American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to the Pulps


Halloween is my favorite holiday to read for.  Granted, there are not that many other holidays that lend themselves to seasonal stories, except Christmas.  But who wants heartwarming Christmas stories when you can read blood-curdling Halloween stories?!  For reals.

I have finished the 600+ page collection of short stories American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to the Pulps edited by Peter Straub.  Now, it is very difficult to review a collection of short stories, because, well, some were awesome and some were less than awesome.  That being said, this is a pretty comprehensive collection of horror from some pretty famous American authors.  They are arranged chronologically, and the first was published in 1895, and the last in 1939.  The second book in this anthology picks up from this date.  It is American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from the 1940’s until Now, which I plan to read for next Halloween.  But for now you will have to do with the oldies.

This anthology includes an impressive array of authors:

Washington Irving, Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Kate Chopin, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Now I know what you’re thinking (well, probably not, but it is a good transition for what I want to say next).  “It is two days before All Hallows Eve and you have given a review of a 600+ page book!  That is useless; I want to read something scary now!”  This is a great anthology; and this collection would be excellent to own for any horror aficionado.  But another great thing is that due to their publishing dates, many of these stories are in the public domain, which = free to all readers!

So here are my favorite of the scary stories, with a link to, a great site to read or listen to many classics.  Most are in compilations with other stories, but you can find them by title within.  Enjoy being spooked!

The Adventure of the German Student (or The Lady with the Velvet Collar) by Washington Irving.  Set in France during the reign of the guillotine, this story reminded me of one I was terrified of as a child, in the book In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories. Bravo, Mr. Irving.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman- I’ve read this one before, but it is still as haunting as ever.  This is not a true horror story in the “ghosts and ghouls” sense, but instead as a look into the darkness of the psyche.  This was written in response to the 19th century attitude towards women’s mental health.

Luella Miller by Mary Wilkins Freeman- a story set in a country village about a woman who sucks the life, literally, from all who care for her.

For the Blood is the Life by F. Marion Crawford- I really loved this one.  A Demon?  A Vampire?  Evil for sure.  CREEPY.

Afterward by Edith Wharton- This short story manages to be both beautiful and scary.  It is the story of a husband and a wife, living happily in the countryside in an old mansion.  The husband goes missing mysteriously, and his wife slowly learns the terrifying truth of his disappearance.

The only one I wasn’t able to finish was the Henry James story The Jolly Corner.  And not because it was too scary, but because it was too dull.  Which disappointed me, because I so look forward to reading the Turn of the Screw.   The other reason I gave this collection a 4/5 and not more is simply because short stories are not my cup of tea.  But that is really not their fault, is it.

Happy Halloween!


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2 Responses to American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to the Pulps

  1. Emily O says:

    What a wonderful review! This sounds like an awesome anthology to have around the house. Then if you are in the mood for a scary story, you can just pick it up and start reading. I love that you posted links to the online copies of your favorite stories. I know what I’ll be reading tonight! The Yellow Wallpaper is one of my favorites too.
    Thanks for posting this review, and count me as a new follower.

    -Emily @ Reading While Female

  2. Elena says:

    Studied The Yellow Wallpaper last year and was lucky enough to have a psychiatrist to lecture us on postpartum depression. I just loved it, specially the medical part!!

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