Have you been curious about horror but never really dipped your toe in? Have you seen horror movies before and thought, “Well, that’s not for me!” Why not try our Horror Tasting Platter and see if there’s something out there for you in the world of short horror fiction.
“Ichabod Crane, Master of the Occult” by D.K. Thompson
Journey #50 of the Journey Into… Podcast
– Let’s start out light. This is a full-cast production that continues the classic story of The Headless Horseman, many years after that famous fateful night. Some might argue that this story falls more into the suspense or adventure genres, but it still has horror elements, conjuring up substantial feelings of foreboding before the revenge plot unfolds.
“The Muse of Copenhagen” by Nina Allan
Tales to Terrify Ep. 46
– Next let us take a deep breath and blow steadily into the crackling fires of suspense. Follow a middle-aged man as he revisits his childhood home after the death of his uncle. A haunting predictably follows, but instead of jarring fear or a “look out behind you” sensibility, the house instead shows its fondness for the prodigal son. If you were ever a young person and were uncertain about new and pleasurable sensations, this story should stir up something in your visceral memory. Both comfort and lust can be equally as gripping as terror.
“At Lorn Hall” by Ramsey Campbell
Nightmare Magazine November Issue
– Consider this story the first hill on our little horror rollercoaster. Here, another man wanders a seemingly abandoned house-turned-museum. Suspense and dread grow throughout the story as he grows closer and closer to the end of his tour. While this one is by no means a pink and fluffy story, there are also no spooks waiting to jump out and scream in your face. The narrative instead focuses on building anticipation. Whether that anticipation is worth the payoff…I’ll leave you to decide that.
“The Horse of the Invisible” by William Hope Hodgson and “Treason and Plot” by William Meikle
Tales to Terrify Ep. 47
~1 hour and ~30 mins, respectively
– Ok, you made it over the hump, congratulations! Of course there are more trials to come, but let us enjoy the doldrums for a bit. Here are two stories featuring Thomas Carnacki, a kind of occult version of Sherlock Holmes. If you enjoy the Baker Street detective’s stories, I think these skeptical, yet spooky and suspenseful, tales will be right up your alley. See, horror isn’t ALL scary, sometimes it’s intellectual!
The first story is an original by William Hope Hodgson, the character’s creator, and the second story is a more recent tale written in the same style. I personally love it when authors continue a well-loved character, though by my estimation, the first story is the stronger of the two.
“Fane of the Black Pharaoh” by Robert Bloch
Protecting Project Pulp Ep. 20
– Now that you’re settled snugly into your electric chair, it’s time to up the voltage just a little. Another intellectual type of horror is anything touched by the pen of H. P. Lovecraft. Here is a tale by one of his contemporaries, Robert Bloch. Again, suspense is key, but now foreshadowing, dread, and forbidden temple imagery brings this cauldron of horror to a rolling boil.
“That Ol’ Dagon Dark” by Robert MacAnthony
Pseudopod Ep. 307
– Can you see it? The final hill is approaching on our horror-strewn roller coaster. Now unlike other rides of the same sort, you can get off whenever it gets to be too much for you. I urge you to at least make it through this story, however. A warning, there will be blood…lots of it. But the gore is downplayed and instead the author focuses on the madness and addiction that befalls a pipe-smoker with perhaps too few scruples for his own good. Madness is perhaps the most powerful feeling that horror can dredge up, as little in the real world is more scary than the terror of losing one’s mind.
“The Strange Machinery Of Desire” by Justin A. Williams
Pseudopod Ep. 309
– Ok, all aboard for the final deadly drop. Here is the story that is everything you originally feared. Except the experience now has changed you. This story too is changed, for while it has perhaps the most shocking images (metal body modification in a completely unrealistic fetish club), its primary plot device is a siren song, not any of the other, more obvious fear generators available in the story. Obviously, this one needs a graphic material warning, so consider yourself warned if it’s likely to bother or offend you. If you do make it through this last story, congratulations. As you step off the ride, think about what grabbed your fancy…and what you want to see next!
This has been a Synthetic Voices Rewind, published previously in the November 2012 Episode (#12). Intrigued and want to find even newer stories? Check out our Synthetic Voices info page, where you can subscribe or find the show notes.