Terror Tales of the Seaside is an anthology edited by Paul Finch, published by Gray Friar Press in 2013, that combines both fiction stories as well as classic myths and legends of the British seasides. I read this book while vacationing on a beach (sadly not in England, however) which set the perfect atmosphere for this reading. While seaside towns are usually beautiful, I also find that they seem invested with a somber, eerie aura to them, so I particularly enjoyed each story in this anthology. I also liked the local legends and lore interludes which covered everything from ghosts, to hell hounds, to cannibals and more, but here we’ll be focusing on the fiction tales alone. My favorite stories were: “Holiday From Hell”, “The Magician Kelso Dennett”, “The Entertainment”, “The Poor Weather Crossing Company”, and “GG LUVS PA”, but all were very entertaining.
- “Holiday From Hell” by Reggie Oliver (2013) – A struggling stage manager moves to Brightsea to take a theater job there. After much searching he finally finds a run down hotel where he convinces the owner to let him rent the attic for several months at a cheap rate. All the other rooms are taken by a strange collection of elderly people on holiday from a retirement home in Diss. They’re very distinctive in their attitudes and appearances and are lead by a middle-aged woman named Miss Eve Harriman. He soon discovers they may not be what they initially appear to be. This is a very effective, creepy tale.
- “The Causeway” by Stephen Laws (2005) – A man devises a way of murdering his wife where it would look like an accident so he can still receive her family’s wealth. He drives her to a secluded causeway at night where he handcuffs her to the steering wheel as the water begins to rise before leaving to hideout in the safety of a rescue tower overhead. He experiences a terrifying time waiting for the water to recede back down so he can go dispose of the evidence, making him begin to worry he should have taken his wife’s claims at being a witch more seriously.
- “The Magician Kelso Dennett” by Stephen Volk (2013) – A 28 year old man named Nick Ambler takes a job working with a television company that has come to his town to film the famous magician/illusionist Kelso Dennett, who is returning to his struggling hometown to perform his next death-defying stunt. He’s to have himself buried in a coffin by the seaside where he’ll remain for 40 days and 40 nights without food or water. Camera crews stake out the town to follow the event for the full run. While Dennett remains buried, Nick engages in an affair with the magician’s wife who tells him of how Kelso has trained with yogis and monks to learn how to perform incredible physical feats and how he has the capacity to be a very dangerous man. This is another well executed tale!
- “A Prayer for the Morning” by Joesph Freeman (2013) – Dunning, along with his wife and young daughter stop, at a cliffside beach area where his wife spent part of her childhood. The place once held a leper hospital long ago. Most of the old town has dissolved back into the sea leaving only some ruins near a small forest on a cliff. Unable to resist the lure of such a place, he goesalone to see it after his family is in bed. What he finds there waiting amidst the trees is terrifying.
- “The Jealous Sea” by Sam Stone (2013) – While making a brief stop at a seaside town, a couple find the people in the town acting like two-dimensional cutouts while the sea moves further inland seeking to take them with it due to an old secret.
- “The Entertainment” by Ramsey Campbell (1999) – While traveling, a man checks into a room to escape a heavy rain. The strange residents keep calling him by the wrong name and seem to think he’s there to perform some kind of show for them. There are lots of super-creepy scenes throughout this tale.
- “The Poor Weather Crossing Company” by Simon Kurt Unsworth (2013) – A man named Sykes responds to a flyer advertising a walking tour through a bay in Morecambe during some very bad weather in order to witness the majesty of nature in a way few ever do. The guide is a strange fellow who talks about the power of the sea and its “contract” with those who live near it. One by one the others on the tour struggle to keep up with the guide in the pouring rain and the journey becomes treacherous. Is there some ancient, dark pact being kept that night?
- “Brighthelmstone” by R. B. Russell (2013) – A boy has a traumatic encounter on his first vacation with his mother following the death of his father to a place called Brighthelmstone. There’s nothing supernatural in this one, but it is a well written story.
- “Men With False Faces” by Robert Spalding (2013) – After stumbling across a message warning him to “Beware Men with False Faces” scrawled into a sea wall, an office worker begins to experience bizarre things. He can’t get a strange song out of his mind, and he keeps encountering eerie clowns who appear to be stalking him.
- “GG LUVS PA” by Gary Fry (2013) – A lonely, single man who likes to walk the beach finds someone has scrawled “Why?” in the sand. On a whim, he replies “Why what?”. This leads to a series of messages exchanged between himself and someone he thinks may be a girl who disappeared many years ago who was believed to have been murdered by drowning in the sea. This is a top notch, very eerie story!
- “Shells” by Paul Kane (2013) – When his arguing parents take a vacation by the sea, their son meets and befriends a local boy. This new friend falls to the ground in convulsions after picking up a shell and placing it to his ear. He acts different when he comes out of it, as though his mind is no longer his own. Soon everyone around him begins to change in similar fashion.
- “The Sands Are Magic” by Kate Farrell (2013) – A mother and her boyfriend take her kids in a borrowed RV to the beach for a thirteen day vacation on the cheap. The boyfriend tells the kids the sands are magical, but he doesn’t realize that a deadly, non-supernatural menace resides there.
- “Broken Summer” by Christopher Harman (2013) – A student living in a rundown apartment owned by a fortune teller struggles to find a job to get some money while he finishes school. He attempts to get hired at the beachside resort, the Pleasure Park, even though he’s creeped out by its constantly laughing mascot King Cole. Struggling with a drug habit which often distorts his view of reality, along with some eerie predictions about his future from his landlady, lead him into an ominous, surreal existence.
U.S. Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Terror-Tales-Seaside-Stephen-Volk/dp/1906331375
Article by Matt Cowan