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30 review for Great Horror Stories: 101 Chilling Tales

  1. 4 out of 5

    Werner

    Note, May 26, 2021: it turns out that the editor of this collection misspelled an author's name, so I've just edited my review to make that correction. This anthology is a sort of companion volume (and actually one of several) to Great Ghost Stories: 101 Terrifying Tales , which I reviewed last year, both published under the same imprint and sharing the same editor. Here too, stories from the 19th and early 20th centuries are collected in a handsome, thick but light-weight and easily handled volu Note, May 26, 2021: it turns out that the editor of this collection misspelled an author's name, so I've just edited my review to make that correction. This anthology is a sort of companion volume (and actually one of several) to Great Ghost Stories: 101 Terrifying Tales , which I reviewed last year, both published under the same imprint and sharing the same editor. Here too, stories from the 19th and early 20th centuries are collected in a handsome, thick but light-weight and easily handled volume. The 101 stories, this time, all appear to be by different authors --arrangement, again, is alphabetical by title (ignoring initial articles), so it's not as easy to tell as it would be if the alphabetizing were at least done, as would be more logical, by author. The contributors here range from the well-known in literature generally (such as Hawthorne, Poe, Saki, Washington Irving, Conan Doyle, Ambrose Bierce) or in genre circles –including Stoker, Lovecraft, M. R. James, Le Fanu, all of the ghost-story-writing Bensons, and Algernon Blackwood-- to the more obscure. Most but not all are from the U.S. or the U.K.; Maupassant, Maurice Level, Erckmann-Chatrian, Villiers de l'Isle Adam and Horatio Quiroga are among the few non-Anglo-American authors represented. As with the other volume, a number of authors here I'd encountered before (47 of them are represented in both collections), or at least heard of, and some were totally new to me; but again, no information about the authors is provided, and no publication dates are given for the stories. In this tome, the unifying theme is supposedly “horror,” though not all of the selections are actually horrific. Some of the stories are supernatural fiction, and may feature ghosts, vampires, werewolves, witchcraft, etc.; others look for their horror in the natural realm, and particularly in the things that humans do to each other. These may include tales of murder, madness, revenge or poetic justice, or simply natural tragedy. Science fiction also appears, with tales of astral projection, time displacement, a monster from the depths of the sea, etc. A fairly high proportion of them can be grim and dark; happy endings aren't guaranteed (and in a few stories involving murder, some endings the readers might consider relatively happy would probably be perceived by the murderers as quite horrific). As usual with collections of this type, some of the included stories (nine, in this volume) are ones I'd already read: “August Heat,” by William Fryer Harvey; "The Closed Window" by A. C. Benson (which is also in the other collection); Le Fanu's ”The Fortunes of Sir Robert Ardagh;” Washington Irving's "Legend of the Engulphed Convent;" Lovecraft's “The Music of Erich Zann;” Saki's “Sredni Vashtar;” Poe's “Hop-Frog;” “A Gentle Ghost” by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman; and “The Cigarette Case” by Oliver Onions. (Personally, I wouldn't really consider the last three horrific; and in the latter writer's case, his “The Beckoning Fair One” would have been a better choice to cultivate that effect.) I've commented on most of these in my reviews of other anthologies and collections. Also as usual with large anthologies, some selections I didn't like. A couple of them just tell stories of undeserved tragedy in realistic situations, seemingly only to rub the reader's nose in the unfairness of human suffering, without any other apparent literary purpose or reward. One of these was John Buchan's story, “At the Article of Death,” which was especially disappointing to me, since I've enjoyed other fiction by Buchan. (This hasn't discouraged me from my intention of exploring more of his work, however!). “Carnivorine” by Lucy H. Hooper depends on a Darwinist premise evoked with a hand-wavy “explanation” that even convinced evolutionists might find it hard to suspend disbelief in. I skipped most of "The Soul That Would Not Be Born" by Dion Fortune, after quickly discovering (and confirming this by skimming the ending) that it revolves around the idea of reincarnation, a theme I dislike. (Fortune's psychic detective protagonist Taverner, who is apparently a series character, also mind-reads "the subconscious mind of Nature," where "every thought and impulse in the world is recorded in the Akashic records. It is like consulting a reference library." If "willing suspension of disbelief" was on life support before, it expired when I read that paragraph.) The underlying racism of "Post-Mortem" by Arthur Ransome was off-putting enough to work to the detriment of the story. M. P. Shiel's "Xelucha" is so staggeringly bad as to be mind-boggling, a pointless mass of unlikable characters, clumsy and incoherent dialogue, pretentious prose, and surrealistic plotting that goes nowhere. "Witch In-Grain" by R. Murray Gilchrist also has a surrealistic quality, with characters so undeveloped that I wondered fleetingly if it were a novel excerpt rather than a complete work in itself, and confusing plotting which isn't helped by the heavy-handed use of archaic dialogue and narration; it definitely did not work for me. A few stories had positive features, but also flaws. Some of these missed the mark, at least for me, primarily because of failures of the story's internal logic, rendering it implausible. This was the case with Ralph Adams Cram's “The Dead Valley” (though its Swedish setting is a plus, and I still want to read more of his work), H. B. Marriott Watson's fever-dream-like “The Devil of the Marsh,” and “The Coffin Merchant” by Richard Middleton. (“On the Brighton Road,” which appears in the companion volume and elsewhere, is a much better introduction to the latter writer's work.) Quiroga's “The Feather Pillow” has logical problems of this sort and another significant challenge to credibility, but it's impossible to explain that one without a spoiler. Algernon Blackwood is represented here by "The Kit-Bag," which is perhaps one of his better efforts and gives (as he often does) a very good depiction of the growing sensations of fear in his protagonist; but it has to be said that the provenance of the titular article, which is central to the plot, struck me as very improbable. "The Gray Man" is not a bad story as such, but is not, IMO, up to the standard of Jewett's best work. Written in the shadow of World War I, Alice Brown's "The Empire of Death" and Mrs. H. D. Everett's "Over the Wires" are colored by the anti-German propaganda of the time, but manage to transcend it. Overall, I greatly enjoyed or appreciated most of the stories here. Whether the lead story, Edward Lucas White's "Amina," is classified as supernatural or science fiction could be debated; but I certainly classify it as a masterpiece, and it's made me want even more to read this author's complete corpus! Other favorite stories in this collection include "Broken Glass" by Georgia Wood Pangborn, with its exploration of both maternal love and class relations (and its handling of both of these themes is just as relevant today as it was when it was written, though some readers might naively assume that it isn't); "The Werewolf of Rannoch" by Ella M. Scrymsour [whose name is misspelled in the book as "Ellen Scrysmour"], which introduced me to her series character Shiela Crerar, a female psychic detective; and "Footprints“ by A. M. Burrage, because of its strong message, a scathing indictment of the sexism, class prejudice and sexual double standards of the author's day --and, for that matter, of our own-- and its demonstration that life's about making moral choices –and making lousy ones has lousy consequences, for ourselves and others. (I've read, and uniformly liked, stories by Burrage before in other anthologies; this one is the best from him that I've read yet.) But "Gavon's Eve" by E. F. Benson, with its powerfully evoked Scottish setting, is also right up there! “The Figure in the Mirage,” by Robert S. Hichens (a writer new to me, though I'd heard of him) has features that defy rational logic, in the sense of how we conventionally distinguish between mirage and reality, and yet is written in such a way that the reader doesn't see this as an impossible contradiction within the story's world. Set in the vastness of the Sahara Desert and drawing on the culture of the tribespeople who inhabit it, that story contains a great deal of food for thought and discussion. Several of the other writers here also make very effective use of particular locales to enhance their stories, notably the mountains of Germany in James Platt's twisty "The Witches Sabbath," the India of the Raj in "Powers of Darkness" by Alice Perrin, Switzerland in Amelia B. Edwards' "The New Pass," Italy in "The Image" by Vernon Lee, whose real name was Violet Paget and who lived in Italy for much of her life, and Nuremberg in Stoker's "The Squaw," which features the "Iron Virgin" of Nuremberg --the nickname doesn't refer to a chaste lady!-- which is a real thing (see http://www.medievality.com/maiden-nur... ), though Stoker's version differs from the real one in a crucial way. Unlike much of his fiction, that tale sticks to the natural realm; but while it doesn't actually descend into splatter-punk in the way that some modern authors would develop it, it isn't for the squeamish. “Dr. Pechal's Theory” by Julian Hawthorne is not remotely credible; as “soft” science fiction, it's softness is positively colloidal, and the use of coincidence violates the laws of probability to the felony level. Yet it works on its own terms, with tongue sewn to cheek –we don't take it seriously for a second, but as a light-hearted, feel-good romp, we don't care if it's implausible. (Needless to say, this is among the stories here that are not genuinely horrific.) "The Archer in the Arras" by Lewis Spence also deserves mention as a standout, as do "Dusty Death" by Violet M. Methley, which makes effective use of the Egyptology of its day as a background; "The Effigy" by G. Ranger Wormser, which IMO owes something to the influence of Oscar Wilde, but which takes its story in a distinctive direction of its own; "The Other Room" by Mary Heaton Vorse, a story that's particularly profound and psychologically deep; and "The Voice in the Night" by William J. Wintle. Some of the other really good stories here make use of folklore elements, “The First Comer” by B. M. Croker being one of the most obvious of these. (I've never run across references to the specific folk belief used there; but I'm not as well read in that area as I'd like to be, and don't doubt that the belief cited is genuine.) Along that line, mention should also be made of American-born Lafcadio Hearn's excellent re-telling of some of the folklore of his adopted country, Japan, in his very short --essentially a "flash fiction"-- tale "Mujina," which packs a wallop that doesn't require a single additional syllable. ("The Werewolf of Rannoch" features the Celtic practice of corp chreidh, the ritual use of "sympathetic magic" to work harm to people through clay images of them.) Traditional ghost stories are well represented, some of the best being "The Long Chamber" by Olivia Howard Dunbar, "The Man with the Roller" by E. G. Swain, "The Traveler" by Robert Hugh Benson, and "Lady Green-Sleeves" by Alice and Claude Askew (which features their series occult detective, Aylmer Vance). In most but not all of these, the ghosts (or haunting forces in particular locales, whatever they are --they're not always clearly identified as revenants) are malevolent, and vengeance from beyond the grave appears more than once. A few stories feature canine ghosts, but the writers handle that motif in very different ways. Theo Gift's "Dog or Demon," set mostly in Ireland, is probably the grimmest tale in that group. Some stories, notably “The Corpse Light” by Dick Donovan, benefit from the device of skeptical narrators, who nevertheless find themselves constrained to attest to the evidence of their own experience and senses. "The Story of the Rippling Train," by Mrs. Molesworth, is more poignant than horrific. (The "train" there is the train of a long dress, not the kind that runs on a track.) Not a ghost story, but one that packs some of the most emotional wallop in the book, and leaves a reader with the most haunting and disturbing image, is Doyle's "The Case of Lady Sannox" (the protagonist of which, like Doyle himself, is a medical doctor). As would be expected from the author of "The Yellow Wallpaper" and Herland, "The Giant Wistaria" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman has a bit of a feminist subtext. Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Hollow of the Three Hills," (set "In those strange old times, when fantastic dreams and madmen's reveries were realized among the actual circumstances of life...") is one of his shorter and less-known works, but deals with his characteristic theme of guilt. H. G. Wells delivers his trademark soft SF in "The Strange Orchid," which suggests that not all of the permutations of evolution that may have developed in orchid varieties from poorly-explored jungles are necessarily pleasant.... "E. and H. Heron" (Kate and Heskith Prichard) are represented by a Flaxman Low story, 'The Story of No. 1, Karma Crescent." Among the stories by lesser-known authors, Clive Pemberton's "The Spider" is a very effective scary read, though the details don't stand examination well in terms of realistic predator-prey ecology. (It's also not recommended for readers with arachnophobia!) "The Shape of Fear" by Elia W. Peattie is perhaps the selection with the sharpest good vs. evil orientation, and the one which takes human moral possibilities and the tragedy of their squandering the most seriously. My ratings of individual stories here would range from one star to five; but far more would earn star ratings at the higher levels than the lower! Overall, I really liked the book, and would recommend it to fans of short-format supernatural, macabre or weird fiction.

  2. 5 out of 5

    David Potocnik

    More accurate would be classic horror stories. It was alright. But mostly, these were Victorian-era scary stories.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    This cheerful volume of horror stories was my bedtime reading for the last few months, and I very much enjoyed reading these stories, although I can argue that a goodly number of them are not what I would call horrible. As with the other volumes in this series (Great Supernatural Stories: 101 Horrifying Tales Compiled by Stefan Dziemianowicz, and Great Ghost Stories: 101 Terrifying Tales Compiled by Stefan Dziemianowicz). the stories are listed in alphabetical order by title. So I will list the s This cheerful volume of horror stories was my bedtime reading for the last few months, and I very much enjoyed reading these stories, although I can argue that a goodly number of them are not what I would call horrible. As with the other volumes in this series (Great Supernatural Stories: 101 Horrifying Tales Compiled by Stefan Dziemianowicz, and Great Ghost Stories: 101 Terrifying Tales Compiled by Stefan Dziemianowicz). the stories are listed in alphabetical order by title. So I will list the stories in this volume that I liked: "The Avenging Phonograph" by E. R. Punshon, "The Barometer" by Violet Hunt, "The Cigarette Case" by Oliver Onions, "The Dead Valley" by Ralph Adams Cram, "The Dutch Officer's Story" by Catherine Crowe, "The Effigy" by G. Ranger Wormser, "The Empire of Death" by Alice Brown, "The Escape" by George W. Nixon, "The Feather Pillow" by Horacio Quiroga, "His Unconquerable Enemy" by W. C. Morrow, "Hop-Frog" by Edgar Allan Poe, "The Kennel" by Maurice Level, "The Kit-Bag" by Algernon Blackwood, "The Man-Eating Tree" by Phil Robinson, "Mufina" by Lafcadio Hearn, "The Music of Erich Zann" by H. P. Lovecraft, "The New Pass" by Amelia B. Edwards, "The Squaw" by Bram Stoker, "Sredni Vashtar" by Saki, "The Strange Orchid" by H. G. Wells, "The Striding Place" by Gertrude Atherton, "The Torture by Hope" by Villiers de L'isle Adam, and "The Tunnel" by John Metcalfe. Most of the stories (with a few signal exceptions) did not strike me as horror stories; there are quite a few haunted houses and forbidding moors, and things going bump in the night. This book was published in 2016, and I suspect most, if not all, of the stories are out of copyright, because while we have Poe, Lovecraft, and M. R. James, we do not have anything from Stephen King and Dean Koontz. However, I did enjoy reading this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Whitney

    This was a fun read. I could read a few stories, read something else, then return when I wanted to. Most of the stories are entertaining. First caveat: The stories date from the mid nineteenth to the early twentieth century. They use a lot of words that have fallen out of use; keep a dictionary handy. Not one of those pocket editions, either—I ended up looking a lot of words up online. I didn’t mind, but some readers might. Second caveat: A lot of these stories are cringingly racist and/or colon This was a fun read. I could read a few stories, read something else, then return when I wanted to. Most of the stories are entertaining. First caveat: The stories date from the mid nineteenth to the early twentieth century. They use a lot of words that have fallen out of use; keep a dictionary handy. Not one of those pocket editions, either—I ended up looking a lot of words up online. I didn’t mind, but some readers might. Second caveat: A lot of these stories are cringingly racist and/or colonialist. Mysterious foreign “exotic” places and “evil foreigners” abound.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jess | dapper.reads

    This book was a complete “meh” for me. While they were definitely “horror” stories, they were not exactly what I was expecting or hoping for. These were classic stories, which I have naturally heard before and therefore this wasn’t the fun creepy read I was hoping for.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Finally finished it after years of reading a couple of stories at a time. Rounded up from 4.5 stars. Not every story was amazing, but there was some really cool stuff. I want to interview the editor. He must have found a mind blowing stash of pulp fiction somewhere to put together these collections. I love the old writing. I love the old fashioned twists and “shock” endings. They seem cliche to us now, but it was probably huge to readers 100-150 years ago. (1870 is 150 years ago now.) I love the Finally finished it after years of reading a couple of stories at a time. Rounded up from 4.5 stars. Not every story was amazing, but there was some really cool stuff. I want to interview the editor. He must have found a mind blowing stash of pulp fiction somewhere to put together these collections. I love the old writing. I love the old fashioned twists and “shock” endings. They seem cliche to us now, but it was probably huge to readers 100-150 years ago. (1870 is 150 years ago now.) I love the references to every day life that the authors assume their audience is familiar with, but I sometimes I have to puzzle it out (trains, transportation, communication, slang or abbreviations, references to current events) because we live so differently. Think about it, modern authors, what assumptions do we make now that will be opaque to future audiences? Some of the stories at the end were SO weird, I wondered if I was missing something. Were there a bunch of authors who tried to follow H.P. Lovecraft or was he imitating less well known authors and he ended up being the one we heard about? Happy creepy reading to all!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Soren

    Dull and often contain pretty... racist and other 'bad' things. I presume they are older, but with no dates and no refences.... Nonetheless, I found myself cringing. None of the stories were particularly scar or even interesting/compelling. Not really worth it in the end. Just a long series of boring stories. Dull and often contain pretty... racist and other 'bad' things. I presume they are older, but with no dates and no refences.... Nonetheless, I found myself cringing. None of the stories were particularly scar or even interesting/compelling. Not really worth it in the end. Just a long series of boring stories.

  8. 4 out of 5

    David Sharp

    A book with some great stories, but a long torturous read set over a year. I was rewarded with coming back from other projects, readings, and duties. It is great feeling to be done.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alexander Pettry

  10. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Nicole Thomas

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kathie

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brittany

  13. 5 out of 5

    Josh Goldy

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ac

  15. 4 out of 5

    Shana

  16. 5 out of 5

    Andy

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kate

  18. 5 out of 5

    Raine

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michael Bragg

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alla McRae

  22. 5 out of 5

    H

  23. 5 out of 5

    Patty

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kayla J 8s

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rebekah Schofield

  26. 4 out of 5

    Noah Marchand

  27. 5 out of 5

    Whimsy Mark

  28. 5 out of 5

    Linda

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Walton

  30. 5 out of 5

    Shannon Leathers Zelasko

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