In honor of Halloween, we're kicking off a new series this month, "Masters of Literary Horror", where we review various short stories and novels of the horror/mystery/thriller genre. We'll be covering works by writers past and present, so if we miss any, let us know!
First up is Edgar Allan Poe's classic "The Fall of the House of Usher", and boy, is this a scary one! First published in slightly different form in 1839, "Usher" follows an unnamed narrator who's visting his childhood pal Roderick Usher. Roderick, who's really hypersensitive to light and sounds, lives in a crumbling mansion that seems to get worse and worse. Roderick's sister Madeline also has her own troubles, as she goes into death-like comas due to her catalepsy. Then one day, some weeks later, Roderick tells the narrator (who's decided to stay and help out Roderick while the latter gets over some kind of illness) that Madeline has passed away. Roderick and the narrator entomb Madeline's body in the family crypt (back then, everybody had one), despite the narrator's noticing that Madeline looks very rosy... Meanwhile, the house seems to be making more and more noise...
"The Fall of the House of Usher" is a great moody, downbeat masterpiece. From the opening sequence, when the narrator rides toward the Usher castle/mansion while noticing all the decayed trees and vegetation, to the frightening climax in which Roderick reveals his horrible secret as the house seems to grind and crumble, "Usher" grabs you and holds you for the whole terrifying ride.
But don't go by me. Check out the story yourself by reading one of the many collections it's in (that we carry) by clicking here. And if the story doesn't frighten you, well, then, you know the sounds you hear at night afterwards are just the shutters banging on the house.
Oh? You don't have shutters...?
(Thanks to this book for the shutters gag.)