Peter Haining - Beyond The Curtain Of The Dark (Four Square, October, 1966: Nel, 1972)
Foreword - Judith Merril Introduction - Peter Haining
Robert Bloch - Lizzie Borden Took An Axe Patricia Highsmith - The Snail Watcher Ambrose Bierce - Chickamauga Harry Harrison - At Last, The True Story Of Frankenstein Guy De Maupassant - The Horla Ray Bradbury - Fever Dream Theodore Sturgeon - The Other Celia Edgar Allan Poe - The Oval Portrait W. C. Morrow - The Monster Maker Frederic Brown - Come And Go Mad H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth - The Survivor H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth - The Ancestor Mary Shelley - The Mortal Immortal Nathaniel Hawthorne - Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment Henry Kuttner - By These Presents Henry Slesar - Whosits Disease Edgar Allan Poe - King Pest Harold Lawlor - Mayaya’s Little Green Men F. Marion Crawford - For The Blood Is The Life Edogawa Rampo - The Human Chair J. S. Le Fanu - The Fortunes Of Sir Robert Ardagh Robert Bloch - Return To The Sabbath Clive Pemberton - The Will Of Luke Carlowe Isaac Asimov - Eyes Do More Than See
I think the Haining legend really starts picking up momentum with this collection. Other early ones like the same years Where Nightmares Are and The Hell Of Mirrors relied too much upon those classics we all have a billion times over, but this looks like the work of a man who loves, and is widely read in the genre. This is where I first read Bierce's decidedly non-escapist Chickamauga, a detached account of a war crime and one of the most horrible stories ever written. Maupassant's The Horla is a coming race story of, literally, insane genius and Edogawa Rampo (say it fast) is kinky-cute in the extreme. Of the Frankenstein variations, W. C. Morrow's ghastly The Monster Maker just shades it from Harrison's short 'n nasty effort.
Warning: will undoubtedly contain spoilers.
Robert Bloch - “Lizzie Borden Took An Axe …”: Black Sorcery expert Gideon Godfrey is dead, his skull split in two by a blow with an axe. Godfrey was the legal guardian of young Anita Loomis and filled her head with so much mumbo jumbo that she believes herself to be the prey of an incubus. Boyfriend Jim is skeptical, but slowly he comes to the conclusion that Anita has been possessed by the same demon that drove Lizzie Borden to slay her parents ….
Patricia Highsmith - The Snail-Watcher: Peter Knoppert learns the hard way that a man can have too many snails. Beginning with just a handful of specimens, he allows them to reproduce unchecked until they’ve taken over the study and sets himself up for a slimy doom. Highsmith in gross out mood.
Ambrose Bierce - Chickamauga: A six-year-old deaf mute is lost overnight in a forest. The following day he chances upon some funny men in uniform with red stuff all over them crawling toward the lake. He joins in the fun, even climbing on one of their backs until the man - who seems to have quite a bit of his face missing - angrily pushes him away. On reaching their destination, some of the party who stick their heads in the water don't lift them out again.
The child sees a fire in the distance and, as his new pals seem to have all fallen asleep, heads out to investigate. It takes him a while to figure just whose house it is that's ablaze and whose family the Yankee soldiers have massacred, but he gets there in the end.
Apparently, Bierce was stationed at Chickamauga for a time during the Civil War ....
Harry Harrison - At Last, The True Story Of Frankenstein: Panama City, Florida. After witnessing the extraordinary performance of a 'monster' seemingly entirely oblivious to pain, reporter Dan Bream interviews its master, monocled Carney showman, Victor Frankenstein V. Frankenstein confides that the creature is wearing out and he'll need replacing very shortly ...
Edogawa Rampo - The Human Chair: Oshiko, popular authoress, is used to receiving manuscripts from her admirers and struggling authors who wish to emulate her success, but this one is different and survives the bin. The author is clearly deranged. He wishes to confide his "dreadful crime" and beg her forgiveness. Despite herself, she can't help but read on ... and on ... until, with mounting horror, she realises just what it is she's sitting on ....
Clive Pemberton - The Will Of Luke Carlowe: The Professor will leave his entire estate to detested nephew Cyril on condition that he will agree to enter his burial vault a month to the night following his death. Only then will the Carlowe - in spirit form - present him with the document of entitlement, confounding his critics who take him for a credulous old fool into the bargain.
Henry Kuttner - By These Presents: James Fenwick flatters himself that he can outwit the Devil by trading his soul for immortality. After much hard bargaining, the Devil agrees on condition that he remove from James "a useless memory". Being a reasonable fellow, the evil fellow permits Fenwick to retain the ability to kill himself should eternal life become too boring.
James Fenwick duly goes on to become the world's wickedest man, but soon tires of his thrill-a-minute existence. Something is missing. Perhaps the Devil has stolen his soul prematurely? Enraged at this imagined deception, he threatens to repent of all his sins. Reluctantly, the Devil returns the "useless memory" he took from him - his superego. Now cursed with a conscience again, Fenwick despises himself for what he's done, takes up a razor and slashes his throat!
Robert Bloch - Return To The Sabbath: The brief rise and gruesome fall of Austrian horror actor and black magician Karl Jorla. His first film, Return To The Sabbath, made as a favour to a director friend, was never meant to be released but somehow finds its way to LA where its shown in a burlesque fleapit. Jorla’s stunning turn as a reanimated corpse decides aspiring producer Les Kincaid to sign him up for a Hollywood remake and Jorla jumps at the chance to get out of Austria. His fellow diabolists are furious as ... Sabbath's’s big resurrection ceremony exposes secrets of their craft. The director is ritualistically murdered in a Paris hotel and now several shadowy figures show up on set. Jorla see’s the filming through way beyond the call of duty
Thanks to Nightreader for providing the scan for the Four Square edition
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.