A few years back I reviewed the excellent Thomas Ligotti collection Grimscribe ( Since then I’ve read several more of his stories which we’ll take a look at here today. Ligotti is without a doubt one of the all-time greats.


1. “The Frolic” (1982) – A prison psychologist abruptly tells his wife he wants to quit his job and move away after having a disturbing conversation with one of the most insane, devious prisoners incarcerated there. He also relates the bizarre way that prisoner sees the world during his murderous outings which he refers to as his ‘frolics’.

2. “Drink to Me Only with Labyrinthine Eyes” (1982) – A master hypnosis speaks about his awesome powers and eventually of the dark, twisted way he uses them. You can listen here for free:

3. “The Christmas Eve’s of Aunt Elise” (1983) – During a Christmas Eve family gathering at his wealthy aunt’s house, Jack listens in on her true tale of the house that used to exist across the street but was torn down brick-by-brick at the former reclusive owner’s request following his death. Later, a young antiquarian, who had always been fascinated by the place and didn’t know it had been removed, returns to town and notices it all decked out in Christmas lights during a heavy fog. Unfortunately for him, he accepts the oddly smiling former owner’s invitation to come inside for a look around. This is an outstanding, very eerie story. Highly recommended! You can listen here for free:

4. “Notes on the Writing Of Horror: A Story” (1985)– This novelette starts with a writer offering tips on how to write a horror story by presenting a story about a pair of vampiric pants to serve as an example. As it progresses, however, it becomes something much darker.

5. “The Greater Festival of Masks” (1985) – During The Festival of Masks a man seeks out the right one for himself to join with all the others seeking false faces for themselves. Full disclosure: I’ve never really understood this story.

6. “The Sect of the Idiot” (1988) – Referencing the Lovecraftian entity Azothoth, this story follows a man’s experiences after he goes to a strange town where he dreams about a sect of physically warped people altering reality and later discovers it’s more than just a dream. You can listen here for free:

7. “The Real Wolf” (1988) – We are taken into the mind of a werewolf as it hunts for victims, spurred on by a melody only it can hear.

8. “The Bungalow House” (1995) – A man discovers and becomes obsessed with a recording of strange performance art inside a small art gallery. The recording is titled “The Bungalow House” and is sort of a surreal, audio version of a dream journal. His deep desire to meet the mysterious creator of this piece takes an unexpected turn. You can listen here for free:

9. “The Clown Puppet” (1996) – A man working at a lonely medicine shop experiences a “visit” from a spectral clown puppet marionette. He’s had this sort of visit before, but this time is different as someone else encounters it as well. This is a very eerie tale!

10. “The Red Tower” (1996) – This is the story of an abandoned manufacturing plant of mysterious origin which used to produce lurid trinkets and contains a subterranean graveyard.

11. “Our Temporary Supervisor” (2001) – With no other prospects to make a living, a young man works at a factory for the Quine Organization assembling metal parts. He has no idea what the purpose of these parts might be. Things run the same day-in and day-out until the supervisor tells everyone he has to leave town on a business assignment and a temporary supervisor will be arriving to manage things. Although none of them can see this new supervisor who remains in his office, they can make out his distorted form through the door’s frosted glass and are terrified of him. Things get much worse from that point forward. If you feel trapped at your job, this tale will show you how much worse it could be. You can listen here for free:

12. “Purity” (2003) – A young boy loves traveling to a bad neighborhood near his own to visit a strange woman named Candy who becomes his friend. He goes there while his scientist father carries out experiments in the basement where he attempts to remove impurities from his subject’s minds, things like beliefs in countries and deities, etc. All the while, there is a child murderer on the lose. This is a difficult story to summarize effectively. It’s a mesmerizing tale that feels imbued with deep allegories. There’s a definite dreamlike quality to it which is masterfully done.

13. “The Town Manager” (2003) – A degenerating town is stuck in a cycle where their town manager will mysteriously vanish to be replaced by a new one. The replacement manager will make drastic changes to everything which hastens the town’s steady decline until he likewise disappears only to be replaced by yet another new one. This is a superb tale which has stuck with me ever since I read it. You can listen here for free:

14. “Sideshow, and Other Stories” (2003) – Two writers who suffer from insomnia meet up at a second rate diner over the course of several nights to discuss their bleak views on the nature of reality. One of them suddenly stops coming to the diner but does leave several of his notes and stories with the other. These unsettling tales about bizarre physical deformities and mutations are revealed as not fiction at all but actual occurrences.

15. “Teatro Grottesco” (1996) – A writer seeks to compose a masterpiece meant to challenge the dreaded Teatro Grottesco, a terrible entity that appears to artistic people and either destroys their ability to create or causes them to disappear entirely.

Article by Matt Cowan

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