Book Review – Horrifying Tales

Rob takes a look at Greenteeth Press’s latest anthology Horrifying Tales, a collection of stories and poetry inspired by the kids’ TV of the 1970s and 1980s that was supposed to be comforting but actually ended up scaring you silly.

Disclaimer: In the interests of transparency, we must point out that our co-editor Paul Childs has a story in this book, but he has had nothing to do with this review.

As a film fan, I have found myself drawn more and more into the areas of nostalgia, more specifically the nostalgia of the ‘strange and unusual’. The idea of the ghosts of the past, of childhood nightmares and the growing trend of Hauntology, seem to be the aspects that are dominating my reading, watching and general media consumption, a heady mix of melting horror, hooded figures tempting flair wearing children into dark and lonely water or various faceless man staring blankly into a void – this is a world at the moment inhabited by vaporizing gargoyles, maniacal fetish dolls and of hidden apartments atop of blocks of flats.

It is always fantastic when your friend has something published be that a web article, short film or piece of music and I take great pleasure in reading what they have done in an online space. It is even better of course when you see that creative work ‘in the flesh’ as it were – be that between the pages of a magazine or in this case a story written that taps into the current mood of weirdness and it seems that I am not the only one indulging in this fear-invoking ‘hauntological environment’ and that our colleague Paul Childs has also been dabbling in writing up Scarfolkian-influences stories of suspense and surreal supernatural scenarios in this short but decidedly creepy anthology from Greenteeth Press.

The book’s intent is to explore these very things described above, to attune into the weird, the unnerving and to allow the readers to relive those weird and wonderful days when things were not quite as conformed and homogenised as they are now – a time when that local wasteland around the back of the garages near your house was not only an army fort encampment/space-station or mystical of the imagination but also a place to tell tales of strange rituals, untimely accidents or horrifying disfigurements from a story ‘of a story’ of a thing that happened to your cousin’s friend sisters friend that your older brothers had told you in secret told which they swore were true and never should have repeated… but you did (but please don’t tell anyone).

And this is exactly what this book in with Paul’s superb tale ‘The Conductor’ which takes influence from on MR James, Sapphire and Steel and Pubic Information Films does – it’s a portmanteau of the unnerving, of stories, poems and prose influenced by childhood fear and experiences, of that ‘happy’ time watching with mother until that certain song, show or ditty comes on that conjures a sense of unease and relatable nightmare fuel, of folk fused fear that triggers a nostalgic nightmare where Bagpuss’ words are used as words of power, an incantation to invoke the jittering nature of stop motion hoarder and where the cutting of strings of Andy Pandy are far creepier than Ultron’s mechanized carcass reinterpreting the rhymes of Pinocchio.

It might be short but each entry of the book invokes something personal, something dragged out of the psyche of the writer and put into words, a written way of expressing a fear of a time, space and place that was comfortable and loving but at the same time terrifying and sinister – a place of continued blackouts where spiders shifted in the dark.

Overall, as noted this is a quick read, a short sharp shock to the system that evokes the themes and atmosphere of the time and for someone who lived through blackouts and of weird peculiar folkian charm sharing the television screen with grotesques (both human and non-human) and this current trend of returning to these odd unnerving times this little volume sums up the feel perfectly – just don’t go reading it by yourself, at night, after binge-watching Doomwatch.

Horrifying Tales: An Anthology is available to buy now from Greenteeth Press.

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