturally her dance card was rather full. Frank Sutter, a lieutenant recently transferred to the fort, was especially enamored with Elizabeth and worked extra hard at winning her hand. He’d walk and talk with Elizabeth for hours, telling her all sorts of things about himself and life as a soldier. Elizabeth would just laugh and smile and chatter about how boring life was quickly becoming for her.
One day, Frank was assigned to deal with a group of Indians responsible for a series of bloody raids. Before he left, Frank confessed his love for Elizabeth and asked for her hand in marriage. Elizabeth figured she lucked out since Frank was the handsomest man in the fort. But Frank worried he might die before he could return to make their marriage official, so Elizabeth swore if he didn’t come back she would never glance at another man. Soothed, Frank promised he would come back for her no matter what.
No one else would ever have Elizabeth Bidwell.
Well as you can imagine, Frank never came back. People spoke rudely of how quickly Elizabeth forgot her vow and did little to grieve her supposed lover’s untimely demise. She then announced her plan to marry a newcomer who was going to bring her to St. Louis.
Elizabeth’s sister and brother-in-law arranged her wedding at the post’s chapel, followed by a swanky reception in the mess hall. While a southwestern storm broke out during the evening, the partygoers were well sheltered and the festivities continued. Elizabeth was the center of attention in her beautiful pink gown, her arms around her new husband…
And then a late guest arrived.
The doors to the mess hall burst open, and above the raging rain and wind came an inhuman howl that shook the windows and terrified everyone in attendance. Standing in the doorway was Frank Sutter, his uniform filthy and tattered and a giant red gash across his forehead. Everyone shrank away as Frank limped into the room, towards his bride-to-be. Horrified, Elizabeth felt herself frozen in shock as Frank wrenched her away from her equally paralyzed husband and pulled her to the center of the room.
He then signaled the musicians.
Afterward the shaken men protested they they did not know what they were doing. But at the corpse’s command, they began to play a waltz, so strange and haunting in its melody that some people burst into tears upon hearing it, while others pressed their hands to their ears to keep out the sound.
As Frank and Elizabeth danced, the musicians played faster and faster until the music became a violent screech. The dancing couple twirled faster and faster as the pitch of the music increased until they became a blur of color. Slowly, the music began to slow down back to a waltz and then a funeral dirge. Frank stopped in the center of the room, holding Elizabeth’s slack corpse in his arms. He placed her gently on the floor and howled again before departing. No one was brave enough to approach Elizabeth until Frank was gone, but they knew it was too late for her.
Several days later they found Frank Sutter’s body out in the desert.
He was buried next to Elizabeth Bidwell.
WHERE I’VE HEARD IT BEFORE: A variant of this appeared in J.B. Stamper’s “Tales for the Midnight Hour” collection. Mainly, the setting of a lieutenant coming back from the dead to retrieve his bride after she breaks her vow to never be with another man. She didn’t include the waltz aspect and it explicitly took place during the Civil War on a plantation.
Tom Bowers was a loner and a miner who kept to himself on his claim in Misery Hill, near Pike City. The only time Tom ever interacted with other people is when he’d go into town to purchase food and mining supplies. He refused to work with anyone and swore no one else would touch his claim.
During winter Tom would hole up in his cabin with supplies while the weather got bad. People joked Tom’s arrival into Pike City was the official start of spring. So imagine their surprise when Tom failed to show up even after all the snow had melted. Though Tom had no friends, the other miners and townspeople grew worried for his absence and went to investigate. Tom’s cabin was empty and whatever food was left laying around had gone bad a long time ago. The group headed for the slope where Tom did his prospecting, only to find a huge landslide at the end of the trail. After hours of digging, Tom Bowers’ body was discovered buried under the rocks and dirt. He was buried near the entrance to his mine shaft.
There was talk of possibly working Tom’s mine, but people began to report that his ghost haunted Misery Hill and refused to let anyone else have what was his. Unfortunately, one man didn’t believe the stories.
Jim Brandon had so much debt he felt he had no choice but to work the mine on Misery Hill, figuring Tom’s claim was ripe with gold for the picking. He set himself up in Tom’s old shack and quickly managed to prospect enough to settle his debt and establish a tidy nest egg. Several months went by without incident, until Jim found evidence someone had been working the claim during the night. The sluice used to separate the dirt and gold appeared to have been used frequently when he wasn’t around.
Jim couldn’t find proof of his late night visitor and started to think the other miners were playing a trick on him. None of them knew what he was talking about. A few days later things were quiet until Jim once again found evidence of tampering. This time he decided to stay up late to catch the intruder in the act. Armed with a shotgun, Jim stationed himself in a small hiding place that gave him a good view of the mine.
Hours passed and Jim remained alone, until the moon was high in the sky and he saw something glowing on a nearby tree. Jim discovered a sign had been put up on the tree trunk, and it read:
I, Tom Bowers
Claim this ground
for placer mining.
I, Tom Bowers
Claim this ground
for placer mining.
Jim saw this as proof of a practical joker until he tried to take the notice down and almost got electrocuted. As Jim’s arm went numb, the paper disappeared. That was when Jim heard the sound of water being run through the sluice and headed for it, ignoring the notice manifesting again on the tree.
Sure enough, there was Tom Bowers working the sluice as he’d done in real life, but this was a Tom Bowers who’d been dead for a year. Jim nearly shit himself as he fired the gun at Tom’s ghost, watching the bullets go through him. Horrified, Jim dropped the rifle and ran. Tom chased after him.
Back in town, the miners heard a scream and what sounded a body falling and metal hitting the ground. They discovered Jim’s rifle pinned to the ground by a pick with the initials “T.B.” carved into the handle.
No one ever saw Jim Brandon again.
And no one would go near Tom Bowers’ claim on Misery Hill, although late at night people would hear the sound of the sluice being worked again and again. [Wing: Damn it, Tom, you know you can’t take it with you.]
[Wing: YES! Though I would say the people of French Canada, considering.]
Back in olden times, the people of Canada feared the Loup-Garou, or werewolf, that supposedly haunted graveyards and forest roads looking for people to devour. This is one story.
Marthe and Pierre were an elderly farming couple who lived out in the country. One night Marthe was very sick, so Pierre had to travel a long way through the woods to get the town doctor. He didn’t care how dangerous the woods could be at night if it meant helping his beloved.
Pierre made his way through the woods in his horse-drawn sleigh, thinking only of Marthe. The snowy forest was largely silent save for the rare sounds of a hooting owl or a heavy, ice-coated branch finally buckling from the weight. Yet even as the sleigh reached ground that should’ve been easy to traverse, the horse was slowing down and suddenly refused to move at all no matter how much Pierre ordered him. It was then Pierre realized the horse wasn’t moving for two reasons:
That was when Pierre heard the growl.
Pierre turned around to see a large, black animal with its jaws sunk into the back of the sleigh. The creature looked like a huge dog or a wolf, and it had haunting yellow eyes. Pierre looked into those eyes and then a moment later he cracked his whip across the creature’s nose. Startled and hurt, the creature let go of the sleigh long enough for the horse to bolt.
As the horse frantically dragged Pierre and the sleigh through the woods, Pierre looked back to see the creature was coming after them. Pierre was certain he wouldn’t survive this night unless God was looking out for him. The wolf kept after them, but as it got closer it barreled into the back of the sleigh. The impact pushed the sleigh further and miraculously the horse didn’t lose control.
Pierre tried whipping the wolf again, but it caught the whip in its teeth and ripped it away. Stumbling, Pierre pulled out a hunting knife as the wolf lunged into and pinned him to the bottom of the sleigh. The wolf kept its paws on Pierre’s shoulders as he managed to nick the creature hard enough to draw blood.
That one fucking slash was enough to hurt the wolf enough that it turned into a man, making Pierre realize this was a [INSERT TITLE HERE]. Because the stories said if you make a [INSERT TITLE HERE] it’ll turn back into a human.
The former wolf jumped out of the sleigh and fled into the woods. Shaken, Pierre had enough focus to calm the frantic horse down once it got out of the forest. When he finally reached the doctor’s house, the doctor assumed Pierre needed medical attention because of how terrified he looked. Pierre explained what happened, so the doctor gave him a shot of whiskey to calm his nerves before they both ventured to the village priest. The priest provided them with crosses and holy water to protect themselves on the journey back to the farm.
Marthe recovered and she made Pierre promise never to venture into the woods late at night ever again. Pierre was more than happy to keep his promise.
WHERE I’VE HEARD IT BEFORE: I was well familiar with werewolf tales beforehand but this was my first time reading about the Loup-Garou.
[Wing: Aaaaah, werewolves. I love them so. I like the chase through the snowy woods, but Pierre escape far too easily.]
A rich Eastern-European merchant desired to fashion [INSERT TITLE HERE] as a servant, after hearing tales of such a creature created by Rabbi Elijah of Chelm and Rabbi Yehuda Loew of Prague. The merchant contacted his friend the rabbi, who studied the Kabbalah and knew all about golems.
It took much prodding but the rabbi agreed to help the merchant. Using yellow clay, the merchant and rabbi shaped it into the form of a six-foot tall man. The rabbi used formulas from the Book of Creation and molded the word “Emet,” which means “Truth,” onto the golem’s forehead. The golem’s skin turned red and it began to grow hair as well as nails on its fingers and toes. After assessing his handiwork, the rabbi left the merchant’s house without saying a word.
The merchant believed he now had the perfect servant since the golem didn’t need to eat, drink, or sleep. It always followed its master’s commands without argument or complaint. It did what was told in total silence.
And yet something was off. With each passing day the golem seemed to be getting taller and broader. And slower. This didn’t cause any problems just yet, and thanks to having a servant who required no pay and could do things one would need ten men for, the merchant became richer.
The golem also served as the merchant’s bodyguard as no one would dare go near him with a clay giant around. However, the merchant became uneasy because of something in the golem’s eyes. Something sinister he couldn’t put into words. All the rabbi said when asked is that he could bring the clay to life and he could destroy it, but that was all. The merchant swore he’d never destroy such a useful servant.
Still the golem kept growing, and the merchant’s unease grew alongside it. Standing by the fireplace, the light cast on the golem’s face made it appear angry. The merchant was glad the golem couldn’t speak. He no longer had other servants as his former staff were terrified of the golem, which was initially fine. But now the merchant had to repeat the simplest orders over and over before the golem moved. One day the merchant screamed his head off just to get the golem to sweep the fireplace. When he returned, the merchant found the broom snapped in half and ashes strewn all over the room.
The merchant found the golem standing in the garden, staring at him. It wouldn’t heed his orders to come inside until the merchant decided the golem could draw water from the well for dinner. The golem responded by smashing up the well and destroying the nearby fruit trees. No matter how much the merchant ordered, the giant golem wouldn’t stop.
Frightened and alone, the merchant ran to his friend the rabbi begging for the method to destroy his once faithful servant. The rabbi explained that by removing the first letter from the golem’s forehead, by changing the word “Emet” to “Met” which means “Death,” the golem will revert back to an inanimate statue.
The merchant returned to find the golem trashing his house and screamed so loud for it to stop the golem obeyed. As it started at its puny master, the merchant hesitantly moved to the golem. He said the golem needed to lean closer, because his voice was so hoarse from screaming he could only whisper. The golem did so, and the merchant swiftly rubbed off the “E” from “Emet.”
The golem reverted to a simple statue.
Which then broke apart and fell on top of the merchant, crushing him to death.
…kinda bothers me the Jewish story is about a guy who’s essentially punished for wanting cheap labor. Hello internalized racism my old friend.
WHERE I’VE HEARD IT BEFORE: The golem is indeed from Jewish mythology and the term “Golem” is often used to describe a statue like sentry. They can be made of anything, even dead insects or velcro. There’s been a few silent movies based on the creature, and “The Simpsons” even did a Halloween short about it (which included Fran Drescher voicing the Golem’s playdough bride).
[Wing: I’m not sure about mythology as a word here, though I can’t think of the word I want to use to replace it. In general, it’s not Christian mythology, it’s Christian religion or theology, so why wouldn’t that be applied to other religions? Mythology makes me think of a dead belief system. I will have to think on this more and do some reading. Anyone out there with thoughts, I’d love to hear them.]
This is the first of the four American urban legend stories included in the collections. There’s one in each book, always near the end.
Eric and Bill were two college freshmen on their way to a dance being held at a nearby women’s college. But the two weren’t really familiar with the area and had gotten lost in Bill’s schmancy red convertible. Hey, as Bill saw it, they were taking the scenic route.
Thankfully, their luck was about to change when the boys spotted a young woman trying to flag them down on the side of the road. The girl was wearing an old-fashioned lavender colored dress, the kind of dress that was in style for many of the women they knew. She was on her way to the same dance at Gabriel College and helped the boys find their way. Eric detected a scent of lavender coming from the girl and asked her name. She said they could call her “Lavender” since it was the color of her dress.
Bill, Eric, and Lavender talked and laughed all the way to the dance. Eric’s jokes were awful but Lavender laughed like he was the funniest person on Earth. Lavender was super excited to get to the dance and couldn’t wait to get out of the car and start having fun. She danced all night, alternating between Bill and Eric. While Lavender danced with Bill, Eric was mesmerized and thought he was falling in love with his mysterious young woman. He suspected Bill felt the same way and wasn’t sure how to deal with his best friend loving the same girl. But he knew he’d deal with it. Lavender was worth it.
Betch you’ve known her for like two hours put it back in your pants.
When the dance ended, the boys invited Lavender to join them for a cup of coffee. She insisted she had to get home as soon as possible. The boys chose not to argue with her as they could see Lavender really needed to go home. In the chilly night air, Eric lent Lavender his sportcoat yet refrained from putting his arm around her. Something told him not to, but he didn’t know what.
The boys drove Lavender back to the spot where they picked her up, and she directed them to a shack at the end of a dirt road. There was a single light burning from the shack window. Lavender insisted she go back to her house alone, and the boys couldn’t find it in themselves to argue.
She waved once – a graceful lavender shadow in the mingled moonlight and starlight – then hurried toward the lighted window like a moth to a flame.
It wasn’t until the boys reached their college that Eric realized Lavender still had his jacket. Bill joked they now had a valid reason to return to see Lavender again. The next day the boys returned to the dirt road and approached the old shack hoping to find Lavender, when they were instead greeted by an old woman. The old woman said she didn’t know anyone named “Lavender,” but when the boys described her the woman realized who they were talking about.
Tearfully, the old woman said they were looking for her daughter Lily, who died in a car accident on her way to a school dance. The woman said Bill and Eric weren’t the first people to see Lily. She’s repeatedly tried to come home, and every night the woman left a light on for Lily to find. But she never makes it. The woman said Lily was buried in a graveyard a couple of miles away.
Unnerved, Bill and Eric thought Lily, Lavender, whoever she was, was probably using her mom to give them the brush off. [Wing: That’s one hell of a brush off!] Eric can just get a new coat, and Bill had no intention of going back to that dump for someone willing to make up such a dumb story.
Of course, if it was such a dumb story, why did Eric insist on stopping when they drove by an old cemetery?
And why was Eric’s jacket carefully folded in front of a gravestone bearing the name “Lily Abbott?”
WHERE I’VE HEARD IT BEFORE: This is a classic variation of the “Hitchhiking ghost” urban legend. Another version was included in “Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark,” only in that retelling the ghost girl had recently died on her way to the dance instead of being dead for years.
And then there’s this legendary version:
[Wing: My favourite version of the hitchhiking ghost is Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan Mcguire.]
Yes Wing we finally got to the spider story sorry.
Long ago, a famous samurai named Raiko was asked by the emperor of Japan to destroy a horrible [INSERT TITLE HERE] that was terrorizing the countryside near Kyoto. With his trusty companion Tsuna, Raiko set off to find the fiendish arachnid and put a stop to its reign of terror.
On the haunted plain of Rendai, Raiko and Tsuna found a human skull that asked if they were going to kill the spider. The skull claimed the spider killed him many years ago and offered to show the warriors where it hid. It flew ahead of them and the warriors tried to follow. By the time they caught up with the skull, it disappeared. Raiko and Tsuna saw the skull led them to a ruined palace.
Inside the palace, the warriors discovered an old, white haired woman sitting on a broken pillar. The woman looked up at them with massive, glittering black eyes. She claimed to be 290 years old and told the warriors they were not welcome in the palace of her horrible master. Raiko and Tsuna told her they weren’t afraid of her master and ordered her to let the demon know they were here to slay it. The servant cackled and offered to introduce the two to some friends first.
The hag disappeared and a mist filled the chamber while dark clouds blotted the sky. Raiko and Tsuna watched as a mass of demons fled into the chamber from the rain.
Some were huge with horns, three toes, three fingers, and three eyes; some looked like animals but walked like men, with faces that were a horrifying mix of beast and human; one had its eyes in its hands, and kept its palms up so it could see; another was a serpent with a woman’s head, its long hair flying and its tongue flickering out to taste the rain; small creatures, like frogs or monkeys with a shock of red hair, pranced around the legs of their taller companions.
Raiko and Tsuna unleashed their swords and fought the horde of demons until morning when the rain stopped and a rooster crowed to signal the start of day. The creatures fled before the sun returned. Alone, the two men shared a victory hug and complimented each other, because fuck your toxic masculinity.
Suddenly, the warriors were joined by a third party, a young woman making her way down the steps of the palace. She beckoned to them, but as they got closer the woman exuded a blinding light. Raiko could barely see the woman transform into a monster.
A thing with a tiny body and a head two feet long floated at the end of a reedlike neck. Her arms were white as snow, long and thin as ropes that were snaking out toward the half-blinded warrior.
The woman touched Raiko and as he slashed her with his sword she turned into thick strands of silk. Raiko was now covered in thick cobwebs and as Tsuna tried to help free him they discovered his sword was coated in white blood. They searched the room and inspected where rainwater was seeping into cracks in the flagstone. Clanging his sword, Raiko heard a hollow sound and figured there was another room behind the stones. They deduced the spider was hiding deeper in the building away from the sunlight. Raiko figured they had to bring the light with them, so he started to break apart the wall.
The more sunlight entered, the warriors heard a voice ordering them to stop. It promised to spare their lives if they left, but the warriors ignored it. They uncovered a room within the courtyard, and hidden within the deepest shadows was an enormous white spider with silky legs and black eyes.
The spider wanted to make the warriors suffer for the pain they caused it, scuttling around the pools of sunlight. Raiko was smart enough to stay within the light as he battled the spider, who feared the light reflected from his blade. This lasted for an hour before Raiko saw an opening and swiftly lopped off the spider’s head. The head rolled over to a pile of human skulls, but Raiko retrieved it to bring back to the emperor. Raiko and Tsuna were richly rewarded for destroying the goblin spider.
It was Halloween night in the French countryside, and the fierce winds foretold a storm was coming. In her cabin with her grandsons, Grandmother built a fire and warned her boys Tom, Louis, and Richard it was dangerous to go out. Since it was Halloween, this was the night when witches, ghosts, goblins, and all sorts of vile creatures ran amok looking for children to snatch.
Sing it with me now
Tom, the oldest, didn’t believe Grandmother’s stories and left to visit his girlfriend Colette. Louis, the middle child, exclaimed he was going out to catch lobsters and crabs by the coast to sell for money. Grandmother tried to entice Richard, the youngest, to stay with her by telling him stories about fairies and magic animals. Richard was more interested in picking blackberries.
You assholes don’t deserve your grandma.
The boys left the cabin onto a clear night, no wind or rain, and set about their business. It was Richard who noticed a black pony at the foot of the nearby hill. Louis thought it belonged to an elderly neighbor and was heading to the nearby pond for a drink of water. Tom tried to stop the pony from running off so he jumped on its back to bring it to the pond. Louis and Richard didn’t want to be left behind so they seated themselves behind their brother on the pony’s back.[Wing: How … how big is this pony?]
Somehow, on their way to the pond the brothers ran into some friends who joined them on the pony. So there were six boys riding on the pony, which the pony didn’t seem to mind. The pony ran faster and faster as the boys told it to gallop. The sound of the wind and the noises of the forest didn’t deter the pony at all, and the brothers nearly forgot about their plans until they saw the pony was heading for the beach. Tom tried to grab the pony’s mane to make it turn, but the pony charged forward.
The boys wanted to get off the pony, but discovered they were stuck to its back as the pony loudly neighed and charged into the sea. Only now did Tom realize he should’ve listened to Grandmother.
Soon the pony submerged into the depths with its six victims. Some say the boys drowned, others say they were brought to an underwater kingdom, but no one ever saw them again.
WHERE I’VE HEARD IT BEFORE: The creature in this story is a kelpie, a monster that resembles a horse and tries to entice people onto its back so it can drown them. Sometimes they even have manes made out of seaweed.
Kelpies have been mentioned in “Harry Potter” and are one of the creatures discussed in the original “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them” book.
Recently, the new “DuckTales” cartoon included kelpies in the episode “The Missing Links of Moorshire!” Scrooge McDuck and the cast find themselves transported to an ancient Druid golf course (yes, really) and have to deal with two kelpies named Briar and Bramble who repeatedly and ineptly try to drown them. Webby Vanderquack immediately realizes they’re kelpies when she sees their manes are soaking wet. Louie Duck even dubs them “The Murder Ponies.”
Briar and Bramble are both rather ingeniously twisted references to “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic,” as they’re voiced by Tara Strong (the voice of Twilight Sparkle) and Andrea Libman (Fluttershy). As a show of the writers doing their research, Libman doing the voice of Bramble (the purple one) refers to how she was originally going to voice Twilight Sparkle, while Strong as Briar (the pink one) references her originally voicing Pinkie Pie.
And so we’ve finally finished this collection of tales! And it only took six months.
And if you enjoyed this batch get ready because there are three more books so I’m set for the next year and a half! I’m especially looking forward to August because it begins “More Short And Shivery” which is my favorite of the titles and the one I’ve owned the longest.
Out of all the thirty tales Wing which did you prefer most and least?
[Wing: I mean, werewolf and giant spider. No one’s surprised, I’m sure.]
Hi, great blog, really enjoying your write-ups, they’re bringing back many terrifying childhood memories! I was a very easily scared child and am still a terrible scaredy-cat as an adult, so I never graduated from children’s horror stories to adult ones, Point Horror was more than scary enough for me! I have a comment to make regarding your rheuminations on the golem story. You questioned the term ‘mythology’ to describe it, I understand this, but ‘theology’ is hardly appropriate for this particular tale. The golem is an integral part of Jewish folklore, but is not really a religious story. Judaism is somewhat different to Christianity in that ‘Jewish’ is both a religion and an ethnicity, people can be ethnically Jewish but not practice the religion and non-ethnic Jews can convert and follow the religion. This means that some parts of Jewish culture, history and folklore are religious and some aren’t and the golem tales tend to fall into the latter category. As a Jewish child I had read many versions of this story by the time I was eight or so, as had many of my friends. It seemed like such a famous story that I didn’t realised that it wasn’t as well-known amongst non-Jewish children until I mentioned it and was met with blank looks from my non-Jewish friends. The golem tales originated as a reaction to the widespread and persistent violent anti-semitism faced by Jews throughout Europe for many centuries. The idea of the golem was comforting, an indestructable defender who would protect Jews from violent racist attacks. I recently visited Prague, home of the most famous golem tales. The golem here was said to have been created by a rabbi, whose grave you can still visit in the city’s Jewish cemetery, so he was a real person. The golem was created to protect the Prague Jewish ghetto from attack but, in most stories, it eventually became uncontrollable and the rabbi had to put it to sleep using the method described in the story. I haven’t come across this version with the merchant and am slightly uncomfortable with it. Life for Jews in Prague, like almost everywhere else in Europe, was extremely grim. They were prevented from living and working outside the ghetto and only limited marriage licences were granted to them in order to prevent the community from growing. Jews were frequently attacked and their property stolen and the courts offered no redress. Every time there was any discontent in Prague, either about an outbreak of illness, an unsolved child murder or abduction or tough financial conditions, this would habitually be blamed on the Jews and angry racist mobs would descend on the relatively defenceless ghetto, murdering and looting indiscriminately. Belief in the pernicious ‘blood libel’ and in Jews using sorcery to spread plagues amongst non-Jews were prevalent and were frequently invoked by officials to distract from their own corruption or incompetence. It would be nice to think this kind of thing was all in the past but, sadly, anti-semitic conspiracy theories that blames Jews for all the world’s ills, since we apparently operate a shady cabal that controls all the governments, banks and media in the world, are still very much alive and well, as is the foul ‘blood libel’ and other Nazi-era beliefs. One of the old synagogues in Prague has an upper-floor blocked off as legend goes that this was where the golem went to sleep. Despite being made by a rabbi and resting in a synagogue, this tale has very little religious meaning. It is a folk tale originally told to console Jewish children in times of great fear. Sorry for the long post, but I hope you don’t mind me sharing my perspective and sorry if I’ve explained stuff you were already fully aware of!
This is fantastic, definitely don’t apologise for the length! Thank you for your kind words and even more, thank you for taking the time to provide us with this information. I really appreciate your perspective and clarification.
It would be nice to think this kind of thing was all in the past but, sadly, anti-semitic conspiracy theories that blames Jews for all the world’s ills
Sadly true. The ongoing anti-semitism (and the increase of it I see in the USA right now) is horrific.
Thanks so much for your kind reply, I’m very glad you found my comment helpful! I appreciate the sensitive way you always call out racism, misogyny and ableism in these books. Proving it’s still possible to remember things from our childhood fondly while acknowledging they may have been problematic! I look forward to many more of your excellent write-ups! Thanks again!
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Evil twins, Wing and Dove, and their friends recap Point Horror and other teen genre fiction.
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