Recap #273: Even More Short & Shivery by Robert D. San Souci – Part Two
Title: Even More Short & Shivery
Author/Editor/Reteller: Robert D. San Souci
Illustrator: Jacqueline Roberts
Tagline: Thirty Spine-Tingling Tales
Summary: Thirty spine-chilling stories from around the world provide plenty of shivers in this spooky collection. Curl up with old friends like Washington Irving’s “Guests from Gibbet Island” or Charles Dickens’s “Chips.” Or make the acquaintance of “The Skull That Spoke” and “The Monster of Baylock” – but beware of spectral visitors like “The Blood Drawing Ghost.” This exciting mixture of classic and contemporary tales from Mexico, China, Poland, Nigeria, and other lands near and far is perfect for hair-raising reading!
Our next round of stories mostly take place in Britain and Ireland, with one in the West Indies and the last in the U.S.A. by Washington Irving. Not much to say except there’s more awesome art by Jacqueline Roberts, we get yet another strange variant of vampire, and *loudest sigh* one character is described as a beauty with “ebony skin” so there’s that.
As a reminder, everyone, I am still taking recap slots in exchange for a donation of $25 or more to any program, fund, or campaign helping with Black Lives Matter, the Yemen crisis, the Anti-Terror Bill in the Philippines, or the struggles of the indigenous American nations such as the Navajo and Hopi. You can find my info here as well as a list of books I currently own that haven’t been recapped yet.
6. THE DANCING DEAD OF SHARK ISLAND (British Isles – Ireland)
The locals of Inishark referred to their home as “Shark Island” just off the coast of Ireland. [Wing: I want to live on Shark Island.]
One night, Kathleen O’Connor was trying to return home after visiting a sick relative. Unfortunately the night grew cold and the road was rocky and steep, so she stopped to rest for just a moment. Too bad for Kathleen because a time the locals knew as “the hour of the dead” was drawing near.
After stopping for just a moment, Kathleen closed her eyes and suddenly heard someone approaching her. Kathleen saw a young man coming towards her from the road, yet the same stretch of road was previously empty. Where’d he come from?
Maybe the fact he’s Brian, a guy who drowned the previous year, might’ve had something to do with that.
Kathleen was quietly horrified when she recognized Brian and asked why he was here. Brian pointed yonder to a nearby hill and saw for the first time a large group of people dancing to the music of invisible instruments. Gracefully, beautifully, the dancers spun and twirled but the sight frightened Kathleen. The movements were inhuman, and many of the revelers were people she once knew who had died.
Once the music stopped, the dancing dead beckoned to Kathleen. Brian screamed at Kathleen to run because the living can’t survive a dance with the dead. [Wing: Challenge accepted.] Kathleen tried to run when the music started again, mesmerizing Kathleen. Brian, now under the music’s spell, joined hands with the other dancers forming a circle around bewitched Kathleen. The ghosts danced around Kathleen, spinning faster and faster until she was trapped in the center of a storm.
Kathleen somehow woke up the next morning in her bed with no memory of how she got there. Her brother Kevin found her passed out on the road. Too bad for Kathleen, the dancing dead had done their work and she fell ill. She couldn’t remember what happened the previous night, and the local herb doctor diagnosed her condition as “fairy stroke.” Kathleen’s good and FUCKED. [Wing: Fairy stroke as a diagnosis made me laugh, even if it is kind of terrible for Kathleen.]
Kathleen grew worse during the day, until night came and the moon rose in the sky. She weakly asked her brother if he heard anything. Kevin could hear that same beautiful, terrible music from the other night. As soon as he looked at the window to figure out where it was coming from, the music stopped.
Oh and Kathleen died.
The music came back, now almost mocking Kevin with its liveliness. Running out the door in grief, Kevin, he could see Kathleen’s spirit dancing in the distance. Kathleen waved goodbye to her brother and then vanished.
See Wing this is why I’m not a party person. [Wing: Oh come now, dancing with the dead sounds like a thrill.]
Where I’ve Heard It Before: The idea of dancing ghouls and ghosts is a common one, but the closest I’ve encountered to a story similar to this was “The Halloween Dance” in R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour: Chills In The Dead Of Night short story collection. Though in that case, it involved dead people dancing in a graveyard with a ritual capable of turning back time.
7. “That I See, but This I Saw” (British Isles – Scotland)
Meet Sandy, a humble tailor in the town of Beauly. Sandy loves Flora, but so does Angus, an arrogant and well-off farmer. Despite Angus having more money, Flora stuck with Sandy out of love. Sandy worked hard to raise enough money so he could wed Flora, and Flora was patient as she worked hard in her job as a lady’s maid.
Being a dick, Angus decided to make a bet with Sandy. After asking Sandy what he’d do to earn enough money for his wedding, Angus reminded Sandy of the local haunted church. Well, it used to be a church, until it was burned down during the feud between the MacDonalds and the MacKenzies. The entire MacKenzie clan was burned alive in the church. Now its ruins are supposed to be haunted at night.
Angus proposed Sandy head for the church as midnight and spend as much time as needed to finish sewing up a new pair of trousers. If Sandy was successful, Angus would pay him for the trousers AND give him the rest of the money needed for the wedding. Leaving the tailor’s shop, Angus hoped something awful would happen to Sandy, then Flora would be his for the taking.
Sandy arrived at the church a bit before midnight to inspect the entrance. He checked out the outside latch and the inside latch on the front door. Prying off the inside latch, Sandy made sure the door could be drawn shut from the outside but it couldn’t be opened from the inside. Of course he left the door ajar before he entered. [Wing: …wait what? He doesn’t want it to be opened from the inside? Does he not trust himself to stay if things get horrifying? Would he rather risk death than not finish the trousers? I am confused by your life choices, Sandy.]
Lighting a candle, Sandy positioned himself in one of the pews and got to work on Angus’s trousers. Almost immediately after the stroke of midnight, shit got real. A fleshless skull with empty eye sockets leaned forward and grinned at Sandy in the darkness. The skull would ask Sandy if he could see its gray skull, its grizzled throat, its grizzled trunk, its grizzled thigh, etc. Every time the skull would ask a question, more of its horrid form appeared. And every time it asked a question, Sandy gave the same reply.
“That I see, but this I sew”
Sandy wasn’t deterred from his tailoring and worked as best he could, regardless of the skull stepping closer towards him. Just as Sandy finished and bit off the last thread, the skull’s grizzled arm reached out towards him! Sandy quickly ran from the pew, the skull’s clawed fingers scratching his leg. Still, Sandy quickly made it outside and pulled the church door shut. As he ran for Angus’s home, Sandy could hear the skull scratching and scraping at the other side of the door. [Wing: Ooooooh, I get it now. I’m more surprised that Angus didn’t sneak up and shut the door from the outside. Since I expected that to happen, no wonder I was confused by stopping the door from opening from the inside.]
Sandy and Angus got in a big fight because Angus refused to believe Sandy had an encounter with any ghost. He figured Sandy scratched his leg on a bramble patch or something. Some of the townsfolk overheard the arguing and investigated the church. They saw the deep scratch marks in the church door and figured they matched the description of the creature that attacked Sandy.
Angus was forced to pay up what he owed Sandy, so Sandy and Flora got married and lived happily. Yet for the rest of his life Sandy had faint scars on the back of his leg from where the creature attacked. [Wing: Wait, why wouldn’t he be forced to pay up even if the townsfolk didn’t believe Sandy? The bet was just that Sandy would stay until he finished the trousers, not that he would either have a ghostly encounter or stay all night. Angus, you’d be in breach of contract if you hadn’t paid, you little shit.]
8. LA GUIABLESSE (West Indies – Martinique)
It was a hot, cloudless day, when Gabou and Fafa took a break from working in the cane fields. Suddenly, they saw a beautiful young woman walking down the road. Fafa was immediately smitten by her, but Gabou, who admittedly thought she was lovely too, was startled. He’d just been watching the road and it was previously empty. It was as if the woman appeared out of thin air.
The woman greeted the two men and smiled at them. Fafa felt as though he were “wrapped in a blaze of black lightning.” UGGGGGGGGGH. Anyway, Gabou was frightened by the woman. Fafa wasn’t, [Wing: Fafa, considering how being wrapped in a blaze of black lightning sounds kind of terrible, I’m questioning your life choices, too.] and followed after her even though his official break was almost over.
Fafa walked alongside the mystery woman as they climbed the mountain road. The woman revealed she was heading for “the River of the Lizard,” which is like 30 kilometers away. That’s like 18.5 miles. Though Fafa was shocked she was heading such a long way, one look in her eyes made him feel like he’d follow her into hell…
Ignoring the faraway clang of the plantation bell, Fafa followed after the woman. He repeatedly tried to guess her name, but she denied each guess. The woman then began to sing as she walked faster.
Listen to this song of mine,
I have traveled a long, long time,
Love was gone, now it draws near,
Will you be my love, my dear?
The longer they walked, the hotter it got, yet while Fafa’s shirt was drenched with sweat his companion’s skin was dry. She walked quickly, but it seemed to take her little effort.
The sun was starting to set and the sky turned orange and purple when the woman left the road and began walking through the forest. Fafa almost lost her as he heard the woman say she knew a shortcut. The upcoming night made the forest gloom even darker until Fafa couldn’t see the woman anymore. She called out and pulled his hand towards a ledge overlooking a ravine.
The woman asked Fafa if he loved her. Fafa cried she had his heart and soul. Happy to hear this, the woman stepped forward and with the last light of day, Fafa could see her face was now hideous. Fafa realized this was no woman, but La Guiablesse, the goblin that haunts the day instead of night. The goblin woman beckoned Fafa to kiss her, and he was so horrified he stumbled and fell to his death in the ravine. [Wing: Ah yes, the old beautiful = good, ugly = evil trope. How exciting.]
Where I’ve Heard It Before: La Guiablesse reminds me more of the sirens from Greek mythology, creatures who entice men with their voices to die horrible deaths in the sea.
9. THE BLOOD-DRAWING GHOST (British Isles – Ireland)
John of County Cork, Ireland, was once courting three women, Mary, Peggy, and Kate. Because polyamorous marriage was frowned upon, instead of acting like an adult and choosing which woman to marry (or, y’know, not get married at all), John decided to test their love. Because he’s an ass.
One evening, John told his three lady friends he’d left his blackthorn walking stick on top of the tomb in the center of the churchyard. John decided he’d marry whichever woman would get the stick for him. Peggy and Mary refused to get the stick because it’d mean going into the cemetery at night. Kate, the brawniest of the three, decided to go, none of them realizing John’s literally treating them like dogs.
Kate made it to the churchyard just as night fell and the moon rose in the sky. The moonlight made it easy to find the walking stick, but before Kate could grab it she heard a voice commanding her to open the tomb. Some strange power compelled Kate to obey no matter how frightened she was. The voice ordered her to open a casket, where Kate found the voice coming from a man who died several months before. The corpse’s eyes were wide open and even though the mouth never moved, Kate could hear the words coming from the slightly open lips.
The corpse ordered Kate to lift it up and place it on her back. When the corpse was only slightly up it threw an arm around Kate’s neck and refused to let go, no matter how hard she tried to shake free.
With one arm locked around Kate’s neck, the corpse used its other arm to direct her out of the churchyard to the nearby houses. The corpse couldn’t enter the first two houses because it could sense they had holy water. The third house, however, was free game. Oh, and it’s also John’s house. Since his family didn’t go to church, of course they didn’t have holy water. [Wing: Even when I did go to church, I never had holy water just sitting around the house.]
The corpse ordered Kate to enter John’s room and made her take a cup off the table next to where John slept. As Kate held the cup beneath John’s wrist, the corpse used its free hand to puncture John’s skin with a claw-like fingernail. Kate had to watch as the corpse drained John’s blood into the cup. When the cup was full, the corpse pierced John’s wrist again to seal up the wound as if nothing happened.
Now to keep showing off how ill-mannered the corpse really is, it ordered Kate to bring it to John’s kitchen and fix two bowls of oatmeal. Putting the corpse in a chair at the kitchen table, Kate was then ordered to mix John’s blood into the oatmeal. While the corpse ate his bloody oatmeal with gusto, Kate summoned enough willpower to hide her spoonfuls in a napkin on her lap.
The dreadful meal finished, Kate was ordered to bring the corpse back to its crypt. While she had to obey, Kate was still able to hide the napkin with the bloody oatmeal behind John’s cupboard. Carrying the corpse once more, Kate was told John’ll die unless he has three spoonfuls of the bloodmeal. Yet since there’s none left, he’s certainly gonna die.
Kate was slowly getting more power to resist, and tried to slow down her return as a nearby rooster began to crow the oncoming morning. The corpse ordered her to cut through a nearby field, claiming it belonged to him in life and mentioning where he stashed some gold. Oh, the corpse isn’t worried about Kate stealing it. Since she ate her bloodmeal too, Kate will become its undead servant and will live at the foot of its crypt.
WOW SO NICE TO SEE SO MANY WOMEN BEING TREATED LIKE ANIMALS, HUH?
Just as they got to the door of the crypt, Kate saw John’s blackthorn walking stick within reach. Saying a prayer under her breath, Kate used all the strength she had to grab the stick and jam it in the door handles to the crypt. The corpse began to scream and choke the life out of Kate when the morning sun appeared, and the screams of rage turned to screams of pain. Kate watched as the corpse writhed in agony in the sunlight before turning into dust.
Kate hurried back to John’s house and fed his unconscious body the bloodmeal, much to the worry and confusion of his parents. [Wing: I mean, yeah, I’d be pretty worried at this point, too, though I hope she didn’t actually tell them it had John’s own blood in it.] John awoke feeling like a million gold coins with no memory of the previous night.
John kept his word and married Kate, and Kate used the corpse’s gold stash to fund their married life. However, Kate made sure John went to church every Sunday and insured their house always had holy water.
Kate, hunbun, you got used as a pack mule by a fake-ass vampire you should’ve told John where to stick that blackthorn and run off with the gold. [Wing: With the other women, of course.]
10. GUESTS FROM GIBBET ISLAND (U.S.A. – Washington Irving)
Back when the U.S. was still controlled by a foreign power… wait it still is, I MEAN back when the U.S. was still a bunch of British colonies, Ellis Island was called Gibbet Island. Because that’s where they hung pirates and mutineers, their bodies left strung up for people to see.
Across the water from Gibbet Island was the Wild Goose Tavern in the town of Communipaw. The tavern was run by a Dutchman by the name of Yan Yost Vanderscamp, a rumored retired pirate chief who used his stolen plunder to build and finance the Wild Goose. Vanderscamp’s right hand man Pluto had a similar rep, and there was all kinds of talk of sneaky business deals at the Wild Goose thanks to its clientele. However, no one could prove anything.
The British authorities were frequently called in to deal with goings-on at the Wild Goose, but by the time they arrived the suspects were already off to sea. Well one day they got lucky and managed to capture three smugglers carrying a chest filled with stolen Spanish gold, jewels, and silk. The men claimed Vanderscamp gave them the goods and they were innocent, but both Vanderscamp and Pluto were nowhere to be found. The three men were immediately hung at Gibbet Island with no one to prove their innocence.
Vanderscamp returned a week later in a boat oared by Pluto. From that point any illegal doings at the Wild Goose were done on the down low. Often, Pluto would row Vanderscamp out to a boat on the waters and then back to the Tavern, presumably to carry out his dirty deed doing.
One night, a storm was brewing and a drunken Vanderscamp barked at Pluto to row faster. Annoyed at Vanderscamp’s attitude, Pluto decided to troll his boss by deliberately rowing the boat closer to Gibbet Island. The bodies of the three men still hung from the chains. Angered at Pluto snarking about supposedly being afraid, Vanderscamp boasted he fears no man, alive or dead, and would gladly welcome his three friends if they stopped by the tavern for some drinks.
The sound of the harsh wind seemed similar to the sound of laughter coming from the three dead men…
Finally, Pluto rowed Vanderscamp back to the Wild Goose just as the storm began. Entering the tavern, Vanderscamp was confused as he heard what sounded like partying going on in the room above. He quickly discovered his three dead friends decided to take him up on his offer. A blue light like brimstone burned on the table as the skeletal corpses, the chains still hung ’round their necks, clanked their cups and sang.
Oh, three merry lads are we,
Come home from over the sea;
First on the sand, and then on the land,
And last on the gallows tree.
[Wing: Give these dead dudes a record deal.]
Vanderscamp ran from his dear friends, screaming for Pluto. Bursting through the door of the Wild Goose, Vanderscamp slipped in the rain and fell down the stairs.
A few days later peopled searched the Wild Goose but couldn’t find a trace of the owner or his servant. Everything valuable that hadn’t been nailed down was gone. While Pluto was never seen again, Vanderscamp’s body turned up wedged between the rocks below the gallows on Gibbet Island.
There were only three people who knew what happened to Vanderscamp, but they weren’t talking.
Not much to say this time, other than the whole “ebony beauty” shit in “La Guiablesse” was off-putting enough it’s the reason this recap had been delayed for a bit. Join us for the next recap where we’ll get a haunted house, a surprising early version of an infamous urban legend, and Hans Christian Andersen (no it’s not The Red Shoes). [Wing: Shame, I was looking forward to someone dancing their feet bloody.]