H. G. Wells – The Valley Of The Spiders: Featuring Empire Of The Ants (Fontana, 1964, as The Valley Of The Spiders: Feb, 1978)
Pollock And The Porrah Man In The Avu Observatory The Flowering Of The Strange Orchid The Red Room The Valley Of The Spiders The Empire Of The Ants The Moth The Story Of The Late Mr. Elvesham The Temptation Of Harringay The Inexperienced Ghost The Stolen Body The Crystal Egg The Door In The Wall.
Blurb: “The Gigantic ants did not move in columns, but in open, spaced-out lines, oddly suggestive of the rushes of modern infantry advancing under fire. A number were taking cover under the dead man’s clothes.
He did not see them actually rush for the lieutenant … but he had no doubt they did make a concerted rush. Suddenly the Lieutenant was shouting and cursing and beating at his legs …”
Pollock and the Porroh Man: (New Budget, 23rd May 1895). Sierra Leone. An idiot Englishman's dalliance with the "Porroh man"'s wife does not sit well with the affronted witch-doctor, who kills the woman on the spot. Waterhouse, the expedition leader, curses Pollock as a liability - it's not the first time his boorish behaviour has upset the natives, but now he has made an enemy of "one of the most vindictive devils on earth!" Waterhouse arranges for Pollock to be smuggled to the dock and back home to London for his own safety, but too late - the damage is done. When a snake attacks him in his cabin, Pollock panics and hires a Mendi tribesman to bring him the Porroh man's head. Lethal as he was in life, Pollock's adversary is even more so in death.
In the Avu Observatory: (Pall Mall Budget, 9th Aug., 1894). Borneo. Alone on the night watch, Woodhouse comes under attack from a huge bat-like creature of prodigious strength, possibly summoned by a native ritual. Some of these cryptozoological enigmas are no better than animals.
The Flowering of the Strange Orchid: (Pall Mall Budget, 2nd Aug. 1894). His housekeeper takes an instant dislike to the orchid - "it looks like a spider shamming dead" - but Winter-Wedderburn believes he may have an entirely new species on his hands and cultivates the flower with especial care. Shame about poor old Batten, who died horribly in a mangrove swamp, before he could get home to England and proclaim his discovery.
The Valley of Spiders: (Pearson's Magazine, March 1903). A trio on horseback fronted by 'The Master,' hunt an injured girl across unfamiliar terrain. The woman in question apparently 'belongs' to the Master and he's not one to let go of his possessions lightly. As they enter the valley a terrified dog comes bounding past, seemingly running for his life from ... nothing! The party ride on. Strange white globes trailing sticky gossamer threads roll down the mountain. What the ... spider airships! Evil arachnids with bodies the size of a man's hand attack the horses. Time for our bullying Mr. Angry-about-everything to demonstrate his leadership qualities.
The Moth: (The Stolen Bacillus & Other Incidents, Methuen, 1895). "Scathing satire reads ill over fresh mould." A twenty year feud between rival entomologists. "Irresponsible meddler" Prof. Hapley finally triumphs over Pawkins, his "blundering collector" of an adversary, when the latter publishes an ill-researched paper on the deaths-head moth. His reputation trashed, Pawkins succumbs to pneumonia shortly afterwards. With his enemy no more, Hapley is at a loose end until the night a moth of unfamiliar genus visits his study. Try as he might, he can't catch the blighter for long enough to study under the microscope. From that day the strange insect torments him until Hapley is confined to a lunatic asylum, haunted by a moth only he can see and which he swears is the ghost of his old foe.
The Inexperienced Ghost: (The Strand Magazine, March 1902). The Mermaid Club, a private golf course in Surrey. Clayton is known among his friends as a talented raconteur, so when he insists that last night he spent an hour in conversation with a ghost, they are not entirely convinced. The ghost, he tells them, never amounted to anything in life - he was a London schoolteacher - and shows every sign of making an even greater failure of death. When Clayton came upon him in the club house he'd forgotten how to vanish. Eventually, after much encouragement and cajoling on Clayton's part, the spook hit upon the right combination of gestures and hand movements to release him back to limbo. Clayton foolishly attempts to replicate his elaborate routine ...
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.