TOMES OF TERROR – Jenny’s Horror Book Reviews: Experimental Film by Gemma Files

On this review, Jenny discusses the 2015 supernatural horror novel Experimental Film by Gemma Files.

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THANK YOU TO ALL OUR SUPPORTERS! The show is made possible by: Amanda, Amanda O., Amy H., Anthony, Antonio, Arif, Ashley, Austin, Ben, BlackMarigold, Blake, Brandon, Bunjip, Bunny, Cady, Christopher, Ciarra, Cody, Corinthian, creepy crepes, D. Newton, Damian, Dan, Darkskull, Darren, Dean, Denise, Dominic, Duncan, Dwayne, Ed, Elizabeth, Eric, Erin, Fade, Feeky, Gareth, Ginger, Greg, Gwendoline, Hanna, Hayden, Heather, HoboNasty, Holly, Ilse, Ima Shrew, Jaime, Jake A., Jake S., James, James H., Jamin, Jana & Scott, Janet, Jason, Jeanette, Jen, Jessica, Jesus, Joanie, Joe, John H., John M., Jonathan, Jonathan H., Joseph, Justin, Justyn, Karin, Kat, Katrina, Keith, Ken, Kieron, Knothead Studios, Kool Kitty, Lana, Lars, Leander, Liam, Lindsey, Logan, Lonna, Lynx_13, Macy, Marcus, Mark, Mary Ellen, Matt, Matthew, Maximillian, Melanie, Melissa, Melissa G., Michael, Mike, Mother of Beasts, Natalia, Nathalie, Nilay, Oddcatt, Oli, Paul, Rebecca, Rebecca L., Richard J., Richard & Sheena, Rik, Rob, Robina, Samantha, Sandra, Scarlett, Sean, Shae-Nicole, Sheena, Sophie, Stop Prop, Sydney, Tabitha, Tammie, Tara, Terrie, TheMysteryGamer, Thomas, Thomm, Tiffany, Tina, Travon, Trevor, Valtrina, Veronica, Via, Victor, Victoria, Victoria E., Virginia, Weaponsandstuff93, Will S., and Xánada.

Channel art and audio & video editing by Jenny Ashford. Music & sound effects courtesy of freesound.org users jamespotterboy, corsica-s, enjoypa, capturedlv, luffy, kiddpark, and justkiddink. Video clips courtesy of Videezy & Videvo.

TOMES OF TERROR – Jenny’s Horror Book Reviews: Kin by Kealan Patrick Burke

On today’s book review, Jenny discusses Kin, a grotty, graphic, and actually pretty great book that takes the Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe and ramps it up to eleven.

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THANK YOU TO ALL OUR SUPPORTERS! The show is made possible by: Amanda, Amanda O., Amy H., Anthony, Antonio, Arif, Ashley, Austin, Ben, BlackMarigold, Blake, Brandon, Bunjip, Bunny, Cady, Christopher, Ciarra, Cody, Corinthian, creepy crepes, D. Newton, Damian, Dan, Darren, Dean, Denise, Dominic, Duncan, Dwayne, Ed, Elizabeth, Eric, Erin, Fade, Feeky, Gareth, Ginger, Greg, Gwendoline, Hanna, Hayden, Heather, HoboNasty, Holly, Ilse, Ima Shrew, Jaime, Jake A., Jake S., James, James H., Jamin, Jana & Scott, Janet, Jason, Jeanette, Jen, Jessica, Jesus, Joanie, Joe, John H., John M., Jonathan, Jonathan H., Joseph, Justin, Justyn, Karin, Kat, Katrina, Keith, Ken, Kieron, Knothead Studios, Kool Kitty, Lana, Lars, Leander, Liam, Lindsey, Logan, Lonna, Lynx_13, Macy, Marcus, Mark, Mary Ellen, Matt, Matthew, Maximillian, Melanie, Melissa, Melissa G., Michael, Mike, Mother of Beasts, Natalia, Nathalie, Nilay, Oddcatt, Oli, Paul, Rebecca, Rebecca L., Richard J., Richard & Sheena, Rik, Rob, Robina, Samantha, Sandra, Scarlett, Sean, Shae-Nicole, Sheena, Sophie, Stop Prop, Sydney, Tabitha, Tammie, Tara, Terrie, TheMysteryGamer, Thomas, Thomm, Tiffany, Tina, Travon, Trevor, Valtrina, Veronica, Via, Victor, Victoria, Victoria E., Virginia, Weaponsandstuff93, Will S., and Xánada.

Channel art and audio & video editing by Jenny Ashford. Music & sound effects courtesy of freesound.org users jamespotterboy, corsica-s, enjoypa, capturedlv, luffy, kiddpark, and justkiddink. Video clips courtesy of Videezy & Videvo.

TOMES OF TERROR – Jenny’s Horror Book Reviews: Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

On this installment, Jenny discusses the delightful whodunnit inside another whodunnit, Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz.

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THANK YOU TO ALL OUR SUPPORTERS! The show is made possible by: Amanda, Amanda O., Amy H., Anthony, Antonio, Arif, Ashley, Austin, Ben, BlackMarigold, Blake, Brandon, Bunjip, Bunny, Cady, Christopher, Ciarra, Cody, Corinthian, creepy crepes, D. Newton, Damian, Dan, Darren, Dean, Denise, Dominic, Duncan, Dwayne, Ed, Elizabeth, Eric, Erin, Fade, Feeky, Gareth, Ginger, Greg, Gwendoline, Hanna, Hayden, Heather, HoboNasty, Holly, Ilse, Ima Shrew, Jaime, Jake A., Jake S., James, James H., Jamin, Jana & Scott, Janet, Jason, Jeanette, Jen, Jessica, Jesus, Joanie, Joe, John H., John M., Jonathan, Jonathan H., Joseph, Justin, Justyn, Karin, Kat, Katrina, Keith, Ken, Kieron, Knothead Studios, Kool Kitty, Lana, Lars, Leander, Liam, Lindsey, Logan, Lonna, Lynx_13, Macy, Marcus, Mark, Mary Ellen, Matt, Matthew, Maximillian, Melanie, Melissa, Melissa G., Michael, Mike, Mother of Beasts, Natalia, Nathalie, Nilay, Oddcatt, Oli, Paul, Rebecca, Rebecca L., Richard J., Richard & Sheena, Rik, Rob, Robina, Samantha, Sandra, Scarlett, Sean, Shae-Nicole, Sheena, Sophie, Stop Prop, Sydney, Tabitha, Tammie, Tara, Terrie, TheMysteryGamer, Thomas, Thomm, Tiffany, Tina, Travon, Trevor, Valtrina, Veronica, Via, Victor, Victoria, Victoria E., Virginia, Weaponsandstuff93, Will S., and Xánada.

Channel art and audio & video editing by Jenny Ashford. Music & sound effects courtesy of freesound.org users jamespotterboy, corsica-s, enjoypa, capturedlv, luffy, kiddpark, and justkiddink. Video clips courtesy of Videezy & Videvo.

TOMES OF TERROR – Jenny’s Horror Book Reviews: Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

On this entertaining discussion, Jenny talks about the hilarious, horrific, and impeccably designed novel Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix, the tale of a group of employees at a not-Ikea-but-an-incredible-simulation megastore who have to fight an evil force on an overnight shift.

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THANK YOU TO ALL OUR SUPPORTERS! The show is made possible by: Amanda, Amanda O., Amy H., Anthony, Antonio, Arif, Ashley, Austin, Ben, BlackMarigold, Blake, Brandon, Bunjip, Bunny, Christopher, Ciarra, Cody, Corinthian, creepy crepes, D. Newton, Damian, Dan, Darren, Dean, Denise, Dominic, Duncan, Dwayne, Ed, Elizabeth, Eric, Erin, Fade, Feeky, Gareth, Ginger, Greg, Gwendoline, Hanna, Hayden, Heather, HoboNasty, Holly, Ilse, Ima Shrew, Jaime, Jake A., Jake S., James, James H., Jamin, Jana & Scott, Janet, Jason, Jeanette, Jen, Jessica, Jesus, Joanie, Joe, John H., John M., Jonathan, Jonathan H., Joseph, Justin, Justyn, Karin, Kat, Katrina, Keith, Ken, Kieron, Knothead Studios, Kool Kitty, Lana, Lars, Leander, Liam, Lindsey, Logan, Lonna, Lynx_13, Macy, Marcus, Mark, Mary Ellen, Matt, Matthew, Maximillian, Melanie, Melissa, Melissa G., Michael, Mike, Mother of Beasts, Natalia, Nathalie, Nilay, Oddcatt, Oli, Paul, Rebecca, Rebecca L., Richard J., Richard & Sheena, Rik, Rob, Robina, Samantha, Sandra, Scarlett, Sean, Shae-Nicole, Sheena, Sophie, Stop Prop, Sydney, Tabitha, Tammie, Tara, Terrie, TheMysteryGamer, Thomas, Thomm, Tiffany, Tina, Travon, Trevor, Valtrina, Veronica, Via, Victor, Victoria, Victoria E., Virginia, Weaponsandstuff93, Will S., and Xánada.

Channel art and audio & video editing by Jenny Ashford. Music & sound effects courtesy of freesound.org users jamespotterboy, corsica-s, enjoypa, capturedlv, luffy, kiddpark, and justkiddink. Video clips courtesy of Videezy & Videvo.

TOMES OF TERROR – Jenny’s Horror Book Reviews: The Elementals by Michael McDowell

In this installment, Jenny talks about the 2014 reissue of the classic 1981 Southern Gothic horror by Michael McDowell, The Elementals, a very strange, not-quite-ghost story with a colorful cast of characters and an eerie, oppressive atmosphere.

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THANK YOU TO ALL OUR SUPPORTERS! The show is made possible by: Amanda, Amanda O., Amy H., Anthony, Antonio, Arif, Ashley, Austin, Ben, BlackMarigold, Blake, Brandon, Bunjip, Bunny, Christopher, Ciarra, Cody, Corinthian, creepy crepes, D. Newton, Damian, Dan, Darren, Dean, Denise, Dominic, Duncan, Dwayne, Ed, Elizabeth, Eric, Fade, Feeky, Gareth, Ginger, Greg, Gwendoline, Hanna, Hayden, Heather, HoboNasty, Holly, Ilse, Ima Shrew, Jaime, Jake A., Jake S., James, James H., Jamin, Jana & Scott, Janet, Jason, Jeanette, Jen, Jessica, Jesus, Joanie, Joe, John H., John M., Jonathan, Jonathan H., Joseph, Justin, Justyn, Karin, Kat, Katrina, Keith, Ken, Kieron, Knothead Studios, Kool Kitty, Lana, Lars, Leander, Liam, Lindsey, Logan, Lonna, Lynx_13, Macy, Marcus, Mark, Mary Ellen, Matt, Matthew, Maximillian, Melanie, Melissa, Melissa G., Michael, Mike, Mother of Beasts, Natalia, Nathalie, Nilay, Oddcatt, Oli, Paul, Rebecca, Rebecca L., Richard J., Richard & Sheena, Rik, Rob, Robina, Samantha, Sandra, Scarlett, Sean, Shae-Nicole, Sheena, Sophie, Stop Prop, Sydney, Tabitha, Tammie, Tara, Terrie, TheMysteryGamer, Thomas, Thomm, Tiffany, Tina, Travon, Trevor, Valtrina, Veronica, Via, Victor, Victoria, Victoria E., Virginia, Weaponsandstuff93, Will S., and Xánada.

Channel art and audio & video editing by Jenny Ashford. Music & sound effects courtesy of freesound.org users jamespotterboy, corsica-s, enjoypa, capturedlv, luffy, kiddpark, and justkiddink. Video clips courtesy of Videezy & Videvo.

TOMES OF TERROR – Jenny’s Horror Book Reviews: I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

On today’s book discussion, Jenny is talking about Iain Reid’s surreal psychological horror novel I’m Thinking of Ending Things, which just recently got a Netflix film adaptation, directed by Charlie Kaufman.

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THANK YOU TO ALL OUR SUPPORTERS! The show is made possible by: Amanda, Amanda O., Amy H., Anthony, Antonio, Arif, Ashley, Austin, Ben, BlackMarigold, Blake, Brandon, Bunjip, Bunny, Christopher, Ciarra, Cody, Corinthian, creepy crepes, D. Newton, Damian, Dan, Darren, Dean, Denise, Dominic, Duncan, Dwayne, Ed, Elizabeth, Eric, Fade, Feeky, Gareth, Ginger, Greg, Gwendoline, Hanna, Hayden, Heather, HoboNasty, Holly, Ilse, Ima Shrew, Jaime, Jake A., Jake S., James, James H., Jamin, Jana & Scott, Janet, Jason, Jeanette, Jen, Jessica, Jesus, Joanie, Joe, John H., John M., Jonathan, Jonathan H., Joseph, Justin, Justyn, Karin, Kat, Katrina, Keith, Ken, Kieron, Knothead Studios, Kool Kitty, Lana, Lars, Leander, Liam, Lindsey, Logan, Lonna, Lynx_13, Macy, Marcus, Mark, Mary Ellen, Matt, Matthew, Maximillian, Melanie, Melissa, Melissa G., Michael, Mike, Mother of Beasts, Natalia, Nathalie, Nilay, Oddcatt, Oli, Paul, Rebecca, Rebecca L., Richard J., Richard & Sheena, Rik, Rob, Robina, Samantha, Sandra, Scarlett, Sean, Sheena, Sophie, Stop Prop, Sydney, Tabitha, Tammie, Tara, Terrie, TheMysteryGamer, Thomas, Thomm, Tiffany, Tina, Travon, Trevor, Valtrina, Veronica, Via, Victor, Victoria, Victoria E., Virginia, Weaponsandstuff93, Will S., and Xánada.

Channel art and audio & video editing by Jenny Ashford. Music & sound effects courtesy of freesound.org users jamespotterboy, corsica-s, enjoypa, capturedlv, luffy, kiddpark, and justkiddink. Video clips courtesy of Videezy & Videvo.

TOMES OF TERROR – Jenny’s Horror Book Reviews: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Jenny discusses the messed-up horror mystery Sharp Objects, the first novel of Gillian Flynn, who is also the author of Gone Girl.

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THANK YOU TO ALL OUR SUPPORTERS! The show is made possible by: Amanda, Amanda O., Amy H., Anthony, Antonio, Arif, Ashley, Austin, Ben, BlackMarigold, Brandon, Bunjip, Bunny, Christopher, Ciarra, Cody, Corinthian, creepy crepes, D. Newton, Damian, Dan, Darren, Dean, Denise, Dominic, Duncan, Dwayne, Ed, Elizabeth, Eric, Fade, Feeky, Gareth, Ginger, Greg, Gwendoline, Hanna, Hayden, Heather, HoboNasty, Holly, Ilse, Ima Shrew, Jaime, Jake A., Jake S., James, James H., Jamin, Jana & Scott, Janet, Jason, Jeanette, Jen, Jessica, Jesus, Joanie, Joe, John H., John M., Jonathan, Jonathan H., Joseph, Justin, Justyn, Karin, Kat, Katrina, Keith, Ken, Kieron, Knothead Studios, Kool Kitty, Lana, Lars, Leander, Liam, Lindsey, Logan, Lonna, Lynx_13, Macy, Marcus, Mark, Mary Ellen, Matt, Matthew, Maximillian, Melanie, Melissa, Melissa G., Michael, Mike, Mother of Beasts, Natalia, Nathalie, Nilay, Oddcatt, Oli, Paul, Rebecca, Rebecca L., Richard J., Richard & Sheena, Rik, Rob, Robina, Samantha, Sandra, Scarlett, Sean, Sheena, Sophie, Stop Prop, Sydney, Tabitha, Tammie, Tara, Terrie, TheMysteryGamer, Thomas, Thomm, Tiffany, Tina, Travon, Trevor, Valtrina, Veronica, Via, Victor, Victoria, Victoria E., Virginia, Weaponsandstuff93, Will S., and Xánada.

Channel art and audio & video editing by Jenny Ashford. Music & sound effects courtesy of freesound.org users jamespotterboy, corsica-s, enjoypa, capturedlv, luffy, kiddpark, and justkiddink. Video clips courtesy of Videezy & Videvo.

TOMES OF TERROR – Jenny’s Horror Book Reviews: If You See Her by Ania Ahlborn

On this inaugural installment of Jenny’s new book review show Tomes of Terror, she’s talking about the creepy, 2019 supernatural horror novel If You See Her, by Ania Ahlborn, currently available on Kindle Unlimited!

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THANK YOU TO ALL OUR SUPPORTERS! The show is made possible by: Amanda, Amanda O., Amy H., Anthony, Antonio, Arif, Ashley, Austin, Ben, BlackMarigold, Brandon, Bunjip, Bunny, Christopher, Ciarra, Cody, Corinthian, creepy crepes, D. Newton, Damian, Dan, Darren, Dean, Denise, Dominic, Duncan, Dwayne, Ed, Elizabeth, Eric, Fade, Feeky, Gareth, Ginger, Greg, Gwendoline, Hanna, Hayden, Heather, HoboNasty, Holly, Ilse, Ima Shrew, Jaime, Jake A., Jake S., James, James H., Jamin, Jana & Scott, Janet, Jason, Jeanette, Jen, Jessica, Jesus, Joanie, John H., John M., Jonathan, Jonathan H., Joseph, Justin, Justyn, Karin, Kat, Katrina, Keith, Ken, Kieron, Knothead Studios, Kool Kitty, Lana, Lars, Leander, Liam, Lindsey, Logan, Lonna, Lynx_13, Macy, Marcus, Mark, Mary Ellen, Matt, Matthew, Maximillian, Melanie, Melissa, Melissa G., Michael, Mike, Mother of Beasts, Natalia, Nathalie, Nilay, Oddcatt, Oli, Paul, Rebecca, Rebecca L., Richard J., Richard & Sheena, Rik, Rob, Robina, Samantha, Sandra, Scarlett, Sean, Sheena, Sophie, Stop Prop, Sydney, Tabitha, Tammie, Tara, Terrie, TheMysteryGamer, Thomas, Thomm, Tiffany, Tina, Travon, Trevor, Valtrina, Veronica, Via, Victor, Victoria, Victoria E., Virginia, Weaponsandstuff93, Will S., and Xánada.

Channel art and audio & video editing by Jenny Ashford. Music & sound effects courtesy of freesound.org users jamespotterboy, corsica-s, enjoypa, capturedlv, luffy, kiddpark, and justkiddink. Video clips courtesy of Videezy & Videvo.

The Goddess’s Ten Favorite Creepy Books from Childhood

I told you guys I’d be back to this blog shortly, and here I am. Before I get into today’s post, I wanted to acknowledge the horrible news I heard earlier this morning: one of Nick Cave’s 15-year-old twin sons, Arthur, has died in a tragic accident, falling from a cliff in Brighton. As I’ve written before, Nick Cave is a musical and literary hero of mine, and I cannot begin to imagine what he and his family are going through right now. For what it’s worth, I extend my most heartfelt condolences.

And now on to less soul-crushing subjects. It is perhaps fitting that I chose today to focus on childhood books I loved and that helped to shape my writing identity. These ten books, among the hundreds I read growing up, have stuck with me for various reasons over the years, and I would recommend any of them unreservedly to older children and adults alike. To make the experience more authentic, I even tried to find the cover art I remembered for each book, though I failed in a couple of circumstances, because the 60s and 70s were a long time ago, folks. So, without further ado, here they are, in descending order:

FaceOfDanger

10. The Face of Danger by Willo Davis Roberts (1972)

I have no idea why this little trade paperback made such a lifelong impression on me, but such are the quirks of the writer’s brain, I suppose. It’s not strictly a horror story, being more of a gothic thriller/mystery type of thing, and it’s not really for children either, I guess, but after discovering it in one of the towering piles of books in my grandfather’s old house, I read it over and over again in total and abject fascination. It tells the tale of a homely woman named Sharlee whose face is so drastically disfigured in a car accident that plastic surgeons are basically obliged to give her an entirely new face, one that is strikingly beautiful. I was transfixed by the idea of a lifelong plain Jane suddenly being thrust into the entirely unfamiliar milieu of the beautiful people (and all their fabulous gowns, not gonna lie), and the struggles that ensued. Sharlee is whisked away to a remote mansion by her new, wealthy suitor, where it comes to pass that there’s some pretty shady shit going on with the family she meets there, relating back to the woman whose visage hers was modeled after. I haven’t read this in years, but I remember it being pretty harrowing in a “dark romance novel” sort of way. Fun fact: While I was researching this blog post today, I discovered that Willo Davis Roberts also wrote one of my other beloved childhood books, the profoundly depressing child-abuse saga Don’t Hurt Laurie. I was kind of a morbid kid, you guys.

GhostOfOpalina

9. The Ghost of Opalina, or Nine Lives by Peggy Bacon (1967)

I must have checked this out of my elementary school’s library at least a dozen times. I adore ghost stories, and I adore cats, so a book that combined those things was of course going to be like a magnet to my wee, nugget self. It’s essentially a frame story about three children who move into a rambling old house and find a talking ghost kitty with glowing opal eyes in the attic. Opalina, as she’s called, tells them all about her nine lives and the people who had lived in the house over the decades. Even though I was never a huge fan of “historical” fiction growing up, I was absolutely spellbound with this one, and I remember the illustrations (done by the author) being charming as well.

WindyHill

8. The Ghost of Windy Hill by Clyde Robert Bulla (1968)

This little blue hardback was a frequent resident of my backpack and bedside table after I bought it from one of those wonderful book fairs Scholastic periodically held at my school. If I remember correctly, there didn’t actually end up being a ghost in the story (and please correct me if I’m remembering it wrong), but there was a fantastic creepiness about it just the same: The old drafty farmhouse, the mysterious woman in white with her rag bag, the tragic Bruno and his horrible father. I have a vivid memory of the mentions of the spring house (which I had never heard of before and found intriguing), and the placing of bells on the doorknobs to try to catch the “ghost.” Good stuff.

WitchesOfWorm

7. The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (1972)

More feline frights! Jessica is a cat-hating pre-teen who finds a blind, hairless little kitty she grudgingly adopts and contemptuously names Worm. But apparently there’s more to Worm than meets the eye, because soon afterward, Jessica begins behaving strangely, as if the cat is possessing her and making her do terrible things. Is Worm a witch’s familiar? Is Jessica projecting her own unhappiness and destructiveness onto the defenseless animal? It’s a fascinating psychological study that never clearly states whether there’s anything supernatural going on. As an aside, I believe this was the first audio book I ever listened to (on a series of cassettes, because I am old).

FieryEye

6. The Mystery of the Fiery Eye (Three Investigators Classics) by Robert Arthur (1967)

I was a big fan of the Alfred Hitchcock-sponsored Three Investigators series. They struck me as much cooler than the Hardy Boys books, which always came across a little too goody-two-shoes for me (I was also way more into Trixie Belden than Nancy Drew, but that’s neither here nor there). I read most of the 43 books in the series at one stage or another; I think I felt an affinity with chubby smarty-pants Jupiter Jones, and I absolutely fucking loved the idea of the investigators’ headquarters being in a trailer that was hidden under a pile of scrap in a junkyard and accessed through a series of tunnels. My favorites in the series included The Secret of Terror Castle, The Mystery of the Screaming Clock, and The Mystery of the Silver Spider, but Fiery Eye was hands-down my jam. I’ve had a long fascination with gemstones anyway, particularly rubies, and I was also enchanted by the busts of historical personages that figured prominently in the mystery.

HeadlessCupid

5. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (1972)

Snyder’s second appearance on the list. I first heard about this book on that old PBS show with John Robbins. Does anyone else remember it? He had one called “The Book Bird” and one called “Cover to Cover”, and he would feature a book or two on each episode (I distinctly remember White Fang, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Sea Egg, The Bridge to Terabithia, Tuck Everlasting, and Misty of Chincoteague being highlighted). Excerpts of the book would be read and he would illustrate them. I loved the crap out of that show, and though I found a few episodes of it on YouTube, the episode lists on the internet don’t mention The Headless Cupid (or Ellen Raskin’s Figgs and Phantoms, for that matter, which I also swear I saw on there), so now I’m thinking my entire childhood was a lie and I don’t know how to behave. At any rate, this book had everything that preteen me loved: weird teenage girls, possible witchcraft, a ghostly mystery in an old house. The main character of Amanda, with her pet crow, crazy braids, and silver forehead triangle, was one of the aspirational figures of my youth. I thought she was the coolest chick ever.

GhostNextDoor

4. The Ghost Next Door by Wylly Folk St. John (1972)

I loved this book so much as a kid, and for a long time afterward I only remembered the cover and the general story outline, but not the title. But thanks to the miracle of Google-Fu, I was able to track it down and revel in the magic once again. A little drowned girl, a spooky blue rose, a cement owl with marble eyes, and that vague sense of ambiguity about whether the ghost is real all added up to a chilling read. Easily one of my childhood favorites, and one that still holds up when read as an adult.

Hitchcock

3. Alfred Hitchcock’s Supernatural Tales of Terror and Suspense by Various Authors (1973)

I wrote a post about another of these Hitchcock-edited anthologies, Stories That Scared Even Me, right here, but this one got just as many read-throughs, and I still own a worn hardback copy of it. There are only eleven stories, but all of them are great, and I have to give it props for introducing me to what is still one of my favorite short stories of all time, “The Triumph of Death” by H. Russell Wakefield (which I discussed a bit here). Other standouts include a second Wakefield story, “Mr. Ash’s Studio,” a rare Raymond Chandler tale called “The Bronze Door,” a creepy undertaker yarn called “The Pram” by A.W. Bennett, and a horrific model-train story by Alex Hamilton, “The Attic Express.”

WestingGame

2. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (1978)

I liked all of Ellen Raskin’s books, but this one was my favorite by a mile. It’s more mystery than horror, but I was so delighted by it that for years I’ve been contemplating doing a similar puzzle-style story (it’s actually in the planning stages at the moment, though I still have a lot of bugs to work out). The characters are hilarious, the writing sharp, the mystery intriguing. I actually re-read it just a few years back and I enjoyed it just as much. A classic. Why hasn’t there been a big-budget movie of this again?

HouseClock

1. The House With a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs (1973)

If you read this previous post, you shouldn’t be surprised that this came out on top, because it’s easily my favorite young adult book of any era, and I don’t see that changing at any point in the future (sorry, J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman). Again, it hit all the right notes with me when I first read it: There was a creepy old house with secret passages and randomly changing stained-glass windows, witches and wizards, a hand of glory, necromancy, a scary countdown to doomsday, and those wonderful illustrations by Edward Gorey. Everything about this book was magical, and every time I reread it (which I do, quite often), I am transported back to that time in my childhood when all I ever dreamed about was ghosts and witches and hauntings and delicious creepiness that I wanted to utterly infuse my life forever (which it has, to a large extent, so I’ve got that going for me). I just can’t recommend this one enough; I wanted to live in its terrifying yet whimsical world, and if offered the chance to do so now, I would not hesitate to move right into that wacky mansion in New Zebedee and pile ice cream on my hat. Just talking about the book makes me want to dive back into it and forget about reality for a while, so I’m off to snatch up my purple-globe-topped cane, peer into my history-reenacting egg, and resurrect the corpses of some evil, long-dead wizards. If I don’t bring about the end of the world through these activities, I will return with more of my nostalgic and rambling posts very soon. So until next time, Goddess out.

The Goddess’s Top Ten Horror Novel Adaptations

I can’t believe it’s been a week since my last post! Sorry about that. I really do try to keep up with this thing, but sometimes I get busy with all my other endeavors (writing, book promotion, graphic design work) and run out of hours in the day. When it finally came time to do a new post, I was scrabbling for a subject, so I just decided to do something fairly pedestrian by discussing my ten best horror films based on novels. I’m not dropping my nuts here and proclaiming that these are the BEST ADAPTATIONS EVAR, but they’re certainly my favorites, and before anyone argues, YES, I know there are lots of other great horror films that were based on books, but I wanted to showcase great movies that were made from novels that were themselves fantastic and familiar to me (for example, while John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of my favorite horror movies of all time, I’ve never read the book it was based on, and as far as The Exorcist goes, I actually thought the movie was light years better than the novel). So now that we’ve got all that out of the way, allons-y.

GirlNextDoor

10. The Girl Next Door (2007)
Based on Jack Ketchum’s horrific, you’ll-need-a-shower-afterwards novel (made all the more squicky by the fact that it was based on a true story), this 2007 adaptation mostly doesn’t shy away from the more terrible aspects of the book, and is all the more powerful for it. While I admit I found the novel a great deal more disturbing, the film is a worthy addition to the evil-that-humans-do canon. Some of it is a little too aw-shucks, fifties-stereotypical, but Blanche Baker is chilling as Aunt Ruth, and the mostly young actors are great, particularly 21-year-old Blythe Auffarth as the doomed Meg.

Hellraiser

9. Hellraiser (1987)
Adaptations of Clive Barker’s infernal works are generally hit or miss, but I think we can all agree that this is the best by a mile (though I have to say that Candyman is also in the running). Based on his 1986 novella The Hellbound Heart, and directed by Barker himself, Hellraiser is filled to the brim with sadomasochism, buckets of gore, that genius puzzle box conceit, and one of the most recognizable horror baddies of all time. While the sequels couldn’t begin to approach the original classic, it’s easy to see how the detailed world Barker created in his short work demanded much more screen time. Jesus wept, indeed.

GhostStory

8. Ghost Story (1981)
As much as I adored the spooky, low-key adaptation of Peter Straub’s 1975 novel Julia (known as The Haunting of Julia in the US and Full Circle in the UK; you can find my analysis here), I find that Ghost Story, based on his 1979 book of the same name, just barely edges it out. The novel is so rich, complex, and over the top that the film couldn’t help but streamline the thing and leave several plot tendrils out, but I love it anyway, and I think director John Irvin was wise to focus solely on the central conflict of the book, that of the men of the Chowder Society battling the shapeshifting she-demon known by different names through the years. Some fantastically eerie scenes, and it was nice to see a band of dignified old codgers playing the heroes.

StirOfEchoes

7. Stir of Echoes (1999)
I’ve talked about this criminally underrated film before, but I try to pimp it at every opportunity, because it’s so great and I’m still pretty bummed that it sorta got lost in the shuffle due to its simultaneous release with The Sixth Sense. Somewhat based on Richard Matheson’s short 1958 novel A Stir of Echoes, the film takes the basic plot of the book and builds an intensely frightening tale of hypnosis, psychic visions, and murder upon it. I’m not scared easily, but seeing this film in theaters gave me the heebie-jeebies big time, and it holds up remarkably well. Props also for the very Lynchian sound design, which ramps up the scare factor considerably.

TheInnocents

6. The Innocents (1961)
Directed by Jack Clayton and starring Deborah Kerr as governess Miss Giddens, The Innocents is one of those rare films that wrings the scares from subtle atmosphere. Based on Henry James’s classic 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw, with a screenplay co-written by Truman Capote, the movie is chock full of spooky children, secrets, ghosts, and eerie goings-on, amplified into skin-crawling terror by the use of music, lighting, and ambiguity.

TheOther

5. The Other (1972)
Based on former actor Thomas Tryon’s 1971 debut novel (and if you’d like to read a rundown of the lackluster adaptation of another of his fabulous novels, Harvest Home, I’ve got you covered), this Robert Mulligan-directed film is one of the best examples of the good/evil twin trope. Set in 1935 and starring Chris and Martin Udvarnoky as the conflicted Holland twins, the movie is a golden-drenched slab of uncanny mystery and horror, painted in hues of perverse nostalgia. Tryon, who wrote the screenplay, was reportedly not happy with the adaptation, but for my money the film more than did the novel justice.

HellHouse

4. The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Another Richard Matheson adaptation (this time of his 1971 novel Hell House), this one takes obvious cues from The Haunting, but goes in a splashier direction with much effectiveness. Directed by John Hough and featuring great performances from Roddy McDowall and the impossibly adorable Pamela Franklin, the story takes the standard horror-movie plot of a group of ghostbusters investigating a scary house and does all kinds of weird shit with it. Baroque, overwrought, and lots of creepy fun.

RosemarysBaby

3. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Capturing the sly, blackly comic edge of Ira Levin’s 1967 book while maintaining a sense of slowly building tension and paranoia, there’s a reason this Roman Polanski-directed classic ends up on so many “best horror films” lists. I absolutely love Ruth Gordon as the lovably terrifying Minnie Castavet, and Mia Farrow is perfect as the fragile, waifish Rosemary, a protagonist you can’t help but sympathize with and be afraid for as everyone in her life seems to turn against her. If you’re a fan of Polanski’s films, check out my previous writeup on his deliciously creepy 1976 movie The Tenant.

TheShining

2. The Shining (1981)
What can I say about this masterpiece that hasn’t already been said? (Well, I said this and this, but y’know.) Taking what is arguably Stephen King’s best novel and using it as a springboard to explore universal themes, myths, and existential terror, Stanley Kubrick created a timeless, iconic piece of art that still has the capacity to enthrall and horrify, more than three decades later. Easily one of the five best horror films ever made.

TheHaunting

1. The Haunting (1963)
You just knew this was gonna be my number one, didn’t you? I admit I talk about this book and film a lot (such as here and here, for example), but that’s only because I am in awe of the subtle dread and psychological depths this story plumbs in both mediums. Based, of course, on the hands-down best haunted house novel ever penned, 1959’s The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, the casting in Robert Wise’s masterful adaptation is spot-on, and he deftly drenches the film in chills and atmosphere while essentially showing nothing, an astounding feat and one that is right in line with the source material. I really can’t recommend book or film enough, in case you hadn’t noticed. Oh, and I mentioned this before, but skip the lame-ass remake.

And just because I can, here are twenty more that were eliminated for the sake of brevity:

The Exorcist (1973, based on the 1971 novel by William Peter Blatty)
The Hunger (1983, based on the 1981 novel by Whitley Strieber)
The Birds (1963, based on the 1952 short story by Daphne du Maurier)
Nosferatu (1922, based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, 1897)
Frankenstein (1931, based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel)
The Phantom of the Opera (1925, based on the 1910 novel by Gaston Leroux)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945, based on Oscar Wilde’s 1890 novel)
House of Usher (1960, based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Fall of the House of Usher,” 1839)
Duel (1971, based on Richard Matheson’s 1971 short story)
Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983, based on Ray Bradbury’s 1962 novel)
The Entity (1981, based on the 1978 novel by Frank De Felitta)
Village of the Damned (1960, based on John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos, 1957)
Masque of the Red Death (1964, loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, 1842)
Re-Animator (1985, based on the H.P. Lovecraft novella Herbert West—Reanimator, 1922)
Cemetery Man (1994, based on the 1991 novel Dellamorte Dellamore by Tiziano Sclavi)
Misery (1990, based on Stephen King’s 1987 novel)
Carrie (1976, based on Stephen King’s 1974 novel)
The Prestige (2006, based on the 1995 novel by Christopher Priest)
The Lair of the White Worm (1988, loosely based on Bram Stoker’s 1911 novel)
Horns (2014, based on Joe Hill’s 2010 novel)

Keep it creepy, my friends, and until next time, Goddess out.