Christine Bernard (ed.) - The 3rd Fontana Book Of Great Horror Stories (Fontana, March 1968)
"Spine chilling horror! 11 grisly masterpieces of the macabre!"
R. C. Cook - Green Fingers Stanley Ellin - The Speciality Of The House E. F. Benson - The Room In The Tower David Ely - The Academy J. D. Beresford - Cut-throat Farm Henry James - The Romance Of Certain Old Clothes Roald Dahl - Poison H. R. Wakefield - Lucky's Grove R. Chetwynd-Hayes - Housebound H. P. Lovecraft & August Derleth - The Shuttered Room Rudyard Kipling - At The End Of The Passage
R. C. Cook - Green Fingers: Old widow Bowen prides herself on being able to make "anything grow" in her garden. this seems to be true. Even tropical plants entirely unsuited to the climate flourish as do a piece of firewood, a tuft of her hair, a fingernail ... When a rabbit she buried grows back from a skeleton and runs off she begins to worry. she decides to chop down the tree but it resents any attempt at keeping it in check and she only succeeds in slicing off her finger with an axe. She plants the severed digit, too - and a replica widow Bowen shoots up from the soil. Comes the day with the fully-grown double uproots itself ...
Shortly afterwards in the coppice, the body of an old woman is found chopped into pieces ...
J. D. Beresford - Cut-Throat Farm: Mawdsley: the narrator wonders why the hostile locals refer to Valley Farm by its more macabre nickname. He doesn't have long to find out because he's staying as a paying guest of the grim old couple who live there. The pair, down on their luck, slaughter their scrawny livestock to feed him. What will happen when they've exhausted the meagre supply?
David Ely - The Academy: A place for parents to send their sons during their "difficult years" to drill all of that juvenile spirit out of them. Zombie farming.
R. Chetwynd-Hayes - Housebound: The ghost of bank-robber Charlie Wheatland was killed in a siege at the Coopers' new house. Celia, fifty and fed up, develops the power to draw his ghost out of the woodwork. At first he appears as a black, vaguely human shape, but gradually Wheatland manifests in all his former glory and asks what she requires of him. Celia decides she wants him to murder Harold, her boring, selfish other half. "No, I cannot kill, only free your husband from his body. Order me to free your husband from his body." Celia does, but what will become of Harold's vacant body?
H. R. Wakefield - Lucky's Grove: Christmas Day, 1938, and "the cream of North Berkshire society" descend on the Braxton's snowbound Abindale Hall. Unfortunately, Mr. Braxton's land agent, Curtis, has retrieved their splendid tree from the locally shunned Lucky's Grove. The larch in question, furious at being uprooted and festooned in Disney characters, wreaks spectacular Norse God-assisted vengeance, and deforming the snowman is the least of it. It all makes for an interesting holiday and gives the survivors much to ponder.
Stanley Ellin - The Speciality Of The House: Laffler introduces his underling Costain to the delights of Shirro’s restaurant, the finest men-only meaterie one could ever wish to find, especially when “Lamb Amirstan” is on the menu ….
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.
I can add some stuff here. I've removed some of my synopsise which are too similar to yours, Dem, but left in one or two which you've covered, different enough, I think.
The Room in the Tower by E F Benson: The young man is an habitual dreamer, but it is one particular recurring dream that troubles him. He dreams that he visits a house, and has tea with the family in the garden; and then at the end, the lady of the house tells him that he will be shown to his room: he has been given the room in the tower. He dreams this at least once a month for many years; and, strangely, as the years pass, changes appear in the family: a daughter disappears, is married; the lady of the house grows grey. Then one day he finds himself entering the gates of that house. E F Benson, credited with the invention of the psychological horror story, created a masterpiece in this one. It is genuinely frightening, seems only to improve with age.
The Academy by David Ely: Mr Holston is keen to place his son in a respectable academy which will curb his wayward tendencies and make a man of him. The academy, lying in beautiful parklands, and attended and run entirely by its students and a few staff seems ideal; only the statue of the man standing with his hand upon a boy's shoulder, pointing to the horizon, seems a little strange. Should it not be pointing outwards, away from the academy?
Cut-Throat Farm by J D Beresford: It's called Cut-Throat Farm by the locals, the new lodger is told encouragingly as he is driven towards the tumble-down building at the foot of the valley. The place is not inviting, but for thirty shillings a week perhaps it will do. The food is tough and there could be more of it; he is always hungry. The farmer is constantly fingering the edge of a sharp knife. With each new dish, the farm's small assemblage of poultry and pigs is steadily reduced, until none seem to be left; but still the farmer fingers his knife.
The Romance of Certain Old Clothes by Henry James: The widowed Mrs Wingrave has two daughters, Rosalind and Perdita. When their brother returns from England, he brings with him his friend Arthur Lloyd, and it soon becomes clear that it's only a matter of time before he marries one of the girls. He does, but soon after the birth of their first child, the first Mrs Lloyd dies. She abjures her husband not to let her sister have her fine wardrobe of clothes, to keep them safe for her daughter. As she has anticipated, her sister does get around Arthur, and in time they are wed; and when his fortune begins to fail, she complains terribly that she cannot enjoy at least the luxury of the fine clothes that her sister before her wore. A tale of vengeance from beyond the grave...or the wardrobe. Engaging, but hardly horrific.
Poison by Roald Dahl: Timber gets home to find Harry Pope lying in bed, in a state of terror. A krait is lying under the sheets, on Harry's stomach, and any movement might wake it and bring a horrible death to Harry. Timber immediately phones for Dr Ganderbai's help. The story is well written, and it would be difficult to find anything wrong with it, except that it is a Roald Dahl story, and anyone familiar with his stories will already have worked out the ironically predictable ending long before it's reached.
The Shuttered Room by H P Lovecraft and August Derleth: Abner Whateley returns to his childhood home in Dunwich, an ancient mill-house left him by his grandfather Luther. Abner remembers how in childhood his Aunt Sarah had been confined to the part of the house over the old mill. Through the usual devices - village idiots, ancient family members visiting with strange warnings, and a journal of his grandfather's which naturally has many pages ripped out, Abner pieces together the mystery surrounding Aunt Sarah's confinement. The Innsmouth branch of the family had been uncommonly successful in their trading endeavours since some members of the family had wedded brides from an uncharted island near Polynesia, almost as if they have struck a bargain with the gods of the seas. Sarah has spent some time around one of her Innsmouth cousins, and a year or two following her return a series of mysteries deaths and disappearances had occurred along the banks of the Miskatonic. But why after so many years does a letter from his late grandfather adjure Abner to tear down the mill part of the house and destroy anything in it, no matter how small. One of many stories left unfinished at Lovecraft's death...
And I'd added here, years ago: "...this one has one or two passages of a sensitivity and clarity that was never his. Pleasantly atmospheric, this one was made into quite a decent film starring Oliver Reed." I think I was suffering from an overdose of lesser Lovecraft when I wrote that.
At the End of the Passage by Rudyard Kipling: Less a study in horror perhaps than despair, this account of four Englishmen in India who get together once a week to play cards. Hummil has been suffering from sleeplessness, and when he does sleep it's to dream of a blind face chasing him down corridors, a nightmare so terrifying that he sleeps with a rising spur in his bed to wake him if he should move in the night. He begs Spurstow to give him something to help him sleep - but it must be something that will send him straight into a deep, dreamless sleep, not into that nightmare. There are moments of horror - Mottram leaning over a dead colleague's face and muttering 'You lucky, lucky devil!' - but the tiny central story of the nightmare is just a spark in this impressive account of heat, dust, boredom and sickness in India. That Kipling could weave a compelling story out of these materials is testimony to his genius.