Ginger Nuts of Horror
I was always ‘that one’ as a child. The one who had no interest in sports, or cars, or wrestling or any of the other crap I was ‘expected’ to be interested in. However, I was always very much into books. Couldn’t get enough of them. I was above my ‘reading age’, whatever the Hell that concept was about, and constantly being given more and more to read from teachers eager to nurture whatever they thought they were nurturing. Except they always gave me stuff I hated. Stories about kids catching smugglers or going for picnics with their dog? Seriously? Even at six years old, I couldn’t have given less of a shit if I’d had chronic constipation.
Then one day, my mom bought me the book pictured above. The kind that, back in the 80s, you could pick up from one of those swivelling book racks for about two quid. As I recall we got this from either the post office or a chemist. I can’t actually recall which. But I was draw to it and my mom, never one to put me off anything I showed genuine interest in, bought it right away. I must have read it about fifty times as a child. It was just the perfect book for me. It was eerie, thought-provoking, and most importantly of all: it didn't feel as though it was written for children. Even at six years old I hated the patronising voices of things that were done ‘for children’. It just used to aggravate me.
You can write/produce/present things for children without being patronising, yet many fail at it. This book didn’t.
Despite how much I treasured it…..and I will go into what the book is about in a minute, please bear with me…… I forgot about it when I moved out from my family home. My mom tends to hoard books, a lot like me, as though they represent a lifetime’s journey. Never sells them, never gives them away, just stacks them on racks and shelves and in the loft. I’ve inherited that trait and charity shops be damned, I like it that way. But in the absence of my pile of childhood books to glance over, this book slipped my mind over the years. Until I saw lots of folk posting these ‘The Book That Made Me’ entries. That got me thinking. What DID get me into horror? And that brings us back to Ghostly Tales.
The book is three short ghost stories, told with beautiful artwork. The stories aren’t connected, and they’re not even of the same style. But all three of them represent different types of horror, that runs deeper than you might expect for a book like this. But then, as I said earlier, it’s not written in a patronising ‘for children’ type way. As I was reminded when I dug it out and read it again prior to writing this entry for Jim’s site…..they are basically bloody good stories.
The first is a Poe-style story about ‘make the slightest mistake and bad shit will happen to you forever’. A guy buys a farm that, the locals warn him, comes with its own goblin. A goblin that has to be respected and fed how and when it wants. Naturally the guy who buys the farm dismisses this as a load of local horseshit (who wouldn’t?) and then the inevitable ensues. The goblin proceeds to drive him from both his home and his mind. It’s a cautionary tale that goes to an extreme for its poor protagonist. Gothic horror at its simplest.
Next up is story about witchcraft and shapeshifting. It’s a bit of an odd one, but it manages to be the most chilling, somehow. There’s regular hunts in the area where people chase rabbits, and a local lad…… whom everyone finds a bit odd……seems concerned about one particular rabbit they’ve been hunting. The huntsmen shoot the rabbit in the foot, and later on we see the weird lad tending to his weirder Gran….. who now has a wound on her foot. And she has funny eyes and long teeth.
That’s about it. No explanation, no deeper meaning. Just ‘weird shit happens’. I find that the most creepy somehow.
Finally there’s the story about a lonely lady and her bloody massive dog, that follows her everywhere and is loyal as they come. She’s a travelling Doctor so walks across the moors alone at night to see her patients quite often. The dog comes along and everyone knows it. The dog dies, naturally, and one night afterwards she is followed and nearly attacked by a mugger. She ends up tending to him at a police station when he gets injured in another robbery attempt, and when she asks why he didn’t attack her he replies; ‘I wasn’t going near you with that massive dog next to you.’ The story ends with a shot of the lady sat by her fireplace, and there’s a shadow on the wall of a bloody great dog. This was always, and still is, my favourite. It’s the type of ghost story that most inspired my own, twenty years later when I would decide to become an author. The idea that the dead are still here, but have a reason to be, such as it is. That they have a purpose, that they can continue as they did in life. Not just randomly, but with intention and will. That always spoke to me, and it’s a theme that runs very strongly through my own stories
I always loved ghosts and monsters and the supernatural as a child, but this is the first book I remember reading as a child. I remember, when I got a little older, my Grandma reading me Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. She’s German and has an accent and I defy anyone with an English accent to do a better reading of it than that. Since then I went on to read every horror book that took my fancy, and nothing’s changed. But it all started with this simple, beautiful two quid book that I found on a swivel rack. I’m glad I found it then, and I’m glad I rediscovered it now so I could write this article about it.
So remember the lessons to be learned from this book: If you have a Goblin then follow the rules for keeping it happy. Don’t shoot rabbits as they might be witches. And don’t mug people who have big ghost dogs following them about. Mug someone else instead. Make the world a better place.
PS: You can get this book online now for about £3, so I’d strongly recommend it if you’re even remotely interested.
PPS: I don’t condone mugging people.
Lex is the author of ‘The Other Side of the Mirror’ and the ‘Harkins’ book series, currently available on the Kindle (and hopefully in print at some point soon.) He is a regular contributor to the Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog, and has been interviewed on various radio stations and websites talking about whatever random horror-related crap he could get away with waffling on about.
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