Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review: Haunted Legends

*Review by Marie Robinson

Greetings, bibliophiles! I just finished a book that I think is worthy of sharing. The title is Haunted Legends, and it is an anthology edited by Ellen Datlow (who puts together some seriously awesome books) and Nick Mamatas, published by Tor, who specializes in speculative fiction (in case you don’t know, that is science fiction, fantasy, or horror, in brief). They invited the modern masters of the genre to contribute a tale; however, to make it more interesting, they asked the authors to draw inspiration from a legend, ghost story, or folktale from their town.

You all know I am a sucker for folklore, so it was love at first sight when I blindly picked up this book at Barnes & Noble. Usually I go for gothic classics, and I am ashamed to say I was a little wary about reading modern voice, but this book (or maybe these authors) instantly made me feel sorry for being so close-minded. I had never heard of any of the writers, but I am positive I will find myself researching many of them on Amazon once I finish this article. Some of my favorites were from Steven Pirie, Caitlin R. Kiernan, John Mantooth, and Jeffrey Ford. A few of the others have quite an impressive list of previous publishing’s—such as Ramsey Campbell, who has penned dozens of novels and short story collections, and Joe R. Lansdale, whose books have inspired two films by Don Coscarelli, the much beloved Bubba Ho-Tep starring Bruce Campbell, and the Masters of Horror piece Incident On and Off and Mountain Road.

"Spring-Heeled Jack"
Just to give you a taste of what you are in for, let me elaborate on a few of the fables the authors got their inspiration from. There is the legend of La Llorona, a Mexican ghost of a woman who cries at the edge of water. It is said that she is weeping for her children, whom she drowned, drowning herself from grief afterward. Spring-Heeled Jack, a devilish figure who travels across the U.K. in bounding, sky-high leaps, stopping to torment people along the way. A Devil Bird from Texas who bares a face like a gorilla and sends whatever town it is seen in into frenzied panic. And a black car that stalks unfortunate victims, often to their death.

There is a tale from nearly every continent. Some feel familiar, as if a childhood friend has told them to you on a dark night. Others feel fantastical and poetic, pulled from a dream. The stories are most assuredly fiction, but the sources… well, it’s up to you whether or not the legends have any truth to them.
Maybe Haunted Legends has a tale from your very own town! Here is one from mine…

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"
Irving's inspiration is said to have come from German folklore.
I reside in St. Louis, Missouri, which holds plenty of folklore itself—such as the famously haunted Lemp Mansion—but the story I want to relay is just across the river in Bellville, Illinois. This town holds a place affectionately called Albino Twin Train Tracks—the name itself is creepy enough to catch your interest. The story goes that a family gave birth to albino twins in the late eighteen hundreds. Soon after, a sickness fell over the town and out of lack of explanation for the cause the residents blamed it on the twins. The albino tots were then strapped to the train tracks and left to their grisly death. Now they are believed to haunt the tracks, and it is told that if you put your car in neutral over the tracks, they will push your car across to safety. Although some people think that the little ghost twins want to push you onto the tracks, for revenge!

I’d like to encourage everyone to share in the comments a local legend they might know from their own town. I love a good spooky tale!


Doug Brunell said...

I know far too many. I grew up in the Poconos. Creepy area.

James Gracey said...

Great review, Marie. I adore folklore - the creepier the better.
The fact that Ramsey Campbell - whose work is heavily influenced by MR James - is amongst the contributors of this collection - and that one of the stories is based on Spring Heeled Jack - makes me VERY interested in acquiring a copy... Thanks so much for the review.

PS My home town has a wonderfully morbid 'legend' involving a woman whose headstone reads 'Lived Once, Buried Twice.' I wrote about her here -

My grandfather was actually the caretaker of the graveyard where she's buried, and my mum grew up in the graveyard house. Might go some way to explain my love of horror! :)

Anonymous said...

I have been trying to locate the tracks for some time. I have seen a variety of street names and areas. Can someone give me a definitive street name/location? I understand it to be on Renschler Station Rd somewhere near Overlook St.