Check out these books, Poe short stories for Halloween chills

  1. “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” by Edgar Allan Poe. “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” is one of the works that no doubt earned Poe the affectionate nickname of “master of horror.” A thrilling tale of madness, mystery and curious intrigue, “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” has you standing on edge up until the very last sentence. Like most works of Poe’s, “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” isn’t very long, and at an average reading speed of 30 wpm would only take about 34 minutes to read. The story without sharing too much is as follows. The story follows an unnamed narrator who visits a mental institution in southern France known for a revolutionary new method of treating mental illnesses called the “system of soothing.” He travels with an unnamed companion who is familiar with the man that had developed the treatment. The man brings our narrator to the hospital, makes introductions and then makes himself scarce. As our narrator tours the grounds, we learn the hospital is not as we expected, with treatments being dismissed and patients being allowed to roam about. The narrator tours the grounds of the hospital and is invited to dinner, where he is joined by 25 to 30 other people and a large, lavish spread of food. As he sits through the dinner, the narrator says that there is much of the “bizarre” about everything at the dinner. Conversation, as they eat, focuses on the patients they have been treating, and as the dinner continues, a nasty surprise ruins everyone’s appetites. If you want to find out what happens grab a copy/PDF of “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” either in the high school or public library. 
  2. Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott is a fantastic book for people who love stories that make their stomachs churn with grief and disgust. While the book is not written in a traditionally gothic style, it holds the same gut-wrenching animalistic depravity of many novels of the genre. Living Dead Girl details the dark story about the kidnapping and systematic sexual and emotional abuse of a young girl at the hands of a pedophilic psychopath. The story follows “Alice” five years after her kidnapping, and we watch as she begins to test limits with her attacker. She is now 15 and is still living with Ray, her abductor. They pose as father and daughter, though they have no connections to anyone in the outside world. During this time, he has deprived her of food to keep her frozen in her childlike body, dresses her in childlike clothing and has raped her every day. Ray also makes her sit in a chair as punishment when she is “bad.” Alice refers to herself as the “Living Dead Girl.” She is numb on the inside and is looking forward to the day when Ray will finally kill her. Alice now hopes for death, rather than for escape. One day, Ray tells Alice he wants her to find him a “New Alice” for him. At first, Alice hopes that if she does, he will free her, or at least finally put her out of her misery. Instead, Ray tells her that she will train the new Alice to his liking, but can she bring herself to do it? Will she damn another girl to this life just so that she can go free? If you want to find out, read Living Dead Girl, which can be found in the high school’s library.
  3. “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe. Of course, when talking about gothic literature, you have to bring up Poe, and so you will likely bring up multiple of his stories. While more famous than the other works on this list, “The Cask of Amontillado” is still one of Poe’s more haunting works. The story’s narrator, Montresor, tells an unspecified person, who knows him very well, of the day he took his revenge on Fortunato (Italian for “the fortunate one”), a fellow nobleman. Angry over numerous injuries and some unspecified insult, Montresor plots to murder his “friend” during Carnival, while the man is drunk, dizzy and wearing a jester’s costume. Montresor lures Fortunato into a private wine-tasting excursion by telling him he has obtained a pipe (about 130 gallons, or 492 liters) of what he believes to be a rare vintage of Amontillado. He proposes obtaining confirmation of the pipe’s contents by inviting a fellow wine aficionado, Luchesi, for a private tasting. However, as the two men travel along to the chamber in which the wine cellar lays, an air of betrayal builds, but surely nothing bad will happen, right? Oh well. To find out what happens, read “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe, found in the high school, public and online libraries. 
  4. Flowers in The Attic by V. C. Andrews. Andrews’ Flowers in The Attic is a strange tale that depicts a family spiraling into chaos, calamity and catastrophe. The plot without revealing everything that makes it worth reading is as follows. In 1957, the Dollanganger family—father Christopher, mother Corinne, 14-year-old Chris, 12-year-old Cathy and 5-year-old twins Carrie and Cory—lives an idyllic life in Gladstone, Penn., until Christopher is killed in a car accident, leaving Corinne deep in debt with no means to support her children. On the verge of their home being foreclosed, Corinne reveals to the children that as a young woman, her marriage to Christopher so offended her multimillionaire father Malcolm Foxworth that he disinherited her. Now the elderly Malcolm is dying of heart disease, and Corinne intends to return to her childhood home of Foxworth Hall in Virginia to win back her father’s affection in time to be reinstated into his will. Because Malcolm is unaware that Corinne had children by her marriage to Christopher, the children must hide in a secluded upstairs room of the enormous Foxworth Hall until Corinne can break the news to her father. She assures the children that they will only be in the room for a few days. At Foxworth Hall, Corinne’s mother (called only “the grandmother”) locks the children into a bedroom connected to the house’s large attic. The grandmother forces Corinne to reveal the reason for her disinheritance was that Christopher was Malcolm’s younger half-brother, and thus Corinne’s half-uncle and that the children are the products of incest. The grandmother believes the children are “the Devil’s spawn” and is obsessed with the idea of incest, forbidding all contact between opposite genders, while prohibiting the children from making noise or opening the room’s windows. Only in the attic are they free to play. Cathy and Chris attempt to make the best of the situation by decorating the attic with paper flowers to create an imaginary garden for the twins. The grandmother comes every morning with a picnic basket filled with the day’s food and interrogates the children about their modesty and piety, questions the children are too innocent to fully understand. Initially, their mother visits multiple times per day, bringing toys and gifts, but over time, her visits grow sporadic. After months have passed, Cathy and Chris confront her, as she promised they would be freed in only a few days. Corinne finally confesses that they must remain in the room until their grandfather dies. So do the children ever get to see the light of day again, and will their grandfather give their mother the money? To find out read Flowers in The Attic, which can be found in our high school and public library.
  5. “Hop-Frog” by Edgar Allan Poe. Our final gory story this week is “Hop-Frog,” also from the famous master of horror. The story is by far less gruesome than his other works, but by no means is it less shocking. The court jester Hop-Frog of a vicious king is so-called “Hop-Frog” due to his disabilities. The man has dwarfism and several genetic deformities, and for these reasons has been appointed the much-abused “fool” of the unnamed king. This king has an insatiable sense of humor: “he seemed to live only for joking.” Both Hop-Frog and his best friend, the dancer Trippetta (also small, but beautiful and well-proportioned), have been stolen from their homeland and essentially function as slaves. Because of his physical deformity, which prevents him from walking upright, the King nicknames him “Hop-Frog.” Hop-Frog reacts severely to alcohol, and though the king knows this, he forces Hop-Frog to consume several goblets full. Trippetta begs the king to stop. Though Trippetta is said to be a favorite of his, he pushes her and throws a goblet of wine into her face in front of seven members of his cabinet council. The violent act makes Hop-Frog grind his teeth. The powerful men laugh at the expense of the two servants and ask Hop-Frog (who suddenly becomes sober and cheerful) for advice on an upcoming masquerade. He suggests some very realistic costumes for the men: costumes of orangutans chained together. The men love the idea of scaring their guests and agree to wear tight-fitting shirts and pants saturated with tar and covered with flax. In full costume, the men are then chained together and led into the “grand saloon” of masqueraders just after midnight. As predicted, the guests are shocked and many believe the men to be real “beasts of some kind in reality, if not precisely ourang-outangs.” Many rush for the doors to escape, but the King had insisted the doors be locked; the keys are left with Hop-Frog. To see the travesties that follow, read Hop-Frog, available in our high school and public library.


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