Author Topic: Horror stories of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu  (Read 918 times)

Horror stories of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
« on: January 19, 2018, 10:54:35 AM »
Anyone read this chap from the 19th century, started writing ghost stories in semi-reclusion when his wife died?  I'm mostly done with a second crack at the M.R James edited Madam Crowl's Ghost and Other Stories and I don't know why I didn't enjoy it the first time round*, because there's some corkers in here. 

They are almost entirely ghost stories set in Dublin or rural Ireland.  Generally they stick quite closely to the traditional ghost story structure, often with the familiarly moral dimension of a phantom returning to haunt the one that has wronged them, but the atmosphere is so thick and menacing, and the revenants have some unusual and sinister aspects to them.  Once I learned to slow down and soak them in they've really started to get under my skin.  The descriptions of the Irish countryside I also find eerily beautiful.

Squire Toby's Will builds to a house haunting which gets pretty damned creepy towards the end. No spoilers, but there's something about second-hand descriptions of the paranormal by characters in a story that I find quite unnerving.

The Child That Went With The Fairies has got a paranormal encounter with a few bizarre details that remain deliciously unexplained.

In Ghost Stories of Chapelizod there's a description of a spirit which I think nicely sums up what I'm enjoying about these:

Quote
"Let me in, let me in, for God's sake; Molly, open the door," he cried, as he ran to the threshold, and leant his back against the plank. His pursuer confronted him upon the road; the pipe was no longer in his mouth, but the dusky red glow still lingered round him. He uttered some inarticulate cavernous sounds, which were wolfish and indescribable, while he seemed employed in pouring out a glass from the bottle.

Love that description of those bedamned noises.  I can hear it but I can't hear it.  It seems almost Lovecraft before Lovecraft.   While these stories generally don't have that what-the-fuck factor you'll get with M.R. James at his best, I'd urge anyone that likes MRJ to check them out.  I'm going to order the In A Glass Darkly collection when I get paid too.

*I  think I do know why - the phonetically written rural irish dialects and slang are laid on pretty thick, and that was a barrier for the first time I attempted these for some reason.

BlodwynPig

  • Throwing two dogs at a goblin
Re: Horror stories of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2018, 12:31:48 PM »
I've read Uncle Silas and Carmilla (decent vampire one and I assume inspiring the lesbian comedy youtube series of the same name). Although, as you say, not as twisty as others in the genre, they are well written and the right side of gothic.

Glebe

  • So here we are, then.
Re: Horror stories of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2018, 09:17:03 PM »
I've read Carmilla. 'Twas pretty good.

Sin Agog

  • Dogs fucked the pope; no fault of mine
Re: Horror stories of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2018, 04:36:35 AM »
He's great.  I read a few isolated stories, like Carmilla, only to read them again once I found out that they were thinly connected together as the "cases" of a metaphysical doctor (lot of those types in gothic horror writing, what with Algernon Blackwood's Dr John Silence and William Hope Hodgson's Dr. Carnacki and the like). Melmoth the Wanderer is, for me, the peak of Irish gothic horror writing, though.  Lawdie, there's more substance in one of Maturin's cast-off sentences than can be found in most entire novels.

Re: Horror stories of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2018, 11:44:17 AM »
Melmoth the Wanderer is, for me, the peak of Irish gothic horror writing, though.  Lawdie, there's more substance in one of Maturin's cast-off sentences than can be found in most entire novels.

Wow, just read a synopsis of this and it sounds amazing.  Tell me a bit more?

BlodwynPig

  • Throwing two dogs at a goblin
Re: Horror stories of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2018, 03:08:07 PM »
Who wrote the story about a pair of hunters/explorers in North West Ireland who stumble across something deeply disturbing in the wilds near a remote village?

Sin Agog

  • Dogs fucked the pope; no fault of mine
Re: Horror stories of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2018, 03:26:13 PM »
Wow, just read a synopsis of this and it sounds amazing.  Tell me a bit more?

It's more of a philosophy book masquerading as a gothic horror than Le Fanu's comparatively pithy style.  I think Maturin was initially using his book as an opportunity to pick a bone against the Jesuits/Catholics, but it springboarded into a sprawling masterpiece, with Sinbad-esque stories within stories of encounters with this Wandering Jew-crossed with-Faust misanthropist who sucks the air out of the room wherever he goes, and who, burdened with eternal existence, attempts to convince others to lift his curse and live forever by spouting Dostoyevskian rants about man's venal nature.  It's the kind of book you bask in more than read.

Who wrote the story about a pair of hunters/explorers in North West Ireland who stumble across something deeply disturbing in the wilds near a remote village?

William Hope Hodgson's House on the Borderland.  That house is then sent through to some liminal netherworld where it gets besieged by pig monsters.  He was a weird dude- a bit like that Charles Atlas guy, he was a hunky Essex bloke who wanted to transform England into a race of bodybuilding supermen, but then settled on channeling racial memories of the end of the world and writing them in shoddy faux-medievalese just for us.  The Night Land's my favourite, though most people I know think it's barely readable.  Amateurs.  When you're delving into weird fiction, you'll often find it's the people blessed with the richest imaginations who have the most awkward writing styles, but personally I think that just adds to the sense of otherness, and compared to The Night Land and some of his nautical screeds Borderland's pretty easy going.  There's a fun/goofy Hammer Horror called The Lost Continent that was unofficially adapted from one of his short stories about people turning into fungus monsters in a makeshift island of ships out in the Sargasso Sea.

BlodwynPig

  • Throwing two dogs at a goblin
Re: Horror stories of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2018, 04:16:45 PM »
It's more of a philosophy book masquerading as a gothic horror than Le Fanu's comparatively pithy style.  I think Maturin was initially using his book as an opportunity to pick a bone against the Jesuits/Catholics, but it springboarded into a sprawling masterpiece, with Sinbad-esque stories within stories of encounters with this Wandering Jew-crossed with-Faust misanthropist who sucks the air out of the room wherever he goes, and who, burdened with eternal existence, attempts to convince others to lift his curse and live forever by spouting Dostoyevskian rants about man's venal nature.  It's the kind of book you bask in more than read.

William Hope Hodgson's House on the Borderland.  That house is then sent through to some liminal netherworld where it gets besieged by pig monsters.  He was a weird dude- a bit like that Charles Atlas guy, he was a hunky Essex bloke who wanted to transform England into a race of bodybuilding supermen, but then settled on channeling racial memories of the end of the world and writing them in shoddy faux-medievalese just for us.  The Night Land's my favourite, though most people I know think it's barely readable.  Amateurs.  When you're delving into weird fiction, you'll often find it's the people blessed with the richest imaginations who have the most awkward writing styles, but personally I think that just adds to the sense of otherness, and compared to The Night Land and some of his nautical screeds Borderland's pretty easy going.  There's a fun/goofy Hammer Horror called The Lost Continent that was unofficially adapted from one of his short stories about people turning into fungus monsters in a makeshift island of ships out in the Sargasso Sea.

Yep, my brain is dead. We talked about it in another thread.

BlodwynPig

  • Throwing two dogs at a goblin
Re: Horror stories of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2018, 04:18:18 PM »
Wasn't the fungus monster story actually called Sargasso Sea or just Sargasso?

Sin Agog

  • Dogs fucked the pope; no fault of mine
Re: Horror stories of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2018, 04:21:33 PM »
I think that thread may have been blitzed a couple of months back when CAB was doing some updates.

This is the one: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10256532-the-voice-in-the-night

It's pretty short so if anyone wants to read it online, here it is.

Today the Sargasso Sea's mostly full of Evian bottles, which isn't quite so creepy though arguably more horrifying.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2018, 04:45:18 PM by Sin Agog »

BlodwynPig

  • Throwing two dogs at a goblin
Re: Horror stories of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2018, 07:13:26 PM »
ah, he wrote a number of tales involving the Sargasso Sea, I think this was mentioned in the prelude to a compendium I read

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30240720-the-thing-in-the-weeds-and-other-tales-of-the-tideless-sea-annotated

Sin Agog

  • Dogs fucked the pope; no fault of mine
Re: Horror stories of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2018, 07:33:31 PM »
Nice.  Never read/heard of any of those.  I live on a boat that's constantly wracked with eerie winds, and my neighbour often puts on their underwater lights, only for all these hideous, glutinous creatures to emerge and start a feeding frenzy.  I can dig his sea stories.  Cheers for the heads up.

Sorry for derailing another thread.  I think I have thread ADD.  I love the 1947 British adaptation of Uncle Silas.  'course, it's creakier than the book, but the set design and shadowplay and over the top acting is great. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgljMtLsewA