Continuing my recent trend of reading my way through various volumes of the Terror Tales series of anthologies edited by Paul Finch, I now bring forth yet another review, this time in the form of Terror Tales of Wales (2014). There were two predominant themes I noticed in this one. Several of the stories centered around echoes of forgotten histories reverberating into modern day Wales (such as in“Old As the Hills”, “The Druid’s Rest”, and“Swallowing A Dirty Seed”). An even stronger recurring theme would be that of dealing with loss and despair (as with“Under the Windings of the Sea”, “Matilda of the Night”, “The Sound of the Sea”, “The Flow” and “The Rising Tide”). In each volume of Terror Tales, Paul Finch also provides essays about the eerie folklore and legends that haunt the respective regions. A few featured in this volume include an evil doppelgänger, murderous ape, demonic horse, horrible curses and many more.
1. “Under the Windings of the Sea” by Ray Cluley (2014) – A father who’s separated from his wife takes his son to show him areas of Wales where he grew up. The father, who loves poetry, struggles to connect with the boy who’s sullen and completely fixated on his video games. When they arrive at Aberdyfi, he tells him about the legend of a sunken city in the area and the bell that can still be heard tolling from it. This is a well-told, somber story of a father desperately trying to keep his family together.
2. “Old As the Hills” by Steve Duffy (2001) – While traveling to a wealthy family’s house in Wales to quote a job, Rafi finds himself driving through blizzard conditions which results in his having an accident with an already wrecked car. He pulls an unconscious priest out of the other car and takes him into a nearby church where some sort of funeral ceremony is taking place. While stranded there with an odd collection of characters, he is told about strange hill creatures who inhabit the area and gets drawn into helping the family survive a terrifying night.
3. “The Druid’s Rest” by Reggie Oliver (2014) – Two young women on a bike trip are forced to seek shelter from a storm in a town called Capel Drudion. The only lodging they can find is at a disused inn called Druid’s Rest, but the owner initially refuses to give them a room until they convince him that he legally must. The owner is a huge man named Rhys-Griffiths. He’s a verbose, constantly self-aggrandizing man who seems to be hiding a vaguely threatening demeanor. Rhys-Griffins is a bizarrely intriguing character in this excellently spooky, weird tale.
4. “Swallowing A Dirty Seed” by Simon Clark (1997) – A widowed man is surprised when a couple arrive at the remote cabin in Wales into which he recently moved. They come seeking food and shelter and appeared to have undergone some traumatic experiences about which they avoiding talking. He obliges them and learns they traveled to that area because the man is an artist who who planned to paint stills of the place. He and his attractive companion Dianne lost their supplies and have been trying to hike their way back to safety. The reason for this misfortune and what caused their extreme fear is later revealed. This is an intriguing story which involves the surrounding trees and an innocent mistake they made.
5. “The Face” (2014) – Harrie, short for her full name of Angharad, goes along with her two adventurous brothers to scale a frozen waterfall to take pictures of the majestic sight. Harrie, however, keeps seeing a giant spectral face behind the falls. She feels a deep sense of dread as she tries to convince herself it must be an optical illusion.
6. “Don’t Leave Me Down Here” by Steve Lockley (2014) – Dai is an experienced miner who’s trying to lead his four man crew back to the surface after a cave-in cuts off their exit, trapping them there. He’s reminded of a similar incident he survived years ago when one of his crew mates failed to make it out. He still hears that young man’s haunting last words.
7. “Matilda of the Night” by Stephen Volk (2014) – An Associate Lecturer of Celtic studies at the University of Cardiff named Ivan Rees gets wrapped up with recording an elderly woman’s insistence that she’s aware of an ancient death entity known as Matilda of the Night. She claims it will be coming to take her soon. She lives in a nursing home, at which Rees spends increasingly more time in attempts to catch the entity, neglecting his personal life in the process. This is a rich story of obsession with loss and death and the supernatural omens which portend such occurrences.
8. “The Sound of the Sea” by Paul Lewis (2014) – A middle-aged man who’s suffered a tragedy rents a house by the sea in Wales where he meets a beautiful woman who teaches him to fish. He’s happy there but is uneasy walking through the small, nearby village whose residents never leave their houses. This is a creepy story with great atmosphere and some very chilling scenes.
9. “The Flow” by Tim Lebbon (2014) – A woman travels back to the village where she grew up. The place was sunk years ago to create a reservoir. A long stretch of drought has dried up the water and caused the submerged village to re-emerge. She returns to try and make sure a dark secret she buried there years ago remains hidden. As she walks the silt-covered area, she recalls her memories of the place as it was, both the good and the bad. This is an excellent, somber tale.
10. “The Offspring” by Steve Jordan (2014) – When Kelly, an animal physiology and biology student, discovers reports that some sort of massive lake creature has been seen, she goes there to investigate. The thing she discovers is both deadly and terrifying. This is a great creature-feature sort of tale with an interesting protagonist in Kelly.
11. “Dialedd” by Bryn Fortey (2014) – Residents of a town in Wales find themselves under murderous assaults from a bunch of Zulu warriors.
12. “The Rising Tide” by Priya Sharma (2014) – A nurse on medical leave following a tragedy plunges into a deep depression. She decides to go stay at her late father’s abandoned place where he used to be a practitioner of holistic and new age services. She’s haunted by the memory of something which happened related to her job and the sea, as well as something else which later comes for her. This is a well-written, supernatural tale of sadness and regret.
13. “Apple of Their Eyes” by Gary Fry (2014) – A student from Leeds traveling to Wales for a few days finds himself deliriously drunk off the cider in a local bar. His friends leave him there, but he’s soon joined by an attractive local girl with eyes that resemble apple pips. She invites him to go with her to her nearby town to try the best cider imaginable. He agrees but ends up finding more than he bargained for when he arrives.
14. “Learning the Language” by John Llewellyn Probert (2014) – As a child, the parents of this tale’s narrator taught him how to speak a complex and largely forgotten form of dark Welsh. This leads to him discovering how dangerous it is, as well as his destiny in life.
Previous Terror Tales Reviews:
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/
Terror Tales of the Cotswolds: https://horrordelve.com/2020/04/13/terror-tales-of-the-cotswolds-anthology-review/
Terror Tales of Cornwall: https://horrordelve.com/2020/08/09/terror-tales-of-cornwall-review/
Review by Matt Cowan