Stories Not for the Nervous

Ghost stories for Halloween – or anytime.  Alfred Hitchcock edited a collection of scary tales – short stories, novelettes, and a novel – in the 1965 Stories Not for the Nervous that includes “various tomes of terror, sagas of suspense…groupings of grue…” from the master of suspense.  From a futuristic Twilight Zone short story by Ray Bradbury to a complete novel – “Sorry, Wrong Number” – the collection will have you looking over your shoulder and turning on all the lights.

I found this classic through the Dave Eggers interview in the New York Times book review section.  Eggers wrote one of my favorite nonfiction books – Zeitoun. When interviewed for By the Book,  Eggers admitted to “reading ghost stories and having a blast {when he} found a collection Hitchcock edited.”

Perfect for Halloween or anytime you are looking for old-fashioned scary fun.

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Stories for Nighttime and Some for Day

 Are you looking for haunting tales to warm you up for Halloween?   Ben Loory offers a collection of forty modern shorts in his Stories for Nighttime and Some for Day.  You’ll need to read them with the lights burning bright – whether in day or night.

The first short story tells of a woman who buys a book that has no words inside – all the pages are blank.  At first, she begins a campaign against the author’s hoax but only succeeds in making the book more popular with increasing sales.  After the years pass, one of her grandchildren finds a copy of the book that belonged to her husband; a picture falls out, and the book suddenly comes alive with the story of her life.   Do-do-do-d0 (cue the Twilight Zone theme).

A crown in the dishwasher, a duck who falls in love with a rock, a hat that stares back, time travel on a ferris wheel, a nod to Ray Bradbury – just a few of the topics covered – all short fairy tale/science fiction for adults; some with hidden messages.  Great to read aloud.

For a taste of Loory’s imagination…


A man is walking through the woods, when suddenly he sees Bigfoot.  Holy cow! the man thinks. Bigfoot!   Bigfoot sees him and runs away.

The man chases Bigfoot through the woods for a long time. He chases him for hours and hours. Finally, he gets close enough to leap—which he does. Bigfoot comes crashing to the ground.   I’ve got him! the man thinks, as he ties Bigfoot’s feet. I’ve got him! I got him! I caught Bigfoot!
Almost instantaneously, the man becomes a celebrity. People from TV come to his house.  How does it feel to have captured Bigfoot? they say.

It feels good, says the man. Really good!

A lot of people didn’t think that Bigfoot really existed, the people say and then wait for a response.

Well, says the man, I guess now they know!   And everybody laughs and claps their hands.

The man sits in his house and watches the news. Bigfoot has been taken to the zoo. They show the lines of people outside the gate; there are dozens of them, hundreds, thousands.

Everyone wants to see Bigfoot, thinks the man. And now, everybody will.

That night the man has a very bad dream. In his dream, he is sitting in a cage. Someone keeps asking him what he wants for dinner.   But he gets nothing, no matter what he says.
In the morning, the man wakes up feeling strange. He goes into the kitchen for some cereal. He sits down at the table, but doesn’t feel like eating.  Finally, he gets in his car.    In line at the zoo, the man is recognized.

You’re the guy who caught Bigfoot! someone says.

Why are you waiting in line? says someone else. Won’t they let you cut to the front?

It’s okay, says the man. Really, I don’t mind.    Truth be told, he is terrified.

When it comes time for his turn to go in and see Bigfoot, the man stands toward the back, very still. Bigfoot doesn’t look good. He’s not moving around. He’s just sitting on a log in the middle of the enclosure.

The enclosure itself is very nice; the zoo people built it special. There’s a cement pool, and some fake rocks, and a painted backdrop of a forest.

Bigfoot is just staring at the ground.

Hey, says the man, stepping forward after a while. Hey, he says to Bigfoot, are you okay?

He doesn’t expect a reply, so he’s surprised when Bigfoot looks up.

Do I look okay? says Bigfoot. Does this look okay to you?

They make a big deal out of it on the news.   Bigfoot speaks! the announcers say. Bigfoot human!

The man begins to feel very, very small. The TV now pictures him in an unfavorable light.   Who is this man? the announcers say.  And what exactly were his motives?

There’s an interview with Bigfoot. He complains about his treatment.   I lost three teeth when he tackled me, he says. I was just trying to get home to read the papers.

That night the man decides to go to see a movie. But the second he sets foot outside, a rock flies out of the blue and smashes him in the face.   Murderer! a voice screams. Murderer!   Another rock hits him in the shoulder, and the next one breaks his knee.   The man falls to the ground in pain.

Who are you going to kill next? the mob screams. And what are you gonna do after that?

I never killed anyone! the man quietly sobs, as he drags himself back into the house. He slams and locks the door. He curls up on the rug. A few moments later, he passes out.

The days go by, and then the weeks. Still the mob screams outside. The man thought that it would lessen eventually, but it never does. News choppers circle overhead, blaring horrible things at him through megaphones. Bright lights shine through his windows at night and make it hard to sleep. The rocks slam against the aluminum siding in a constant, steady barrage. The man overturns the dressers and tables and barricades the doors.

And then one night, there it is: fire outside the window. The man watches as the torches are passed around, hand to hand to hand. He watches as the mob comes closing in, in an ever-tightening circle.    The entire house is surrounded.   There is no way out.

What do I do? cries the man, as he stumbles through the house.    What do I do? he shrieks, as it starts to burn.

And as the flames fill the house with heat and light, the man holds up his hands—and suddenly, he can see right through them.    And then he starts to laugh.

In the morning, the mob combs through the smoldering wreckage. There is no sign—not one—of the man.

It’s not possible! they say. He couldn’t have gotten away!

You can’t catch the Invisible Man, a voice says. Not that way.

The Silent Land by Graham Joyce

Whew!  I read The Silent Land in under three hours, and enjoyed every minute of the suspenseful ride.  Clues to the ending started seeping in toward the end, but, by then, I was committed to finding out if what I guessed, was really what had happened.  Think of Graham Joyce’s The Silent Land as a great episode of the old TV thriller “The Twilight Zone” or “Lost.”   Joyce is a winner of the O. Henry Award – a clue to expect a surprise ending.

Zoe and Jake Bennett are in the French Alps for a ski holiday, and have the pristine slopes all to themselves on a perfect crisp morning.  As they make their way down the hill, an avalanche buries them in the snow.  Amazingly, they dig themselves out and walk down to their hotel to find it abandoned.  As the story continues, time seems to have stopped – with the meat and vegetables in the restaurant kitchen not decaying, candles never burning down, no new logs needed to keep the fire going.  Their attempts to ride or walk away from the resort are fruitless; no matter what direction they take, they always return to the same place.

Jake assumes they died in the avalanche and are now trapped in a pleasant limbo.  For a while, they enjoy the skiing on slopes they have all to themselves and drink the best wines from the restaurant, as they try to understand what has happened.  Eventually, strangers intrude – men in masks, a great black horse, a favorite dog…and clues that will lead you to an obvious conclusion that has been used before in novels.

At the heart of the story is Jake and Zoe’s marriage, and Zoe’s secret – that she is pregnant.  Joyce effectively keeps the attention focused on his characters.  It’s their relationship that drives the action, with clever banter and the quick, knowing connections of a married couple who know each other well, but are still discovering more.  As their world becomes fragmented,  their memories hold them together.

Combining mystery, romance, and just the fun of solving a puzzle, The Silent Land is an appealing fast ride down a slippery slope – and much better than watching TV.