Category Archives: Horror Stories

The Scariest Harry Potter Book is… Chamber of Secrets

cos-uk-adult-jacket-artGreat. I have to be the first person to disagree with J.K. Rowling–and possibly with everyone who read Deathly Hallows’ Bathilda Bagshot chapter at four o’clock in the morning after a midnight release party… oh, wait, I did that, too. That was terrifying.

But I well remember being afraid to read Chamber of Secrets in anything but the broadest of daylight. Ah, Chamber of Secrets. How do I fear thee? Let me count the ways:

  • It’s more or less a murder mystery with a psychopath at its center
  • Said psychopath likes to leave creepy messages on stone walls in finger-painted rooster blood
  • There’s cold, hungry, murderous, disembodied whispering that only our hero can hear
  • People and cats are getting Petrified
  • There are snakes. And Harry discovers he has a Dark wizard’s gift in being able to talk to said snakes.
  • Continue reading

Witch-finders & the Spook’s Apprentice

When Mr. Pond asked for suggestions for the All Hallows’ Read, I immediately thought of Joseph Delaney’s YA dark-fantasy series alternately called the Wardstone Chronicl

es, or Spook’s in the UK, and The Last Apprentice series in the US. (If that’s not confusing enough, the first novel will be released as a film under the title Seventh Son, projected to hit theaters one year from now, October 2013.)

Following the exploits of a pair of witch-finders in 17th century England –John Gregory, better known as “The Spook”, and his apprentice Tom Ward – there are eleven titles in the book series so far, and well worth reading if you like your fantasy tinged with creepy, scary things that go bump in the night. The first book – subtitled The Spook’s Apprentice in the UK, and Revenge of the Witch in the US – got me wondering if the main characters are anything like historical witch-hunters. So I headed to the library and did a little research.

“From the ancient world to the threshold of modern times in the eighteenth century, people all over the western hemisphere took for granted the presence among them of witches, magicians, sorcerers, diviners, cunning folk – all practicers of magic in some kind” (Maxwell-Stuart, 32). Continue reading

Lilith: George MacDonald’s Tale of Demons, Darkness, and Death

A Hog’s Head Halloween Book of Spooks

Edom’s streams shall be changed into pitch,
its soil into sulfur,
and its land shall become burning pitch;
Night and day it shall not be quenched,
its smoke shall rise forever.
From generation to generation it shall lie waste,
never again shall anyone pass through it.
But the desert owl and hoot owl shall possess it,
the screech owl and raven shall dwell in it….
Wildcats shall meet with desert beasts,
satyrs shall call to one another;
There shall the lilith repose,
and find for herself a place to rest.
–Isaiah 34, NAB

From her vague origins as she-demon and development through Hebrew midrashim and other ancient texts, the Lilith of legend became the first wife of Adam, rebellious long before Eve listened to a snake. Through another turn of history, she’s identified with Lamia, a child-killing Greek monster and vampiress. In MacDonald’s Lilith: A Romance, which is far more horrific than romantic, she is both.

The book doesn’t begin with Lilith herself. It begins with a young Englishman, a mutilated book, and a ghostly librarian. The latter morphs into a raven and leads the Englishman, Vane, through a mirror into a strange fairyland, where Vane is immediately invited to die.

Continue reading

All Hallows’ Read @ The Hog’s Head

It was a tradition waiting to happen. If you had to choose the three most important ingredients in any holiday, they’d have to be saints, chocolate, and books. At least, if your holidays are anything like mine, they are.

Halloween usually has its fair share of chocolate, and here at the Hog’s Head we heartily approve. And it’s a catch-all feast day for saint-types: All Hallows, after all. But books? What about books? If we took a straw poll of pub regulars–no offense to the scarecrows among us–I suspect we’d find it hard to imagine a day without books, let alone a holiday.

Welcome, then, to All Hallows’ Read.

Continue reading

Scattered Notes

  • The Casual Vacancy is just four days away. Are you excited? Nervous? What are your plans for reading the book? I intend to set aside every possible spare moment to get through it as quickly as possible and start posting about it this weekend.
  • I recently wrote an article for a new, amazing, yearly collection called The Molehill. My contribution is called “Jesus and the Dragon Quest.” Tons of amazing stories, poems, and essays in this.
  • Speaking of essays I’ve written, I don’t know if I ever posted on my contribution to Light Shining in a Dark Place. It’s a book on theology in film, and my essay is called “Parable of the Poltergeist.”
  • Yes, the Doctor Who weekly post idea fizzled fast, mostly because it seems to me there wasn’t a lot of energy around the idea, and perhaps fewer Doctor Who fans in the pub right now than I thought. I will post an overall review of the first five episodes, rather than a weekly review of each episode, followed by a review of the Christmas episode.

Spooky Stories in the Hogwarts Common Rooms

It’s a dark and stormy Halloween night at Hogwarts.

The wind keens, and the Whomping Willow churns and rustles. Fang’s lugubrious howls curl around a full moon hovering between silvery clouds. The Hogwarts ghosts flit silently throughout the still castle. Filch and Mrs. Norris prowl the halls, seeking miscreants.

Having feasted, Hogwarts students are now gathered around sprightly fires in their respective common rooms, telling spooky stories, as they toast marshmallows on long forks. You are one of them, and we want to hear your tale of terror from the wizarding world.

Regale us with a scary story, featuring characters known or unknown to us. It may be a wizard urban legend; a story passed down in magical families, a chilling new tale, or a retelling of something printed in the Quibbler. Adapt a Muggle story, if you wish. But your tale must take place in the wizarding world.

We’re waiting . . .

Ghost Stories

Perhaps others shall post their favorite ghost stories or discuss a meta-level analysis of great ghost story-telling, but I thought it would be fun to engage in community ghost-story-telling.  No, this isn’t another contest (and there’s still a day and a half left for the bards to write Evocative Epitaphs at an earlier post), but rather an event that allows you to co-create with your fellow participants a 2011 Hog’s Head Halloween Ghost Story.

Here’s an original prompt for you after the jump, just to kick things off.

Continue reading

Favorite Old Gothic Tales

This year on October 31, the Hog’s Head Pubcast and Middle-Earth Radio are going to join forces for a Halloween evening broadcast (more details coming soon!) One of our plans is to read some spooky tales on the air, and here’s where you come in: we’d love suggestions of short works to read. What are your favorite Gothic and otherwise Halloweenish stories? For the broadcast, we’re looking for anything that’s in the public domain, or anything we could get the author’s permission to include.

Middle-Earth Radio has an actor whom we hope to have join us and do some of the reading. If any of you especially want to read on live radio, though, let us know. We just might be able to work that out.