Joe R. Lansdale is a prolific American author of horror, science fiction, westerns, mystery, and crime fiction. He’s had several of his works adapted to both film and television. He’s won a ton of prestigious awards for his writing, including Bram Stoker, World Fantasy, and World Horror Grandmaster to name just a few. He lives in Texas with his wife Karen and teaches Shen Chuan martial arts at his own school.
I first discovered him when I read his haunted house story “What Happened To Me”, which I thought was superb. I’ve enjoyed many more since then. Below are all the stories by him which I’ve read so far. My favorites would be: “The God of the Razor”, “The Folding Man”, “What Happened To Me”, “The Crawling Sky” and “The Second Floor of the Christmas Hotel”.
THE STORIES (Listed in publication date order):
1. “The Dump” (1981) – A man who happily lives in a landfill encounters a deadly creature which has sprung to life amidst the trash.
2. “Fish Night” (1982) – An older and a younger man get stranded on a remote dessert road when their Plymouth breaks down. They decide they’ll have to wait it out due to the heat, then try and walk into town in the morning or hope someone happens by to give them a lift. That night the older man remembers a time when he passed through that very same stretch of road before and he saw ghostly fish floating by as though the dessert were the bottom of the sea. The same thing happens again that night with startling results. You can listen here for free: https://talestoterrify.com/episodes/tales-to-terrify-show-no-65-joe-r-lansdale-david-d-levine/
3. “The God of the Razor” (2006) – A man goes to an old derelict house in search of antiques and encounters an odd man there who tells him an incredible story about an ancient cursed razor in the house and the dark things it makes a person do. This is a great story with mind-twisting surrealism and a neat historical tie-in.
4. “The Folding Man” (2010) – After leaving a party on Halloween night, a group of friends encounter a weird-looking black car on the road full of nuns. One of the more tipsy of the boys decides to moon them. The nuns become angry and begin to aggressively chase them, eventually running them off the road into a ditch. They then watch as the four nuns pull a strange mechanical contraption out of the truck. It begins unfolding into the facsimile of a man upon which they put clay which spreads to serve as its flesh. This mechaniod man begins to relentlessly chase the boys down, killing those it catches. This is a supremely odd, very exciting story of weird/horror. Highly recommended!
5. “What Happened to Me” (2011) – A college student rents a house near the college he and his three roommates are to attend. The other two abandon the place quickly after spending a little time there. They won’t say what changed their minds but were obviously terrified by something. The remaining student is left alone to deal with increasingly bizarre and threatening occurrences. What resides in the nearby forest is far older and more dangerous than any ghost.
6. “The Case of the Lighthouse Shambler” (2011) – A ghost hunter recounts a terrifying case she investigated that took place inside an old lighthouse. The malevolent entity haunting the place is quickly growing in power. Lansdale has a knack for building an intense dread for the unearthly beings inhabiting his stories.
7. “The Crawling Sky” (2011) – This novelette follows Reverend Mercer, a traveling preacher and occult detective in the old west, as he enters the grimy town of Wood Tick. There he finds a man held captive in a wagon with bars on its windows as kids throw rocks at him with the local sheriff looking on. The sheriff tells him the man is in there because he keeps talking about things he shouldn’t and that he’s insane. He agrees to let Mercer take the captive with him as long as they both leave and never come back. He soon finds the man is not insane but has had a traumatic encounter at the abandoned cabin he and his wife moved into, as a hideous, amorphous man-beast keeps coming out of the nearby well to torment them and worse. Mercer agrees to go help him investigate and attempt to put an end to the problem. This is a great weird western, horror tale!
8. “The Second Floor of the Christmas Hotel” (2018) – A childhood friend asks this story’s narrator to accompany him to the abandoned hotel his family owns on Christmas Eve night. He claims to have experienced a terrifying ghostly manifestation in room #12 on the second floor of that old building and that it returns every Christmas Eve. He suspects it’s tied to the disappearance of a beautiful young girl who attended a party there on just such a date many years before. This is another excellent ghost story by Lansdale.
Article by Matt Cowan