Horror Corner: June 2023
June 2023 Edition
By Jack Hawthorn, Nikita Imafidon & Christina James
"Children are cruel," we tell our young ones when they come home, battered by bullies in some fashion. And that is true. Children are cruel. The mouths of babes can utter curses just as deadly as any gnarled crone—and catch their victims off guard while doing it.
Within the walls of Carissa Orlando's The September House, there are many children, each more egregiously wounded than the last. And they will be heard. These "pranksters" do not relent.
They are seeking and will not be thwarted. Refuse them, and be driven insane. Heed their calls and see the truth of things that have long been hidden in the dark.
For years, Margaret creates rules to survive the pranksters and their havoc so she doesn't have to abandon the house she loves, or grapple with the root of their presence in the home. The ghosts she brought with her to this house are as ghastly as the children that now beg for her attention. She is familiar with rules.
She creates a delicate choreography, dancing around every problem with calculated grace, for every misstep has grave consequences.
Until the horrors become too many to shoulder while pirouetting.
As the pranksters of The September House are relentless in their pursuit, so too are the twins in "A Better Place," the final story in Ottessa Moshfegh's Homesick For Another World.
Urzula and Waldemar are indeed, homesick for another world,
"How do we get back to the place..."
"Oh, you have to die. Or you have to kill the right person."
Children have a lot of interesting ideas, not all of which are benign. They're like adults in that way.
Who exactly are these children, what do they know, what are they capable of?
Check out the mini-series and see.
(Unrelated, but lesbian gardening. Lesbian gardening! Happy Pride)
No alcohol with this content. Keep your wits about you, these kids are spry.
However, I do recommend eating as many Skittles as you can and trying to remember the darkest aspects of your own inner child. Understanding them may be your best chance at survival.
Leave an offering for them on your porch. A big bowl of Halloween candy should do nicely. King size, or else.
There’s nothing more riveting, disorienting, and suspenseful than paranoia within the horror genre. Books and films that take good advantage of this trope tend to have readers and audiences asking mistrustful questions right along with the characters—Is someone following me? Do they know where I live? Are they out to get me? Was that noise an intruder or simply the house settling? Can I trust my neighbor? Can I trust my own mind?
Japanese author Asa Nonami’s Now You’re One of Us is one of many examples of this effective trope. In this psychological suspense novel, a young woman named Noriko marries into a large wealthy family. Her husband lives with his parents, grandparents, two siblings, and great-grandmother, making a household of 9 altogether including our protagonist. Noriko feels lucky to have married into a family that is so warm, welcoming, and admiring of everything she does. Her new life is almost too good to be true. But then so-called friends of the family die in a terrible incident and Noriko starts to grow suspicious of circumstances that lead back to the household she's become a part of.
This is a book that will have alarm bells ringing in your brain from the very first chapter, a book that will have you suspicious of every character. It’s also an excellent read if you’re personally fond of Japanese fiction.
Now You’re One of Us is a bit reminiscent of dir. Roman Polanski’s Rosemary's Baby (1968)–the story of a young pregnant woman who moves into a new apartment complex with her husband and is taken under the wing of neighbors who have an unusual interest in her unborn child. In both this film and Nonami’s book, audiences are shown a young woman trusting people who claim to have her best interest at heart while also hiding ulterior motives. Both women struggle to be heard and taken seriously in environments where family and friends are supposed to offer safe spaces and thus, self-doubt and paranoia escalate. Because of that, Rosemary’s Baby would make an excellent movie pairing if you’re looking for a media duo with themes of paranoia, gaslighting, suspicion, family, and secrets.
For an anxiety-inducing book/movie pairing such as this, you’re gonna need to wash down a Vodka Blush (vodka, grenadine, fresh lime juice, sprig of rosemary) to keep you relaxed. Ssshhh. No one is out to get you.
Last year, I read Kathleen Hale’s Slenderman. This true crime book analyzes the 2014 Wisconsin case of Anissa and Morgan, two twelve-year-olds who attempted to kill their friend because of creepypasta icon Slenderman, a skinny, tentacled, and faceless kidnapper of kids. Slenderman is said to have originated in the forums of Something Awful, a chronically online website out of Missouri.
The two girls were tormented with the fear of displeasing Slenderman and his reaching tentacles. The paranoia the girls felt is as important as the group paranoia of their town to the case. Judges and community members alike took to labeling these young, mentally unwell kids as masterminds of murder.
The Death of Jane Lawrence by Starling is historical literary horror at its finest. The story follows Jane, an ambitious young woman who marries Dr. Lawrence to maintain an independent lifestyle. The book pivots from a marriage of convenience plot quickly as her feelings for him grow. However, Jane’s paranoia about his morals begins when he bars her from staying at Lindridge Hall, his family manor.
The wildness of Dr. Lawrence’s eyes as he spends his evenings there suggests his own paranoia. Jane wonders as she enters the manor: Could ghosts abound in the house, or is he the source of the evil? Is Jane trapped in her own paranoia or his?
She Dies Tomorrow (2020) is a recent horror that progresses in the unsettling manner of Starling’s writing. We open on a protagonist certain that she will die tomorrow. Like tentacles reaching from Slenderman’s back, her fear spreads through the area, creating a similar certainty among others. Family members, friends, and partners are not safe from fears of impending death, but the audience has no idea if the paranoia holds any truth.
If you find yourself under the spell of paranoia, you may want to try a Corpse Reviver cocktail. A perfect summer option is shaking some gin, lemon juice, a French aperitif like Lillet Blanc, and orange liqueur in a cocktail shaker. Strain the drink into a cocktail glass, and find yourself awake with clarity.
Jack Hawthorn is a human wildfire currently residing in Lawrence, KS. They are the Events Manager and a co-owner of the Raven Book Store. They are passionate about creating/consuming micro-fiction, experimental writing, and all things that go bump in the night. They love their home and their bookstore and hope that you will too. Their work has appeared in Tilted House, Pyre Magazine, and Snarl. More can be found on them at @honeybeehag on Instagram.
Christina James (she/her) is a part-time Bookseller at the Raven Book Store and a Readers’ Services librarian at Lawrence Public Library. She is extremely passionate about spreading the gospel of horror fiction far and wide and you can find her on Instagram at @the_wandering_reader where she's known by her coven of creeps and ghouls as The Spooky Librarian.
Nikita Imafidon (she/her) is the sidelines buyer and a co-owner of the Raven Book Store. She has been a bookseller for three and a half years, and she is an avid reader of graphic novels, social science books, and strange fiction. She is a Black queer embroidery artist with a passion for ephemeral communication, community building, and social justice. Find her work on Instagram at @nikita.the.star
“Why run from a haunted house when you can stay and ignore the ghosts?
A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2017
An electrifying first collection from one of the most exciting short story writers of our time
"I can’t recall the last time I laughed this hard at a book. Simultaneously, I’m shocked and scandalized. She’s brilliant, this young woman."—David Sedaris
In the tradition of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca and Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby, here is a new classic about the bride who's no longer sure what to think. All families have their own rituals, secrets, and credos, like a miniature religious cult; these quirks may elicit the mirth or mild alarm of guests, but the matter is rather more serious if you're marrying into a household.
***AN INSTANT BESTSELLER!***
Best Books of 2021 · NPR
ALA/The Reading List Best Horror 2021 Pick
Longlisted for the Bram Stoker Awards for Superior Achievement in a Novel, 2021
From the Bram Stoker-nominated author of The Luminous Dead comes a gothic fantasy horror—The Death of Jane Lawrence.