I love horror stories which are set on or near the sea. I likewise love the Terror Tales series of anthologies which are edited by Paul Finch. So, it should come as no surprise I really loved Terror Tales of the Ocean published in 2015 by Gray Friar Press. This anthology contains thirteen tales of nautical horror from ghost ships, to sea creatures, to all manner of aquatic hauntings and aberrations. Interspersed between each of these works of fiction are brief essays on various related legends, anomalies, and strange-but-true-occurrences said to have transpired around the sea.
This anthology was a fun, extraordinary read from start to finish. I thought each of its offerings was really high quality, entertaining tales, but I did still have a few which were my favorites – ones which I consider to be brilliant. Those tales were: Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed bySteve Duffy, First Miranda bySimon Strantzas, The Derelict of Death bySimon Clark and John B. Ford,Hell in the Cathedral byPaul Finch, and And This Is Where We Falter byRichard Shearman. Suffice to say, I’ll be first in line if there’s ever a Terror Tales of the Ocean Volume 2.
THE STORIES (Listed by Order of Appearance):
1. “Stuka Juice” by Terry Grimwood (2015) – Near the end of WWII, Hitler tasks one of his loyal soldiers to retrieve an artifact that’s been lost at sea. He believes it possesses mystical powers which will help the Nazis win the war. The use of experimental gas pumped through the breathing tubs of underwater suits thrusts a captive husband and wife duo of British officers headlong into the endeavor.
2. “The End of the Pier” by Stephen Laws (2015) – During 1931, a man goes to a comedy show in a theater at the end of a busy pier to exact revenge against a comedian who had been inappropriate with his girl earlier. Before he gets the chance, however, a vast tentacled creature rises from the sea below to burst through the pier and begin devouring the people within the theater.
3. “Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed” by Steve Duffy (2007) – Three friends boating off the Welsh coast notice something moving toward them underwater by use of a fish-finder. They then see the body of a man floating on the water which they pull aboard with a large hook. To their surprise, he opens his eyes. He’s badly disoriented and can’t seem to remember what happened to him or even how to do basic tasks. They soon come to realize something is very wrong with him. This is a great, creepy tale!
4. “The Seventh Wave” by Lynda E. Rucker (2015) – A woman tells the sad story of her life, its connection to the sea, and the tragedy that came from it.
5. “Hippocampus” by Adam Nevill (2015) – You, the reader, move through a cargo ship that’s drifting derelict on the ocean where a massacre which has recently taken place. The eviscerated carnage of its crew members remains splayed throughout and clues abound which hint at the beasts responsible for it all. You can listen to a reading of this one here for free: https://pseudopod.org/2019/02/01/pseudopod-633-hippocampus/
6. “The Offing” by Conrad Williams (2015) – A thirteen year old girl struggles to deal with her alcoholic mother while on vacation to a seaside town which is slowly dying off due to receding water levels. To make matters worse, her father who was with them seems to have disappeared.
7. “Sun Over the Yard Arm” by Peter James (2014) – A retired husband and wife embark on a long intercontinental boat journey with stops at several global destinations, but when they end up needing to return home to England quickly for the birth of their grandchildren, they take a less safe route back. This puts them deep at sea with no communication to the outside world for awhile. Things take a very dark turn when they encounter a bad storm that plunges them into a precarious situation. There’s nothing supernatural in this story, but it is very intense and has a twist at the ending.
8. “First Miranda” by Simon Strantzas (2015) – A man drives his wife out to a secluded, oceanside cabin where she and her sisters grew up in attempts to repair damage done to their marriage by his cheating. She’s reluctant to forgive him, but he hopes the idyllic location from her past will help soothe her anger towards him. This is a very well-told tale with an intriguing finale.
9. “The Derelict of Death” by Simon Clark and John B. Ford (1998) – The crew of the Jenny Rose notices what appears to be a giant, leering face on the horizon and a dark ship which floats out from it. Once they get close enough, they see it’s a derelict named Death. After a group of them board it, screams are heard and they do not return. There’s a lot more strange things in store for the Jenny Rose as the tale continues. This is one of the strangest and best sea stories I’ve ever read. It’s fantastic! You can read it here for free: https://williamhopehodgson.wordpress.com/2012/09/21/the-derelict-of-death-by-ford-and-clark/
10. “The Decks Below” by Jan Edwards (2015) – A naval officer named Georgianna Forsythe investigates the recovery of a sunken, experimental submarine vessel which has been torn asunder by some powerful undersea entity. Georgianna has been altered by rival god-like beings Nyarlathotep and Nodens and now specializes in supernatural encounters. Her powers are put to the test during this investigation. Georgianna (Georgi for short) is an interesting character of whom I’d be interested in reading more stories.
11. “Hell In the Cathedral” by Paul Finch (2000) – This is an intense tale about a couple who take a day trip out at sea along with another couple, only to find themselves in a life-or-death struggle against an immensely powerful sea creature in its native environment. This is an excellent, edge-of-your-seat thriller!
12. “Hushed Will Be All Murmurs” by Adam Golaski (2015) – This one is difficult to describe. It’s a moody, surreal glimpse at two men in a boat in a world saturated by unnaturally thick fog. While I can’t quite say for sure what it’s all about, I did enjoy it.
13. “And This Is Where We Falter” by Richard Shearman (2015) – After an uprooted tree exposes a very old, black casket, the priest in charge of the seaside graveyard where it was found discovers a tale scrawled inside it from one of his ancestors. The tale tells of a ship’s journey long ago after it took on a mysterious, foreign passenger. This passenger brought a curse upon the ship and its crew, causing them to throw themselves overboard one-by-one to their deaths. Each time this happens another black casket appears in the distance to follow them. This is a superb story told on multiple levels. Highly recommended!
Paul Finch’s Website: https://www.paulfinchauthor.com
My Previous Terror Tales Reviews:
Terror Tales of Wales: https://horrordelve.com/2021/04/12/terror-tales-of-wales-review/
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/
Article by Matt Cowan