Another in the long list of authors I consider among my favorites would include the late Joseph Payne Brennan (1918-1990). I first became a fan after reading his story “The Calamander Chest” in an anthology. My love for it has since led me to seek out many more of his superb tales. I covered his bio and twelve other stories by him in my review of his collection, The Shapes of Midnight, a few years back which you can find at the following link: https://horrordelve.com/2014/08/09/the-shapes-of-midnight-by-joseph-payne-brennan/. Tonight I’ll take a look at four more of his stories, each of which are fantastic.
1. “The Calamander Chest” (1954) – A man finds a large calamander chest for exceptionally cheap. He buys it and places it in his house. Over time he begins to witness a long, pale finger with a black fingernail poking out from under the lid. It proceeds to tap and scratch at the chest with its hideous black nail. It vanishes whenever the man approaches, and the box is empty when he checks it. Attempts to get rid of the chest fails time after time always for seemingly natural reasons. Things ramp up when he starts to dream of the finger beckoning to him.
2. “Zombique” (1972) – A successful man is given a strange looking voodoo doll by a friend from his trip to Haiti called Zombique. It has rods coming out of it with little drums on the end which cause it to do a weird dance when moved. It’s said it can make whatever you wish to happen to your enemies if you ask it to while making it dance. The man’s wife hates the doll and wants him to get rid of it, but he ends up using it instead. As with most tales of this sort, he eventually pays a steep price for calling upon its sinister powers.
3. “The Feaster From Afar” (1976) – A successful writer rents a secluded hunting lodge to work on his next book away from distractions. Some locals inform him that the last tenant was found dead with his brain removed. He dismisses their talk as a way of bilking him out of his deposit. This atmospheric tale not only contains mention of Hastur the Unspeakable but also H.P. Lovecraft himself (which the protagonist has little regard for).
4. “The Road to Granville” (1985) – A man driving through the “boulder-strewn Connecticut hills” on a hot August day spies the remains of an old village in a valley that was once called Hartland Hollow. It’s now little more than some debris-filled cellar holes. His car ends up overheating, and he starts to walk down towards the valley to get some water for the engine from its lake. The further he descends the hotter he becomes. It eventually gets so bad he enters the nearby grove of trees to get some water to drink. The water is ice cold and although it refreshes him, it also makes him feel faint. Soon afterwards an old, flatbed horse drawn carriage rides up to him. The boy in it seems to be from different a time period than the stranded motorist, but he accepts a ride to the boy’s house where he meets his family. As the story continues, we find that the strange valley has altered more than just the destroyed village.
Article by Matt Cowan