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New England Horror Writers covers the state's of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Here in 23 tales (and 3 drawings) are a wide-ranging selection sure to provoke many emotions. Some scared me, some REALLY scared me, others elicited grief and "If only!" and some warmed my heart. I did not read in order, and my list below reflects that.
"Everything Smells Like Smoke Again" by Curtis M. Lawson. I chose to read this story first, as Mr. Lawson was the writer who had introduced me to this volume. His story impacted me immediately, first cutting directly to my emotions, then ripping my soul. Even after I finished, I can still feel it enfolding me in its terrifying embrace.
"We're All Haunted Here" by Doungai Gam. A remarkably polished and poignant story, it elicited grief and sympathy, yet also played chords of hope and inspiration. The conclusion stunned me.
"They Come With the Storm" by Dan Foley. A doomed Atlantic, whose inhabitants persevere despite their knowledge and fear. The horror is implacable, indeed; and despair, grief, betrayal, and hatred are inroads to the terror that never ends. The ending was very unexpected.
"Turn On the Old Victrola" by Tom Deady. Please don't!! The title echoes a 70's Donna Summer song, but no disco joy exists here. That snazzy old Victrola is a genuine antique--and it's haunted, and extremely dangerous.
"Lost Boy" by Bracken McLeod. There are several aspects of this story that really amplified the scare factor for me, but I'm not willing to give those away. I found a lot of empathy for both the main characters: good people, needing to find their way.
"My Work Here Is Not Done" by Nick Manzolillo. The intriguing New York afterlife of Samuel Clemens, a man who maintained his intellect, scientific compulsion, compassion, and journalistic investigation, even post-death--finding and living a purpose.
"Ghost Maker" by Emma J. Gibson. A cynical, jaded, cameraman on a televised paranormal series unexpectedly is confronted with a crossroads decision; then even more unexpectedly, experiences his own otherworldly encounter.
"The Boy On the Red Tricycle" by Dan Szczesny. Heartwrenching, heartwarming, and very spooky. More saddening than horrifying, but horror nonetheless.
""Pulped" by James A. Moore. Talk about reader's hooks, knock-out first sentences, word play. Talk about a tautly-constructed tale so well-tuned it hums. Think Dashiell Hammett strumming pulp noir blues with a driving drum beat.
"Ghosts In Their Eyes" by Teresa Wooldridge. A lengthy, scary prose poem about occult science and black magic, about deceit and lies, betrayal and arrogance. Be careful where you choose to place your elder loved ones; profit-greed is not the only motive at deceitful nursing homes.
"They, Too, Want To Be Remembered," by K. H. Vaughn. So sad, so poignant: a tragic moment in history vifified by unexpected manifestations. This one made me cry.
"The East Boston Relief Station" by Paul R. McNamee. Past bleeding into present, for one fortunate--or unfortunate--patient-to-be in need of immediate relief.
"Murmur" by Jeremy Flagg. A witch in the afterlife, ghosts, remnants, demons, and plague. I liked the sharp twist of the ending.
"Scrying Through Torn Screens" by Patricia Gomes. Short and sweetly poignant, leaving the rest unsaid but strongly perceived.
"The Thin Place" by Morgan Sylvia. So glad I read this story in daylight. One of those turn-me-inside-out-scare-me-senseless stories. Definitely a rereader.
"The Walking Man" by Matt Bechtel. Scary and poignant. "There but for the grace of God," indeed. (Shudder)
"Tripping the Ghost" by Barry Lee Dejasu. I put this one in the category of Weird Fiction (and yes, horror). I suppose there is a market for everything, and these two entrepreneurs have certainly carved a niche for themselves. I definitely appreciated the Lovecraftian flavour.
"The Pick Apart" by Paul McMahon. I do love my horror implacable, and that is exactly what's delivered here. We learn who and why, but we don't know how to change the pattern. A scary, ghostly, tale. Don't read alone at night.
"Mouse" by Larissa Glasser. Traumatically sad. The real horror is humans.
"The Road to Gallway" by Rob Smales. Scary-scary-scary--with a way unexpected really scary twist! Loved it.
"Triumph of the Spirit" by GD Dearborn. Do ghosts remain earthbound, not because of unfinished business or their own desire, but because their loved ones refuse to relinquish? Thought-provoking.
"The Stranding Off Schoodic Point" by R. C. Mulhare. A heartwarming ghost story with a purpose. Endearing characters, deserving of empathy.
"The Thing With No Face" by Peter N. Dudar. Although this is the first story, I left it till last because facelessness has been one of my bete noirs since childhood. I knew this story would scare me senseless. I was right. Guilt can be debilitating, but vengeance can be fatal to body and soul.
I reviewed this title via Kindle Unlimited.
I am happy to report that there is not a bad story in this entire anthology. Sure, some are better than others, but each original story has its own unique twist to the ghost story trope.
It's been a long time since I've read a good ghost story and this collection has filled that void nicely.
Knock, Knock Artwork by Kali Moulton - One of a few selected art pieces to accompany the stories in this collection.
The Thing With No Face by Peter N. Dudar - A wonderful start to this anthology of ghostly tales. A return to a childhood home causes Kevin Ellis to remember a tragic day. "But the thing standing directly in the center of the lawn was loathsome; a silhouette of spindly white arms and legs that fluttered in the hot pre-dawn breeze like a frayed flag. The apparition floated in defiance of the tangible things surrounding it, as if it somehow wanted to find the same permanence but could not."
Lost Boy by Bracken Macleod - Tale of the ghost of a boy who once was. Bracken succeeds in building the suspense in his contribution to Wicked Haunted.
Scrying Through Torn Screens by Patricia Gomes - One of a few poetry selections in the anthology.
They, Too, Want to be Remembered by KH Vaughan - The nightmares in this short would be funny. if they weren't terrifying. "But I am not so fortunate. I wake with a start to the sound of destruction and mayhem. There are horses in my apartment, crashing through the windows and rearing high enough to scrape the ceiling with their hooves. My coffee table and flat-screen are toppled and smashed beneath sharp hooves. Their eyes are wild and rolling. This time I am not dreaming."
Everything Smells Like Smoke Again by Curtis M. Lawson - Another above average ghost story as evidenced by a glowing cigarette. I loved this story.
The Boy on the Red Tricycle by Dan Szczesny - An effective story about Sam and the ghost who becomes like a son to him. Trust me when I tell you this story does not end well for anyone.
One Way Dead End Artwork by Ogmios
East Boston Relief Station by Paul R. McNamee - A kidney stone, a GPS pointing in the wrong direction, and a ghost in the East Boston Relief Station.
Mouse by Larissa Glasser - Loved this ghost story with a transgender theme. Told from the point of view of the ghost. Larissa has created something special with her contribution to the anthology.
The Walking Man by Matt Bechtel - Not all ghosts are dead. A story with a terrific twist from one of my favorite writers.
My Work is Not Yet Completed by Nick Manzolillo - A wildly imaginative telling of the story of the ghost of Samuel Clemens.
Ghosts In Their Eyes by Trisha J. Wooldridge - Poetry is not my thing, but Tricia uses the format to tell a wonderful story.
They Come With the Storm by Dan Foley - Lost love and ghost-laden storms make for one creepy tale.
Turn Up the Old Victrola by Tom Deady - Tom Deady is becoming one of my go-to writers for entertaining stories. Last year he was awarded a Stoker for his debut novel, Haven, and I just read his new novella, Weekend Getaway. Here he tells a wickedly entertaining tale of a haunted victrola.
Ghost Maker by Emma J. Gibbon - Asking the poignant question, if you get an abortion, do you create a ghost.
The Pick Apart by Paul McMahon - Another effective ghost story involving a girl killed in a bridge collapse.
The Stranding Off Schoodic Point by R.C. Mulhare - Story of an apparition at sea. A tale with a lovely twist.
Triumph of the Spirit by GD Dearborn - Life as a ghost through the eyes of the spirit Wonderfully told.
Ghost on a Swing Artwork by Judi Calhoun
The Road to Gallway by Rob Smales - I loved this story and its wonderful twist.
The Thin Place by Morgan Sylvia - “There’s a ghost in my house,” I said. She looked at me thoughtfully, and then closed her mascara-laden eyes and did some mumbo-jumbo with her hands, her heavy rings flashing in the light. A moment later, her eyes snapped open. “Analea,” she said. “A victim of the fire.”
Tripping the Ghost by Barry Lee Dejasu - An odd story of bodies, mushrooms, and, of course, ghosts.
we’re all haunted here by doungai gam - A touching and heart-warming story told by a new ghost. I just loved this line in Gam's story. "The living claim they’re the ones haunted by ghosts, but those of us already dead are every bit as haunted by the ones we left behind."
Murmur by Jeremy Flagg - Witches using magic and computers to communicate with the dead get more than they bargained for.
Pulped by James A. Moore - A great way to end the anthology. When it comes to James A. Moore, I'm admittedly a bit of a fanboy. This is a wonderful story of an early superhero now a ghost seeking revenge.
As I was writing this review, I was reminded how much I enjoyed reading this anthology. So many great stories from familiar authors and authors new to me. As a reader, you can't ask for more than that.
Published by NEHW Press, Wicked Haunted: An Anthology of the New England Horror Writers is available in both Paperback and E-Book formats.