Year’s Best Weird Fiction Is Here to Stay! See the New Cover & TOC from Volume 4!


Art: Alex Andreev. Design: Vince Haig.

Wow. It’s hard to believe it’s been FOUR years! I began following this series of anthologies with the publication of Volume One, edited by author Laird Barron. Three spectacular volumes later (links below), Undertow books, one of our favorite publishers here at The Sanguine Woods, has revealed the new cover* and the Table of Contents from Volume 4 in its annual series: Year’s Best Weird Fiction—and of course we are excited to share these with our readers!

We cannot say enough about how important it is to support publishers who are all about publishing the highest quality fiction being written today—especially independent publishers in this age of publishing monopolies and corporate marketing mayhem (remember You’ve Got Mail?)

Read more about Year’s Best Weird Fiction here…

So, please visit Michael Kelly proprietor and owner, and his team, over at Undertow; and don’t forget to get your back issues of the first three volumes of Year’s Best Weird Fiction!

Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volume 1, ed. by Laird Barron & Michael Kelly…

Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volume 2, ed. by Kathe Koja & Michael Kelly…

Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volume 3, ed. by Simon Strantzas & Michael Kelly…

We Came Back Haunted: An Essay on the Ghostly by Ernest Rhys (1921)

We Came Back Haunted

Ernest Rhys, 1921


In my recent Ghost Book (The Haunters and the Haunted,1921), M. Larigot, himself a writer of supernatural tales, collected a remarkable batch of documents, fictive or real, describing the one human experience that is hardest to make good. Perhaps the very difficulty of it has rendered it more tempting to the writers who have dealt with the subject. His collection, notably varied and artfully chosen as it is, yet by no means exhausts the literature, which fills a place apart with its own recognised classics, magic masters, and dealers in the occult. Their testimony serves to show that the forms by which men and women are haunted are far more diverse and subtle than we knew. So much so, that one begins to wonder at last if every person is not liable to be “possessed.” For, lurking under the seeming identity of these visitations, the dramatic differences of their entrances and appearances, night and day, are so marked as to suggest that the experience is, given the fit temperament and occasion, inevitable.

One would even be disposed, accepting this idea, to bring into the account, as valid, stories and pieces of literature not usually accounted part of the ghostly canon. There are the novels and tales whose argument is the tragedy of a haunted mind. Such are Dickens’ Haunted Man, in which the ghost is memory; Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, in which the ghost is cruel conscience; and Balzac’s Quest of the Absolute, in which the old Flemish house of Balthasar Claes, in the Rue de Paris at Douai, is haunted by a dæmon more potent than that of Canidia. One might add some of Balzac’s shorter stories, among them “The Elixir”; and some of Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales, including “Edward Randolph’s Portrait.” On the French side we might note too that terrible graveyard tale of Guy de Maupassant, La Morte, in which the lover who has lost his beloved keeps vigil at her grave by night in his despair, and sees—dreadful resurrection—“que toutes les tombes étaient ouvertes, et tous les cadavres en étaient sortis.” And why? That they might efface the lying legends inscribed on their tombs, and replace them with the actual truth. Villiers de l’Isle Adam has in his Contes Cruels given us the strange story of Véra, which may be read as a companion study to La Morte, with another recall from the dead to end a lover’s obsession. Nature and supernature cross in de l’Isle Adam’s mystical drama Axël—a play which will never hold the stage, masterly attempt as it is to dramatise the inexplainable mystery.

Among later tales ought to be reckoned Edith Wharton’s Tales of Men GHSTSGRBXN1937and Ghosts, and Henry James’s The Two Magics, whose “Turn of the Screw” gives us new instances of the evil genii that haunt mortals, in this case two innocent children. One remembers sundry folk-tales with the same motive—of children bewitched or forespoken—inspiring them. And an old charm in Orkney which used to run:

“Father, Son, Holy Ghost!
Bitten sall they be,
Bairn, wha have bitten thee!
Care to their black vein,
Till thou hast thy health again!
Mend thou in God’s name!”

Continue reading

Rue Morgue #176! Are You Reading It?




TWILIGHT OF THE GODS Series creators Bryan Fuller and Michael Green bring Neil Gaiman’s American Gods to network television. Plus: Vincenzo Natali on directing Crispin Glover, Dark Horse’s American Gods comic and a look back at Gaiman’s novel. By Andrea Subissati, Pedro Cabezuelo and Jess Peacock

THE GREAT AND SECRET SHOWMAN The life and legacy of cultural boogeyman Anton Szandor LaVey on the 20th anniversary of his death. Plus: the occult in fashion and a few words with 3teeth frontman Lex. By Sean Plummer, Benoit Black and Andrea Subissati

THE WONDER FEARS The Watcher in the Woods director John Hough takes us back to the Disney movie that traumatized a generation of tots. Plus: a look at Disney’s dark side. By Amy Seidman and Paul Corup

CHAINSAW AND DAVE’S CLASS REUNION Summer School’s lovable gorehounds celebrate 30 years of the characters who made being a horror fan cool. Plus: a dossier of horror devotees. By Jeff Szpirglas and Tal Zimerman


NOTE FROM UNDERGROUND Andrea says hello.

POST-MORTEM Letters from fans, readers and weirdos

DREADLINES News highlights, horror happenings

THE CORONER’S REPORT Weird stats, morbid facts and more

NEEDFUL THINGS Strange trinkets from our bazaar of the bizarre

CINEMACABRE The latest films, the newest DVDs and reissues feat. The Void


BOWEN’S BASEMENT The Horror of Party Beach

BLOOD IN FOUR COLOURS Comics feat. Not Drunk Enough

THE NINTH CIRCLE Book reviews feat. John Cornell’s Chalk

THE FRIGHT GALLERY The spooky works of Eric Millen

THE GORE-MET Human Pork Chop and Dr. Lamb

AUDIO DROME Music reviews feat. new album from Ghoultown

PLAY DEAD Game reviews feat. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

CLASSIC CUT The Cat and the Canary

Source and Buying Info:

Is There Really a Portal to Hell?

the-path-towards-a-portal-to-hellEditor: Woody Dexter. Photo credit: flickr/steviesteves. Text source: TheLineUp.

“What I am about to share is more real than any of the haunted stories you might hear – it’s much worse! Some might say that it was a hallucination, others might say that I’m insane. Maybe it’s both, but it did happen. I nearly didn’t share this story as I’m concerned about the effects it may have on those who may ever find themselves in the same position I was. But, I know it will serve to help them, should that be the case.

So, here goes…

Having isolated myself from friends and family after losing a job many years ago, I morphed into an angry woman. Slowly and surely, I descended into a mental state where fury and hatred colored all my interactions with other people.

It started when I had another argument with my neighbor, during which I ‘blew my stack’ and swore I’d ‘deal’ with him. I had become very threatening without a hint of remorse. I felt like I’d been possessed by a demon. I’m usually quite mild mannered. So I left the house after the argument to take a ‘cooling off’ walk.

There’s a greenway close to where we live; and soon I was trodding along its path, fuming and storming, swearing all sorts of negativity into the air. I was angry and self-focused, that I failed to notice that the path, which gradually curved at a point that I was coming to, in fact didn’t curve there as it should have. I just get going straight following what must have been some kind of hallucination—ater all I was asking for it, the way I was carrying on so preoccupied with venomous hate.

Every step filled my mind with obsessive, murderous thoughts—like I was forming a mental ‘hit-list’ about who I wanted to destroy. That’s some powerful juju. And I wish now that I had known better that day.

I went walking along in my own little cyclone, watching my feet stomp on the dirt path, when I suddenly looked up. Straight ahead of me, something seemed to be burning. Out of curiousity, I assume, I slowed, but kept walking, squinting my eyes in disbelief.

I know there will be skeptics, but what I saw was a round burning opening at the ‘end’ of the path (where no end should be). I stopped. I could feel the devastating heat spewing out of this fiery portal, and I shielded my eyes from it with my arm. It was like a hole in the air, and it was on fire—no doubt about that. It was a perfect hellish circle!

I should have stopped, turned, and run the other way. Or stay still out of shock if nothing else. Wasn’t it just the sun setting through the treeline at the end of the path? I wasn’t myself though, as I ave already mentioned, and my anger and hate felt more and more like apathy and I remember feeling as though I was slipping out of reality and into some horrifying trance. My dark mind propelled me forward. It was like being drawn into the pit of Hell; it was so hot that I felt the sweat beading on and dripping own my forehead and back. Just then, images of torture, horror and murder began to fill my head in ways I do not think I was capable of imaging. And that scared me. I tried to block them out, but I felt drugged.

As I got closer, I could see actual balls of fire being flung from out of the portal, one of them landing only a couple yards in front of me. When it landed, it moved, like it was standing up, and growing, a flame at first that quickly formed into a hideous shape! I have heard of demons before, since I had been a child, since we had been avid church-goers. Whatever this was, it seemed to be waving me TOWARD it, encouraging me to keep going, moving its way closer and closer to the burning portal. I could even see it leaping from the ground and twisting its flaming face into a look of sheer glee, when I noticed I was moving toward it! And I couldn’t stop this time!

Getting closer to the fiery circle, I began seeing the detailed, horrific images in my mind of all the people on which I had wanted to inflict serious pain and suffering. I saw one neighbor scream in terror as flames consumed him. And my boss crying and writhing on the office floor in torturous agony. Laughing like a madwoman, I watched as all the people that had done me wrong in my life were picked off one by one – and destroyed in flames.

I could feel my slathering mouth hanging agape at all the hellish imagery and my hands rubbing together excitedly. I looked into the portal and felt the blistering heat on my face as millions of screaming souls echoed within what sounded like a giant cavern. Then, I saw a face there in the fire. It was the face of my mother. She was crying, calling out for me by name; she was pleading with me to turn the other way, to get away before I, too, was dragged into the infernal void.

Everything became crystal clear to me. I tried to pull away, but I felt burning hands pushing me forward from behind, and pulling me from inside the portal. A voice that sounded monstrous, warbled, like more than one voice being played simultaneously, but each on a different tapeplayer: ‘YOU WILL ENTER.’ it said. And it repeated those three words multiple times. Just before everything went dark I swear I saw the most horrifying face I’d ever seen. In my gut, I knew whose face it had been. I will never forget the sound of the laughter surrounding those last couple moments. And that face, charred dark as ash.

I must have lost consciousness. I didn’t know how long I had been laying there on the dirt path, when a fellow walker, found me. I screamed to the heavens, pleading for help and forgiveness! I promised to change my ways! The walker looked at me win disbelief. Thirty minutes later, I was back home, resting thanks to that kindhearted neighbor. I knew that I had to make amends and forgive those who trespassed and hurt me. And so I started with her.

Later that night, I had a dream. I saw everyone that I had seen burning in those horrid day-nightmares before the burning hole (which, ironically was never seen by another, and never appeared to me again) now covered in light. I saw light lift them up and out of my murderous thoughts, as out of deep, dark wells in the earth. And when they were gone, I felt a coolness spread through me.

You can, of course, believe what you choose to believe. When I came to, I, however, realized that I had just barely escaped a living hell—of my own making perhaps; but a hell nonetheless; and instead of succumbing, I was granted grace…a Heavenly reprieve; and realizing the sheer terror and mercy involved in the experience, I lay there in the darkness of my bedroom, weeping tears of joy.”

– Anonymous

Return of the Swallows, a Creepy Short Story by Norman Prentiss—Part of His “Apocolypse a Day” Blog Series…


Return of the Swallows

Every year, at the end of a week of festivities, a flock of migratory swallows used to arrive at the Great Stone Church in San Juan Capistrano, greeted with cheers from sightseers. The sky was black with the shapes of birds returning from winter in Goya, Argentina. The swallows built nests beneath the arches and eaves of the ruined church.

In recent years, few swallows came to the Mission San Juan Capistrano. Restoration of parts of the ruined church destroyed many nests and nesting places. Man-made nests were placed beneath a prominent archway, hoping to tempt annual visitors, but the effort failed.

The celebrations continue, however. Tourists from all over gather to celebrate the week-long Fiesta de las Golondrinas, and on March 19 (the feast of St. Joseph), mariachi bands and Spanish and Native American dancers entertain the vast crowd. At noon, a bell-ringing ceremony commences, calling the birds. Perhaps a few will come, but never in the tremendous numbers of the past.

“We are always looking for them,” a resident says this year, her face brimming with unfounded hope.

Tourists turn to the bank of bell towers, raising their phones to record the clamor. They photograph the swinging ropes, the clappers striking metal bells, the scenic sun-dappled stone of the ruined church, but few of them bother to look to the sky.

A shadow falls over the Mission, darkening the images on camera and cell phone screens. A distant, overhead squawking begins to soar over the clamor of the bells.

“They’re back,” someone yells, and cameras and phones swivel, necks crane upward.

Like in years past, like in the famous song, the swallows come back to Capistrano.

The sky is almost entirely black, but it is a black that ripples like an ocean. Wings flap, and the cry of multiple birds is so loud that many tourists cover their ears. The bellringers stop pulling the ropes, so the birds make the only sound.

It is not a birdsong or mating call. The birds sound angry.

“This is more than I remember,” an old gentleman remarks. “Many, many more.”

It’s as if there is not enough room in the sky. The birds fight for space, and the dark ocean of feathers seethes with violent waves.

A group of tourists scream and jump away from where they’ve been standing. On the ground, a dying bird flaps its wings. Its eyes have been pecked out. The feather pattern, usually a mix of grays with white patches, is entirely dark with grime, as if the bird has been rolled in tar or oil. The bird has four legs that struggle in the air as it dies.

Other birds begin to fall from the sky, their grime-soaked bodies pecked and bleeding, some with two eyes pecked out, but another pair above, blinking; most with extra legs, a few with an extra head.

Tourists and locals alike seek shelter amid the ruined stones of the Mission, unaware what disaster struck in the southern hemisphere…only to migrate here in a dark, bilious cloud, then continue to spread as dead and dying birds rain onto the church courtyard.

– Norman Prentiss, March 19, 2017

Read More of Norman Prentiss’ Horror Fiction here…

The Far Away Country, an Irish Poem by Nora Hopper Chesson


Far away’s the country where I desire to go,
Far away’s the country where the blue roses grow,
Far away’s the country and very far away,
And who would travel thither must go ‘twixt night and day.

Far away’s the country, and the seas are wild
That you must voyage over, grown man or chrisom child,
O’er leagues of land and water a weary way you’ll go
Before you’ll find the country where the blue roses grow.

But O, and O, the roses are very strange and fair,
You’d travel far to see them, and one might die to wear,
Yet, far away’s the country, and perilous the sea,
And some may think far fairer the red rose on her tree.

Far away’s the country, and strange the way to fare,
Far away’s the country–O would that I were there!
It’s on and on past Whinny Muir and over Brig o’ Dread.
And you shall pluck blue roses the day that you are dead.

[From The Haunted Hour, an Anthology Compiled by Margaret Widdemer, Harcourt, Brace and Howe, New York, 1920. Public Domain.]

The Roost, a Pretty Cool Ti West “Retro-Horror” Film

MV5BMTczMzIzMTczN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDgwNjYzMQ@@._V1_‘These days, it’s extremely rare that an internship will lead to a full-time job. It’s rarer still, as an aspiring filmmaker, for an internship to lead directly to your first professional directing effort. However, that’s what happened with director Ti West, who interned under producer/actor Larry Fessenden’s Glass Eye Pix. Fessenden was impressed by West’s student films, so when West pitched him a feature idea about a pack of killer bats called THE ROOST, Fessenden was quick to come onboard as executive producer. Released in 2005 with intentions as a modest, low-budget throwback to cheesy horror films from the 1980’s, THE ROOST exceeded all expectations. West’s confident direction propelled it to a warm reception at various film festivals, effectively launching his career as a feature filmmaker worth watching.

THE ROOST follows four friends driving through dark woods en route to a Halloween wedding, when suddenly a renegade bat surprises them and causes the car to swerve into a ditch. Unable to free the car, the friends set off into the night to search for help. They come across a dilapidated barn and take shelter from the elements, but it’s not long until they discover that they’ve wandered directly into the bats’ roost, and their bite has the power to turn the bitten into bloodthirsty zombies.

One of the film’s peculiar quirks is the use of a framing device that resembles those late-night horror movie presentations introduced by a ghoulish host. West’s fictional show, which he calls Frightmare Theatre, places the macabre host inside of a chintzy, gothic castle and takes time out of THE ROOST’s narrative so that he can crack blackly humorous jokes. This bookending conceit boasts the film’s one recognizable face, in the form of Tom Noonan (famous for his portrayal of The Tooth Fairy in Michael Mann’s classic MANHUNTER (1986). Noonan is pitch perfect as the droll, Vincent Price-esque Master of Ceremonies, his naturally-gangly physicality adding to the cheesy spookiness on display. Securing the services of Noonan was THE ROOST’s ultimate coup, as his name brought a great deal of legitimacy to West’s efforts.

The cast inside of THE ROOST’s main narrative doesn’t fare as well, unfortunately. West casts a quartet of unknowns (Karl Jacob, Vanessa Horneff, Sean Reid, and Will Horneff) that are most likely friends of his from film school or from local auditions. The characters are standard horror archetypes: the bookish nerd, the sassy girl, the stubborn stoner, and the virtuous alpha male. Not a lot is required of the actors other than to scream and run on cue, which to be fair, they all do effectively. Otherwise, the performances are wooden and uninspired. There’s a reason why none of them broke out along with West in the wake of the film’s success. On the brighter side, Fessenden himself appears towards the end in a cameo as a tow-truck driver attacked by the flock of bats.

MV5BMjA4Njk5MzM0NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTgzNTYyMQ@@._V1_Of the filmmakers in my generation, West is unique in that he mostly shoots on film. Since he’s also shot a feature on video, I don’t think he necessarily prefers film to video, but I do think his old-fashioned aesthetic demands film because video can’t replicate it (at least it couldn’t when THE ROOST was made). West is a capable cinematographer in his own right, but he’s probably like me in that his shooting on actual film tests the limits of his skills when he’s also directing. The mechanics and mathematic calculations inherent in film is best left to a dedicated cinematographer, so West entrusts the Super 16mm photography to DP Eric Robbins. The aesthetic of THE ROOST is relatively unadorned, with the majority of camerawork being handheld. Robbins’ lighting setup is low-key, with lurid colors similar to the carnival-esque aesthetic of Rob Zombie’s HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (2003). It embraces the lo-fi natures of 16mm film, creating a similar look to the heyday of VHS horror. The color red is used specifically for effect, popping out of the darkness and flashed in gory freeze frames. The Frighthouse Theatre segment gets its own particular look, with black and white photography filtered to resemble an old TV broadcast. Production Designer David Bell populates the set with loads of cheesy gothic objects and dressing, completing West’s tongue-in-macabre-cheek vision.

West also incorporates storytelling elements whose influence comes from unexpected places, like Michael Haneke’s FUNNY GAMES (1997). Three quarters of the way through the film, the story abruptly ends with the surviving characters giving up and accepting their fate. Noonan’s unhappy host returns, expressing his disapproval of the ending, so he actually rewinds the film and plays it back to show the alternate, definitive ending. Haneke did the same thing in his film, toying with his audience by presenting false hope only to snatch defeat from the jaws of triumph.

Composer Jeff Grace also received a modest breakout with THE ROOST, having previously assisted Howard Shore in his work on THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY for Peter Jackson and GANGS OF NEW YORK for Martin Scorsese. He crafts an ominous, discordant suite of cues where shrieking string instruments evoke the terror of killer bats. He also uses a gothic organ in the Frighmare Theatre scenes that further lends to the intended cheesiness. Diagetically, West incorporates a few underground punk songs into the mix, giving us a little view into his own particular musical tastes. The sound mix as a whole is incredibly strong for a film this low-budget. Graham Reznick serves as the sound designer, turning in what would be the first of many mixes he’d create for West over the years.

THE ROOST immediately differentiates itself from other indie horror films because of its old-school aesthetic. While most directors of our generation are trying to make slick, glossy horror films with digital cameras, West is appropriating the look of a by-gone era and making it his own. There’s a distinct charm in his approach, a palpable soul. In taking this old-school approach, the evidence of West’s craft and direction becomes more visible. Filmed mainly in West’s native Delaware, THE ROOST is the first appearance of a peculiar signature of West’s, namely that the story revolves around a singular locale. This signature may be borne out of the needs of low-budget indie filmmaking where the locations budget is sorely lacking, but in THE ROOST, West uses it to his advantage to paint a compelling portrait of the abandoned barn in which our characters take refuge.

THE ROOST is stuffed with references to various non-filmic Halloween-time media traditions, like spooky radio shows and the aforementioned Frightmare Theatre presentation. It’s difficult to tell how much—if any—inspiration is sourced from Zombie’s HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, which was a similarly old-fashioned horror jaunt that premiered only two years prior to production on THE ROOST. Knowing their shared affinity for 80’s horror, it’s unlikely that West didn’t like Zombie’s film—which makes the similarities to Zombie’s own debut hard to ignore. For example, both films open with the cheesy, late-night Frightmare Theatre conceit.


DVD Cover

THE ROOST leveraged Fessenden’s name to draw attention to itself during its South by Southwest festival premiere. But once West filled out the auditorium, attention shifted directly on him, with several critics and horror blogs naming THE ROOST as one of the best films of the year. Now, THE ROOST isn’t a great film by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a serviceable entry in the genre, mostly notable for that fact that it is West’s debut. His direction shows the signs of a young filmmaker, frequently indulging in awkward, unnecessary exposition. But with his effective direction of the horror sequences and convincing visual effects, West is able to hit where it really counts. The film was eventually picked up for distribution by Showtime—quite the feat for any aspiring filmmaker. With the success of THE ROOST, West had staked his territory in the genre and established himself as a director to watch.

THE ROOST is currently available on standard definition DVD via Showtime Entertainment.’