A few years ago I took a look at 15 horror short stories by Robert Bloch (https://horrordelve.com/2016/04/04/robert-bloch/). It was fun to do and has consistently been one of Horror Delve’s most popular posts, so I decided to give it another go. Without further ado, here are thirteen more excellent stories by the legendary Robert Bloch.
- “The Feast in the Abbey” (1930) – On his way to visit his brother’s house in Vironne, a traveler is forced to seek shelter in a large, moss-covered, monastery he stumbles across. The portly monks welcome him inside. The place is filled with surprisingly opulent furnishings. He’s further awed by the enormous, gluttonous feast they invite him to share with them. Their conduct continues to decline, and he begins to question what sort of religion these men follow as the story moves toward its brutal finale.
- “The Opener of the Way” (1936) – From Bloch’s Lovecraft-inspired batch of tales, this one follows father and son archeologists who have come across an ancient parchment that reveals the location of a hidden tomb. The father is obsessed with uncovering its secrets which lies hidden behind a door that has a the image of a seven-headed god emerging from a distorted, ever-shifting body on it. The parchment says Anubis is the “opener of the way”.
- “Mother Of Serpents” (1936) – The unscrupulous President of Haiti pays the price for turning on his conjure-woman mother and her fellow voodoo practitioners.
- “Return to the Sabbath” (1938) – A couple of Hollywood executives stumble upon a terrifying scene from a foreign film called Return to the Sabbath when they duck into a seedy burlesque theater for a rest. They are taken by how amazing and realistic the actor portraying the pale, gaunt corpse pulling himself out of the ground during a satanic ritual is. They decide they must sign this actor to appear in one of their films, but they struggle to find any information on him or the film as it had apparently been recorded for private use only and wasn’t supposed to be released to the public. They eventually discover his name is Karl Jorla and sign him to a contract solely because he wants to escape Europe as he claims Return to the Sabbath was filmed with, and for, an actual sect of devil worshipers who are very upset about it getting out. This is another excellent tale by Bloch which references horror legends Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Peter Lorre. This story was adapted in the second season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents as The Sign of Satan starring Christopher Lee.
- “Manikins of Horror” (1939) – Colin is a brilliant doctor who suffered a mental break which lands him in an insane asylum under the care of Doctor Starr. He asks for, and receives, clay to sculpt with during his stay. With it he begins crafting perfect replicas of human beings, complete with organs, brains, etc. in miniature form. Soon, they begin to move and follow the order of their creator. This story was adapted (rather poorly) as the framing story in the film Asylum (also called House Of Crazies).
- “The Skull of the Marquis de Sade” (1945) – A wealthy collector of occult curios named Maitland is offered a skull by a man who claims it belongs to the infamous sadist the Marquis de Sade. Maitland is intrigued by it even after discovering the seller wants to be rid of it because its presence has been disturbing him. He later learns that there seems to be a terrible curse upon it that has led to the deaths of many of its previous owners. After encountering the skull, Maitland begins to have dreams about being tortured, but he still wants the skull. This story was loosely adapted into the 1966 film The Skull which starred a pair of horror movie icons, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.
- “Lizzie Borden Took An Axe…” (1946) – A man receives a call while at his office from the girl he loves begging him to help her. He races off to her evil father’s house where she lives. When he arrives, he discovers her father laying on the floor having been killed by axe blows to the head. His girlfriend believes an evil force, which she refers to as an Incubus, comes out of her body as she sleeps and it murdered the man. The more she describes the few details she can recall, the more it reminds the man of the infamous Lizzie Borden murder case from 1892.
- “The Man Who Collected Poe” (1951) – A man who loves fantasy books is enticed to visit the gothic house of a wealthy book collector named Launcelot Canning after meeting him at a bibliophilic meeting. Canning claims to have the most complete collection of Edgar Allen Poe books and paraphernalia anywhere. This claim is proven upon his arrival as Launcelot is the third generation of his family to have obsessively acquired them by any means necessary including theft and black magic. His prize acquisition turns out to be a deadly threat.
- “That Hell-Bound Train” (1958) – Remembering the song his father always used to sing about “that Hell-bound train” which is loaded with sinners on their way to Hell, a young man encounters the train conducted by the Devil who offers to make a deal in order to insure he keeps on track to become a passenger in the future. He asks for a way to freeze time when he reaches the happiest point of his life, thus insuring he can spend eternity there. The Devil agrees and gives him a watch, telling him to turn it backwards whenever he decides he’s reached that point. This inspires him to work hard to put himself in that perfect situation, but things don’t go as he planned.
- “The Living Dead” aka “Underground” (1967) – A Parisian actor helps the Nazis overtake his country by advising them to use the abandoned Chateau Barsac, which locals are afraid of because they believe its deceased former owner Count Barsac was a vampire. The actor even made himself up to look like the undead Count to further drive away the locals, but there’s a danger involved in doing a job too well.
- “Double Whammy” (1970) – A carnival barker incurs the terrible wrath of a gypsy fortuneteller after her granddaughter kills herself when the barker spurns her. The fortuneteller casts a powerful curse on him called The Double Whammy, which is incured when she catches him regarding his reflection with her in the background.
- “Everybody Needs A Little Love” (1984) – After helping a fellow divorced drinking buddy steal the mannequin of a beautiful woman from the store he works at, he begins to realize the man believes it’s a real woman. He names her Estelle and his life begins to be controlled by her. This story was adapted for an episode of the television series Tales From the Darkside.
- “The Night Before Christmas” (1987) – A struggling artist is hired to paint the portrait of the beautiful wife of a wealthy man named Carlos Santiago. While Santiago is away on business, the painter and his subject fall in love with each other, but Santiago is a devious, dangerous man. There is nothing supernatural in this story, but its ending is a brutal one.
Article by Matt Cowan