. . . I Know Her For The Student Of The Cold Northern Chamber

I’m sat on this rainy day in a cafe, drinking coffee and reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Tales Of Terror.

The title of this post comes, not from Jekyll, but from the included gothic vampire tale Olalla, which has captivated me on this gloomy morning. It’s to stories such as this that I habitually begin to turn to around this time.

Even just out of a heatwave, and the recent cessation of the hill fires, maybe it’s the sensing of those approaching blue, irregular nights that puts me in this frame of mind.

Alexander Jansson’s illustration for Olalla.

The October Tone

I make no bones about it. The only reason I was reading Before You Sleep was because it was free on Amazon. I’d never heard of the author, Adam L.G Nevill, but I saw this three-story collection promoted as a taster for his anthology of horror/supernatural short fiction and thought I’d give it a go.

I’m glad I did. The two latter stories were okay, but the first, Where Angels Come In, was superb. A tale of two children who brave to enter a reputedly haunted house that stands on a hill in a town where children and pets disappear. A place ‘where angels come in’.

You know the kind of collection it comes from. You know the kids should have just stayed home watching tv.

Creepy and grotesque, it was my kind of thing.


I sat outside with a coffee and read all three stories, undisturbed in the late, afternoon sunshine of a mild October day. October: I’m reminded that this is the time for ghost stories; ancestor stories. A time when I often reach for my favourite Sheridan Le Fanu tales, or perhaps that latest supernatural anthology.

A local priest, a couple of years ago, put on a ‘Party of Light’ to counter the many Halloween parties that were taking place. She reasoned that this was to teach the children that no, it wasn’t okay to be frightened. It was not acceptable to be confronted at every turn by ghouls and zombies and goodness knows that else (and this was before the current clown craze).

As a father I get that, and concur. And yet . . . and yet . . .

Some kids like the thrill of it all. I was a child that loved to be scared. Well, I take that back. How I should put it is that I loved scary things, for I was never truly scared by them. I grew up watching Hammer films, reading James Herbert novels (despite my teacher’s reservations voiced during a parent’s evening discussion with my mother). I don’t think it had any adverse affect on me. (Of course my wife vehemently disagrees.)

Instead it fuelled my imagination, made me think that there was more to the world that we knew of,  furthered my love of books.

Helped me to write.

It is difficult when it comes to my own children. I accept that not all kids are like I was, (warped, my wife chips in again), though I did find others of similar interests that gravitated towards me in school. I am unsure about how to monitor my children’s reading material.

I read recently that Stephen King, who read the same kind of stuff as I did when he was a kid, refused to censor his own children’s tastes.

I haven’t given much thought to this. Should I ensure they stick to the children’s section of the library, unlike I did? But, then again, is there anything more darker than the likes of Grimm’s fairy tales? Is horror sanitised early on by the television images of Tom chasing Jerry while clutching a cleaver? Pre-dating the “Here’s Johnny!” sequence of The Shining.

I don’t know. I’ll leave these questions for another day.

In the meanwhile-it’s October. I’m reaching for In A Glass Darkly, seeking out the beautiful but mysterious Carmilla, and perhaps that freaky, red-eyed monkey in Green Tea.

Stocking up on old favourites for when the weather begins to turn.