I’ve often before mentioned my love for the Terror Tale series of horror anthologies edited by Paul Finch. I’ve already posted reviews of three other volumes here – each focusing on a different part of the U.K. – Terror Tales of the Seaside ( https://horrordelve.com/2018/05/07/terror-tales-of-the-seaside-review/ ), Terror Tales of the Lake District ( https://horrordelve.com/2019/04/08/terror-tales-of-the-lake-district-anthology-review/ ), and Terror Tales of the Cotswolds ( https://horrordelve.com/2020/04/13/terror-tales-of-the-cotswolds-anthology-review/ ). I always love these assembled tales from both authors I know and ones who are new to me. As always, editor Paul Finch inserts brief essays about the eerie legends and lore native to the area in-between the fiction tales. This one includes a wide range of intriguing supernatural incursions such as legendary fae curses, the Mothman-esque Owlman, the ghost of a snake woman, mermaids, and many more.
Every story here was a great read, but my favorites would have to be: “We Who Sing Beneath the Ground”, “Trouble at Botathan”, “The Old Traditions Are the Best”, “Four Windows and a Door”, “Moon Blood-Red Tide Turning” and “Losing Its Identity”.
1. “We Who Sing Beneath the Ground” by Mark Morris (2017) – A teacher becomes concerned when a quiet, young student fails to show up for class. Shortly before that, the student had brought a strange, unidentifiable object for show-and-tell. Unable to raise his family by phone, she drives out to the remote farmhouse where he lives to find it in deplorable condition and apparently uninhabited, but something terrible is indeed there. This is an excellent, very creepy story!
2. “In The Light of St. Ives” by Ray Cluley (2017) – The always reliable Emily breaks into her artistic sister Claire’s apartment while she’s at the hospital being treated for burns to search for clues as to what caused Claire to set fire to the place while she was inside it. There seems to be something off about the how the light falls in the place.
3. “Trouble at Botathan” by Reggie Oliver (2015) – After encountering a disembodied female entity in a remote cottage in a forest in Botathan, an introspective college student is unexpectedly invited to attend a professor’s reading party at an old house with other students. He becomes fascinated reading a journal he finds on a shelf in the place. It was written by a young woman with the initials D.D. There is a connection between this girl and the entity in the forest. This is an instantly absorbing story that kept me riveted all the way through to the end.
4. “Mebyon Versus Suna” by John Whitbourn (2017) – Mebyon is so fanatical about his love for his native Cornwall it makes him surly and bitter towards his new neighbors when he’s forced to move to Exeter because his wife takes a job there. His attitude comes at steep price however as he begins to see disembodied red eyes glaring at him, and he seems to come under a terrible curse which begins ruining his life. This is more a tongue-in-cheek type of weird tale than it is horror.
5. “The Unseen” by Paul Edwards (2017) – A man whose obsession with collecting violent, underground horror films strains his marriage due to his steadfast refusal to find a job, help with housework, and his “borrowing” of his son’s money in his pursuit of these films. When he comes across a movie called The Black Remote, which is missing its ending, he sets off to find out more about it. He finally discovers the hellish secret of the film and wishes he hadn’t.
6. “Dragon Path” by Jacqueline Simpson (2002) – Four friends go to the Cheesewring (giant, naturally-formed standing stones) in Bodmin Moors to hang out. Two of them tease Mick due to his penchant for spouting off about the area’s Druidic history, but they soon come to regret mocking him.
7. “The Old Traditions Are the Best” by Paul Finch (2008) – Accompanied by his parole chaperones, a young thief attends a festival in a city in Cornwall called Obby Oss. A large man wearing a garishly painted horse suit moves through the crowd representing the ancient mascot of the town’s brutal protector. The thief decides to ditch his companions and find someplace to rob while everyone is away from their homes for the festival. This proves to be a terrible mistake.
8. “The Uncertainty of All Earthly Things” by Mark Valentine (2017) – A man takes the job as curator of an obscure but well-funded museum in a rural town called Sancreed in Cornwall. He meets a young woman who tells him about a rood screen (an intricately carved screen that separates the nave from the chancel) in a nearby church which is filled with images of bizarre-looking creatures and faces. The two will come to find these images are more than just the work of an artist’s imagination.
9. “His Anger Was Kindled” by Kate Ferrell (2017) – A man travels to a deteriorating old church in Cornwall to inform the Reverend there that he’s to be transferred as it’s going to be torn down. While reports had stated that the reverend hadn’t had anyone attending his services of late, on the day the man arrives he sees several, unmoving people sitting in the pews of the unusually dark place. The Reverend is incensed when told of his church being decommissioned despite all the warnings he received in advance about it.
10. “Four Windows and a Door” by D. P. Watt (2017) – A family of four vacationing in Cornwall enjoy the usual highs and lows resulting from finding things to do in the area to keep everyone happy. When they take a boat tour, a somber darkness seems to overcome their youngest daughter as they spy an old, abandoned house atop a cliff they pass. While her normal personality is eventually regained, she seems to become fixated on the house – drawing pictures of it, etc. Worse problems are yet to come as a result of that boat ride. This is a good story of what I like to call vacation horror.
11. “Claws” by Steve Jordan (2017) – A group of teenagers working at a large, failing arcade on a beachfront in Cornwall deal with a malicious boss as well as something unseen which has been tampering with all the games and equipment.
12. “Moon Blood-Red Tide Turning” by Mark Samuels (2017) – While working at a small theater-oriented publishing house, the story’s protagonist meets a young actress named Celia Winters. The two spend time together but never become close. When she leaves to take an acting job in Cornwall, he promises to go see one of her performances as he was scheduled to go out that way anyway. It ends up being a strange experience with repercussions down the road. This was an enjoyable read which the author dedicated to Reggie Oliver.
13. “The Memory of Stone” by Sarah Singleton (2017) – An aging father and husband becomes obsessed with a beautiful, young woman giving a presentation. This obsession begins to take over his life, leading him to a remote cabin in Cornwall where he starts to see pale, white beings lingering around him.
14. “Shelter From the Storm” by Ian Hunter (2017) – A group of Boy Scouts hiking along the Cornish coastline seek shelter in a rotting old church they stumble upon. It proves a costly choice.
15. “Losing Its Identity” by Thana Niveau (2017) – An elderly woman whose memories are beginning to slip away refuses to abandon her house on a deteriorating coastline called Lost Moon in Cornwall, despite her daughter’s urging. It’s where she and her husband lived until his death and where his ashes were spread. She believes she still hears his voice speaking to her there. One evening a powerful storm draws the water further away from shore than before revealing a forgotten town which had been submerged for untold years. She walks through the old buildings that stand on the seabed. This is a well written, interesting tale.
Reviewed by Matt Cowan