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The Best Cosmic Horror Books

One thing that is evident when you look for and inevitably read books, is that are a lot of authors that have been influenced by H.P. Lovecraft. Some take influence by crediting his creations, some crediting his name–others his style, short story form that truly resonate within the genre. Others still have found their own path within the genre, by taking the essence of cosmic horror and making it their own. Finding something genuinely original can oft be an exercise in futility, due to the very nature of this sort of horror, but when that originality is found it is truly like discovering gold. Here are Puzzle Box Horror’s best of cosmic horror book recommendations.

"What to hear a story?" a quote from David Wong
Quote by David Wong, from “What the Hell Did I Just Read?”

The best of Old-school Cosmic Horror books

What sets old-school cosmic horror apart from the newer literature within the genre, is pretty much what sets old classic literature apart from newer literature in any genre–language, surrounding culture, and societal advantage. It goes deeper than that of course, but what is important when getting acquainted with any form of literature is understanding the time within which it was created.

The Willows (1907)

The Willows book cover (1907) by Algernon Blackwood

While not exactly a book, The Willows by Algernon Blackwood, is technically the first cosmic horror novella that began to establish the cosmic horror genre. It was originally published among a series of other stories in 1907, as a part of his collection The Listener and Other Stories. It’s a great example of early modern horror and despite not receiving the credit it was due, was very much connected within the literary tradition of “weird fiction,” a genre later realized as cosmic horror.

The Willows is a story that invites fear of the unknown, there is a sense of agitation, fear, exhaustion, and eternal trepidation that does not leave the characters or the readers, because there is never a relief from the situation at hand. Available on Amazon here.

And, apart quite from the elements, the willows connected themselves subtly with my malaise, attacking the mind insidiously somehow by reason of their vast numbers, and contriving in some way or other to represent to the imagination a new and mighty power, a power, moreover, not altogether friendly to us.

Excerpt from The Willows by Algernon Blackwood

Listen to Algernon Blackwood’s The Willows below through HorrorBabble.

The Man Who Found Out (1912)

Another shorter existential horror story, Algernon Blackwood’s The Man Who Found Out really just begs the question about personal religious beliefs–what is the ultimate question and answer when it comes to a higher power, particularly that of “God?” Do we really know anything with any certainty? Or is belief and faith what matters most when seeking a higher truth? These unanswered questions are what make this one of the best cosmic horror books out there. Available on Amazon here.

LibriVox has given us Blackwood’s The Man Who Found Out through audiobook and it’s worth checking out.

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories (1927)

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories book cover (1927)

It seems that the most successful additions to the cosmic horror genre are generally shorter stories; short stories are benefitted in this particular genre due to the fact that they limit the amount of information that can be conveyed within the confines of the short story’s maximum of ten thousand words.

All of the stories that appear within this particular anthology are by H.P. Lovecraft and are, of course, part of the public domain, so we have included a list of the stories with external links to the stories themselves. Those interested in reading some of the most well-known cosmic horror pieces can find them below. The entire anthology is available on Amazon here.

What Stories Appear Within This Anthology?

Shadows of Carcosa (2014)

Shadows of Carcosa book cover (2014)

Yeah, we know that this book came out in 2014–but that doesn’t discount the fact that it is actually full of old-school cosmic horror, because it’s actually an anthology from some of the best horror writers that literary culture has ever had to offer. These stories span almost an entire century, which illustrates how many authors can be credited for their contributions to cosmic or existential horror.

Luckily for readers who haven’t been well-enough introduced to cosmic horror by now, all of these stories are also within the public domain; we hope that these stories from Shadows of Carcosa (2014) give readers a full picture of what cosmic horror is truly about. The collection is available on Amazon here.

What Stories Appear Within This Anthology?

The best of Modern Cosmic Horror Books

Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe (1985)

Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe book cover (1985)

Thomas Ligotti’s debut short horror story collection Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe possibly made his career–he’s often spoken of in the same manner as authors such as Poe and Lovecraft, and has been referred to as “horror incarnate.” Ligotti never seems to have to try to make his stories work, they take on settings that immediately put the reader into a mood where horror is inescapable without being presumptuous or predictable.

Ligotti’s style is singular and everything he has put into this particular anthology is wholly worth the time to read. Available on Amazon here.

What Stories Appear Within This Anthology?

Songs of a Dead Dreamer
  • Dreams for Sleepwalkers
    • The Frolic
    • Les Fleurs
    • Alice’s Last Adventure
    • Dream of a Manikin
    • The Nyctalops Trilogy:
      • The Chymist
      • Drink to Me Only with Labyrinthine Eyes
      • Eye of the Lynx
    • Notes on the Writing of Horror: A Story
  • Dreams for Insomniacs
    • The Christmas Eves for Aunt Elise
    • The Lost Art of Twilight
    • The Troubles of Dr. Thoss
    • Masquerade of a Dead Sword: A Tragedie
    • Dr. Voke and Mr. Veech
    • Professor Nobody’s Little Lectures on Supernatural Horror
  • Dreams for the Dead
    • Dr. Locrian’s Asylum
    • The Sect of the Idiot
    • The Greater Festival of Masks
    • The Music of the Moon
    • The Journal of J.P. Drapeau
    • Vastarien
Grimscribe
  • The Voice of the Damned
    • The Last Feast of Harlequin
    • The Spectacles in the Drawer
    • Flowers of the Abyss
    • Nethescurial
  • The Voice of the Demon
    • The Night School
    • The Glamour
  • The Voice of the Child
    • The Library of Byzantium
    • Miss Plarr
  • The Voice of Our Name
    • The Shadow at the Bottom of the World
The Imago Sequence and Other Stories book cover(2007)

Laird Barron’s first short story collection The Imago Sequence and Other Stories set a precedent for the rest of his career; what could be expected from him in his other works really was set up with this collection. The fact that it received the Shirley Jackson Award for best collection was not even the most wondrous part of this particular body of work–Barron has an ability to create an image within the reader’s mind that is unlike any other author. He has been compared to the likes of Stephen King, but with the advantage of making his details count for more than just words towards an ultimate goal. Available on Amazon here.

What Stories Appear Within This Anthology?

  • Old Virginia (2003)
  • Shiva, Open Your Eye (2001)
  • Procession of the Black Sloth (2007)
  • Bulldozer (2004)
  • Proboscis (2005)
  • Hallucigenia (2006)
  • Parallax (2005)
  • The Royal Zoo Is Closed (2006)
  • The Imago Sequence (2005)

White is For Witching (2009)

White is For Witching book cover (2005)

Helen Oyeyemi’s White is For Witching reads almost like a journal, which has always given the reader less of a feeling that they’re getting the full picture. Why look at the forest when you can see the trees more clearly? In truth, focusing on the details from a personal perspective often leaves much more to the imagination and that is a huge part of weird fiction and cosmic horror.

When you don’t know what is going on outside of the perspective of the narrator, it leaves you with a sense of emptiness–what is happening beyond their ideal truth? Available on Amazon here.

Cthulhu’s Reign (2010)

Cthulhu's Reign book cover(2010)

Another anthology designed to pay tribute to the father of cosmic horror, this collection of short stories gives a more complete image of what would happen once the old ones have taken over the world as we know it–when humans are no longer the dominant force on the Earth and when we can no longer rely on what we have become accustomed to.

What kind of horror would we endure when the old ones take over the world? What would we be able to expect from an uncaring force of nature and could we really hate the force that overwhelms society as we know it when it is not maliciously ending our world, or would it simply be something that we fear beyond anything else? Available on Amazon here.

What Stories Appear Within This Anthology?

  • The Walker in the Cemetery (2010) by Ian Watson
  • Sanctuary (2010) by Don Webb
  • Her Acres of Pastoral Playground (2010) by Mike Allen
  • Spherical Trigonometry (2010) by Ken Asamatsu
  • What Brings the Void (2010) by Will Murray
  • The New Pauline Corpus (2010) by Matt Cardin
  • Ghost Dancing (2010) by Darrell Schweitzer
  • This is How the World Ends (2010) by John R. Fultz
  • The Shallows (2010) by John Langan
  • Such Bright and Risen Madness in Our Names (2010) by Joseph E. Lake, Jr.
  • The Seals of New R’lyeh (2010) by Gregory Frost
  • The Holocaust of Ecstasy (2010) by Brian Stableford
  • Vastation (2010) by Laird Barron
  • Nothing Personal (2010) by Richard A. Lupoff
  • Remnants (2010) by Fred Chappell

The Croning (2012)

The Croning book cover(2012)

The Croning can be considered, without a doubt, the debut cosmic horror novel by Laird Barron–unlike his collection of short stories, The Imago Sequence and Other Stories, this is a full-length novel within the genre of cosmic horror.

We see cults, dark magic, and a plethora of other themes that are common fixtures of the genre and we can’t look away–we highly recommend this particular literary spectacle, it’s a novel that without which, this list would be incomplete. Available on Amazon here.

Dreams From the Witch House book cover(2016)

Dreams From the Witch House (2016)

This particular anthology, Dreams From the Witch House: Female Voices of Lovecraftian Horror, while honoring the origins of the genre is something different and singular. This anthology of short stories contains, as can be derived from the title, stories of cosmic horror that were written by female authors in the genre. Available on Amazon here.

What Stories Appear Within This Anthology?

  • Shadows of the Evening (1998) by Joyce Carol Oates
  • The Genesis Mausoleum (2015) by Colleen Douglas
  • The Woman in the Hill (2015) by Tamsyn Muir
  • The Face of Jarry (2015) by Cat Hellisen
  • Our Lady of Arsia Mons (2012) by Caitlín R. Kiernan
  • The Body Electric (2015) by Lucy Brady
  • The Child and the Night Gaunts (2015) by Marly Youmans
  • All Our Salt-Bottled Hearts (2015) by Sonya Taaffe
  • Every Hole in the Earth We Will Claim As Our Own (2015) by Gemma Files
  • But Only Because I Love You (2015) by Molly Tanzer
  • Cthulhu’s Mother (2015) by Kelda Crich
  • All Gods Great and Small (2015) by Karen Heuler
  • Dearest Daddy (2015) by Lois H. Gresh
  • Eye of the Beholder (2015) by Nancy Kilpatrick
  • Down at the Bottom of Everything (2015) by E.R. Knightsbridge
  • Spore (2015) by Amanda Downum
  • Pippa’s Crayons (2015) by Christine Morgan
  • The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward (2012) by Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette
  • From the Cold Dark Sea (2015) by Storm Constantine
  • Mnemeros (2015) by R.A. Kaelin

The Ballad of Black Tom (2016)

The Ballad of Black Tom Book cover (2016)

Victor LaValle grew up reading the horror stories that came from the life of H.P. Lovecraft, but it wasn’t until much later in his life that LaValle realized the excessive amounts of racism and agoraphobia that was present in Lovecraft’s body of work. As an African-American man, he used this eye-opening moment in his life to respond in kind, from one writer to another, by reinventing Lovecraft’s short story The Horror at Red Hook from the perspective of a black man.

LaValle’s re-imagining of this story was invigorating, riveting, and a triumph of creative responses to unacceptable biases–he succeeded in showing that Lovecraft’s work would have been even better had it not been rife with bigotry and bias for those who were not like Lovecraft. Available on Amazon here.

It’s important to understand that while we here at Puzzle Box Horror greatly appreciate the body of work that Lovecraft added to the horror genre, we recognize his biases and do not endorse them or agree with them. We were more than ecstatic when we found that there were actually literary responses to these particular issues and hope that such responses continue to appear within the literary community. Read the original story, by Lovecraft, that this novella was based off of, The Horror of Red Hook, then read Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom.

Lovecraft Country book cover(2016)

Lovecraft Country (2016)

Following The Ballad of Black Tom, the novel Lovecraft Country also addresses the topic of racism within the context of Lovecraftian horror–this particular book has been adapted to screen recently and will soon be seen on HBO as a series–we certainly hope it will be as good as it looks, because the prospect of this one making it to infamy on screen makes us incredibly excited. The novel is available on Amazon here.

From executive producer Jordan Peele, we believe that this production will be worth every minute of time it takes to watch!

The Fisherman (2016)

The Fisherman book cover (2016)

Another from our list of best cosmic horror boos is The Fisherman. Described as a captivating read from beginning to end, John Langan’s The Fisherman gives us a dark, mysterious, fictional assertion of horror and cosmic fantasy. It follows the story of two widowers through their quiet and powerful story of loss and grief, by acknowledging the melancholy situation and the fact that things are never the same after the loss of a loved one. A definite addition to any cosmic horror novel list and one of the best out there. Available on Amazon here.

It would be a lie to say the time passes quickly. It never does, when you want it to.

What the Hell Did I Just Read (2017)

What the Hell Did I Just Read? book cover (2017)

The third installment in the trilogy that started with John Dies at the End (2007), was followed with This Book is Full of Spiders (2012) and finally What the Hell Did I Just Read (2017). This book is largely hinged upon the narrative–we live in a world where we largely base our opinions on the story that the narrator presents, but what happens when the narrator isn’t exactly the most trustworthy of sources? Does it change how we view the story? Do we realize before it’s too late that our entire perception has been incorrect? Available on Amazon here.

The true weird tale has something more than a secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains. An atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; a hint of that most terrible conception of the human brain—a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space.

H. P. Lovecraft

We’re curious to know what you thought about these best of cosmic horror books, novellas, and anthologies. Have you read anything that’s not listed here that fits the cosmic horror genre? We’re interested in reading it too, so leave us a comment and let us know!

Don’t feel like reading about cosmic horror? No problem, check out our list of recommended cosmic horror movies too.

Categories
Best Horror Podcasts Best Of Featured Horror Mystery and Lore Indie Horror

The Best of the Other Stories Podcast

The Other Stories Podcast
The Other Stories Podcast

The eclectic nature of The Other Stories podcast is perhaps one of its most attractive qualities of this horror, sci-fi, and thriller fiction show. Their variety of authors and narrators along with stellar audio effects make this an immersive experience, but what really makes this podcast special is the agonizingly spooky and mysterious nature of these short stories.

These aren’t the stories your mother told you, no–these are the Other Stories!

Ready to get your blood pumping a little bit and help your body out at the same time? Here is our curated list of our 10 favorite episodes of The Other Stories, we truly hope you enjoy these as much as we did!

The Chip Truck Man

David J. Thirteen brought us this interestingly chilling tale of two brothers who are never the same after encountering a terrible man on their shortcut home.

You can find this and other episodes on The Other Stories Podcast channel.

The Doll

Kathryn Stablin wrote this short story and she did a masterful job in conveying the story of a woman whose strange niece comes to visit her; while watching her niece the woman realizes the terror of the doll.

You can find this and other episodes on The Other Stories Podcast channel.

The Gorgon’s Head

The Gorgon’s Head was written by Ben Errington about a boy who had always believed in the Greek myths–but then he unexpectedly finds a powerful object and unleashes its wrath upon others.

You can find this and other episodes on The Other Stories Podcast channel.

Stranger in the Night

Horror writer Matt Butcher brings us the story of a jaded and miserable girl who has lost her religion and the hitchhiker that is let into the car.

You can find this and other episodes on The Other Stories Podcast channel.

Painted Anguish

This is a story written by Zach Friday, about a man who goes to an art show on the weekend–what he doesn’t realize is the painting that draws him in has evil intentions and he will bend to its will.

You can find this and other episodes on The Other Stories Podcast channel.

One Last Drink

This story was written by Jon Freeman and Daniel Willcocks, who tell the story of Jack as he goes to meet his old university friends who had fallen out of contact. Their reunion takes place at a bar, but as Jack gets progressively more intoxicated, he realizes that things aren’t exactly as they seem.

You can find this and other episodes on The Other Stories Podcast channel.

Nocturne In Spirit

Written by Kezia Kynaston-Mitchell, this short story is about an aging concert violinist who is haunted by her memories. The loneliest place to be is in a crowd, especially when you have a terrible secret.

You can find this and other episodes on The Other Stories Podcast channel.

The Solstice

Writer Kev Harrison weaves the tale of a boy of the northern villages, as the winter solstice looms near, he learns that it is time for him to get his mask made to ward off the siege of the dark spirits. The only problem is, he’s the only boy in his village, will he be enough to keep the darkness from ravaging the land?

You can find this and other episodes on The Other Stories Podcast channel.

Categories
Featured Horror Books Horror Mystery and Lore

The Bizarre Horror Novel That Outsold Dracula

How ridiculous would it sound if I said that the infamous novel Dracula by Bram Stoker—yes, the guy that essentially created the foundation of what we think of when we envision vampires—was originally outsold six to one by a novel that you probably have never heard about?

Well, it’s true. Richard Marsh, author of The Beetle: A Mystery gave Stoker a run for his money in 1897, however, after his novel fell out of print in the sixties, Marsh’s novel has been all but forgotten.

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The Beetle (1897) by Richard Marsh

To put this in better context, most people know about Dracula even if they have never even heard of Bram Stoker’s novel. Since the novel’s initial publication, Dracula has become the benchmark for vampires within horror culture. With Gary Oldman’s 1992 depiction of Dracula in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, or the most recently created Dracula Untold (2014) it’s clear that Dracula has been an influential character for over a century.

The character, with or without Stoker’s name attached, has made so many cameos throughout pop-culture that it might be near impossible to create a comprehensive list. Then again, unlike Marsh, Stoker had the good fortune to remain in print ever since its first publication in April of 1897.

After having read The Beetle: A Mystery (1897) I now know how strange this supernatural mystery-horror this novel truly is. A tale of possession, revenge and literal transformation, the author of this literary oddity was Richard Marsh—born Richard Bernard Heldmann—was actually more successful as a short story author throughout his career. That didn’t stop the fierce competition that this book posed for Stoker’s insanely popular novel. Now, I may have roused your interest on how, exactly, The Beetle: A Mystery is so bizarre? Well, I’ll give you a brief synopsis of it, but be warned, there may be spoilers if you haven’t read it and plan to.

The Beetle: A Mystery (1897)

This Victorian-era mystery is told from the perspective of four different characters; this aptly described motley crew of middle-class individuals find that they are the last hope for civilization when they discover that a shape-shifting monster has arrived in London from the East (specifically Egypt). Now, our ragtag group of gumshoes includes an actual detective by the name of Augustus Champnell, a man named Sidney Atherton, a forward-thinking young lady named Marjorie Lindon, and Robert Holt an out-of-work clerk who can’t seem to catch a break. This seductive, yet inhuman creature has its eye on a British politician by the name of Paul Lessingham (who happens to be the fiancé of Marjorie Lindon), but after enslaving Holt this creature decides to attack London society.

The story itself is presented as a series of elaborate testimonies gathered by Champnell himself, who gives the context of the creature’s motives as well as the status of the rest of the Londoners, who were involved in the adventure, after the fact.

It’s up to these four Londoners to solve this mystery and stop the monster from achieving its goal—but when they find that the monster is actually a gender-swapping female that can transform into a giant Scarab beetle (I mean that part is pretty obvious from the title, but still wtf!) they’re a little bit more than unsettled! The situation gets even more terrifying for our protagonists when they learn that this evil creature, which originated in Ancient Egyptian civilization, is actually a High Priestess of a cult that worships the goddess Isis and has been kidnapping and subsequently sacrificing white British women to her goddess. Now, this is all happening years after Lessingham had been vacationing in Egypt when the Beetle monster, in her female form, had hypnotized him and then forced him to live as her sex slave until he was finally able to break free. During his escape, he attacked the Beetle and fled for his life; as a result of their previous run-in, the Beetle came to England specifically to seek her revenge through torturing and kidnapping his fiancée Lindon and then finally, killing Lessingham.

Of course, our characters are all intertwined in solving this mystery and defeating the beetle, but instead, it turns to a chase in an effort to save the life of Lindon after she had been abducted by the Beetle. They end up catching up with the monster, just to find that Lindon and her captor had been in a trainwreck—while Lindon was found relatively unharmed, they only find scattered burnt rags and bloodstains where the creature should have been. Of course, this uncertain ending marks where Champnell decided that he had exhausted his investigation, but had high hopes that the Beetle will never return.

Final Thoughts on The Beetle: A Mystery

Marsh wrote this novel to be a sort of literary fake, describing the events from each of the narrator’s points of view as if it were based on true events and insinuating that names had been changed to protect the identities of those involved. Even the year in which the events occurred is left ambiguous, with the reference to it having happened in the year of 18— around June 2, on a Friday. It was initially released piece by piece over the course of several weeks then finally released as a full novel later in the year—think of this in terms of Edgar Allan Poe’s Great Balloon Hoax in the paper, or H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds radio theater broadcast. Marsh, at the time, was an extremely prolific short story author so this story served as a heightened form of entertainment for the era.

I have a few objections about this novel, despite the fact that I thought it was a good read; to me, this novel was a little xenophobic—in the sense of what comes from the “exotic” East is dangerous or evil. In contrast to that blatant xenophobic message, there is also a message that speaks against colonization—that warning of something bad happening when we trespass into the lands of others and assume to have any authority. This, in my opinion, is a strange stance for a Victorian-era author like Marsh to take, but this was written during England’s colonization of Egypt during the late 1800s and England wouldn’t end its occupation of Egypt until the early 1920s. It’s safe to say that fear of foreigners was fairly commonplace, but that is but one of the

This novel provides a general commentary that would have been accurate at the time, with its anxieties over gender and sexuality—both of which are still providing consternation from the more conservative people in society. It also addresses the panic that white people may have had (or still have) in regards to traveling to non-English speaking countries, in fear of their precious white bodies and in particular white women’s bodies would be harmed or taken advantage of by the so-called evil foreigners.

The Beetle: A Mystery was published in 1897, so it’s well within the public domain laws and can be read here, or you can purchase a physical copy here. If you’re interested in learning more about Bram Stoker and his novel Dracula, you can always take a look at our article dedicated to the topic.

Works Cited

Rutigliano, O. (2020, April 27). This is the weird horror novel that outsold Dracula in 1897. Retrieved November 07, 2020, from https://lithub.com/this-is-the-weird-horror-novel-that-outsold-dracula-in-1897/

Marsh, R. (2019). The Beetle: A mystery. Sweden: Timaios Press.

Tichelaar, T. (2018, October 25). Dracula’s Rival: The Beetle by Richard Marsh. Retrieved November 07, 2020, from https://thegothicwanderer.wordpress.com/2018/10/24/draculas-rival-the-beetle-by-richard-marsh/

Categories
Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

The Demon Dog of Valle Crucis, North Carolina an Urban Legend

My day job is working as a pest control technician for an awesome company here in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Come to find out, I have a haunted site on my route. (Yeah, I know. What are the odds that the horror author gets the route with a haunted place or even better a place haunted by a demon dog?) I have included pictures in this article that I took the last time I was in this area. This local legend of the demon dog of Valle Crucis has been around since the late 1800s.

The story was birthed at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Valle Crucis, North Carolina around 1860. A few people were found dead in the nearby woods by an apparent animal attack. Instead of looking for a rational explanation of what happened, the local minister claimed he saw a “demon dog” kill these people. I’m not bashing ministers or any religion or denomination, for I myself an am ordained minister, but given the time period should we be surprised?

This urban legend has gone on for several generations, but the most popular story has to do with two young men who were students at App State. They were traveling down the road next to the church one moonlit autumn night. A large, shadowy figure leaped our from behind one of the tombstones from the church’s graveyard and appeared in front of their vehicle. The driver swerved to the side of the road to avoid slamming into whatever had stepped in front of them. According to witnesses, he slammed on the breaks and eased his vehicle to the shoulder.

Cemetery in Valle Crucis at St. John's Episcopal Church
St. John's Episcopal Church and gravestones

The two friends peered out the window into the darkness. The figure took shape under the moonlight and they were shocked at what they saw. A massive dog, the size of a full grown man, stood in the road staring at them. it was covered in shimmering black fur and had large, yellow teeth. It’s eyes were glowing red and did not reflect back the light like a dog or cat’s eyes will sometimes do at night. One of the young men turned to the other and said, “Do you see that?” His friend replied, “No, and neither do you.”

Sign in front of tombs at St. John's Episcopal Church

The dog eased towards the vehicle and growled. The driver took his foot off the braked and slammed on the gas. The vehicle sped down the dark, mountain road, hugging the curves as hard as it could without flipping. Sixty miles and hour…Seventy miles an hour…the driver did his best to keep the car under control. He glanced in his rear view mirror and had the shock of his life. The demon dog was keeping us with the car. No, it was gaining on them.

The driver mashed the accelerator even harder. The car sped over a the bridge where the streams in Valle Crucis meet to form a cross (the name in Latin means Vale of the Cross). The dog stopped following them and then vanished.

St. John's Episcopal Church sign established in 1862

The frightened friends drove into Boone and stopped at a local diner, which was the only place open late at night. They tried to let their nerves settle down but it wasn’t happening. They knew neither of them were going to get to sleep for a while. They also knew they had experienced something terrifying and supernatural. The two men shared their story and the urban legend of the Demon Dog of Valle Crucis was cemented into North Carolina folklore forever.

There are other stories surrounding this quaint little cemetery at St. John’s. Some have reported seeing the apparition of a woman wondering around the graves. Others have reported sounds of gunshots and a weeping female, all of which cannot be connected to any known event.

Is the legend of the Demon Dog true? Is this a case of lycanthropy maybe?

When I was out there, I called and whistled for the demon dog several times. I walked among the graves and tried to see if I could get him to come out. He was either napping or had better things to do. I got back in my truck and drove away. I looked in my review, and to my disappointment, there was no demon dog chasing me.

Categories
Featured Horror Mystery and Lore

The Devil’s In The Details – History of the Devil in Mexican Art

Across the spectrum of classically inspired national and regional local art, from paintings to sculpture, and masks, there is a long and still very active history of the presence of the demonic.

Why? Is this art religious? How did something with such strong stigma in the West become so ubiquitous here? To answer these questions, you have to look at both Mexican art history and the cultures of the country’s many regions.  

The presence of the devil in traditionally Mexican-made masks is far from traditional to Mexico, and actually came about as a result of Mexico’s conquest. The Spanish were able to completely change the economic structure of Mexico, slaughtering livestock and stealing land, but they weren’t able to eradicate the native practices completely. When the indigenous dances they tried to eradicate continued, the Spanish changed course and decided instead to co-opt the traditions, applying Catholic figures to the masks that once portrayed native gods. The devil, who sometimes appears painted black and red as inspired by a night god called Tezcatlipoca, was one of them.

The use of natural clay for these masks as well as diablitos, sculptures made popular in Michoacan by a sort of outlaw artist figure by the name of Marcelino Vicente, was a natural choice for an economically depleted country with plenty of clay available as a free and natural resource. Natural clays continue to be used, and molds are used instead of pottery wheels, just as they were 500 years ago. 

Despite the longstanding traditional methods used for making these sculptures, the story of the diablito figurines and tableaus, which can still be found today, depicting flesh-eating devils as well as symbols of current events, is a much more modern one. 

In the town of Ocumicho, in Michoacan, these sculpted scenes that have been said to resemble the nightmare scenes painted by Hieronymus Bosch began to appear in the 1960s. While now embraced, it wasn’t until Vicente took them to neighboring towns to sell that they began to draw positive attention and buyers at the open-air markets that became common as people looked for new ways to sustain themselves after the Mexican Revolution.

Back in Michoacan, his lifestyle was uncommon, his subject matter was unwelcome, but thanks to appreciators of his new style – specifically people like Francisco Mendoza of Fonart, a  government folk-art agency that gave Vicente his first major gallery show, he was able to pioneer and establish an art form in a short five-year span, prior to being beaten to death at a bar the weekend before Dia de lo Muertos

The artisan groups that he formed, men and women who worked together despite strict social rules that only allowed socialization between men and women related by blood or through godparents, meant that people directly trained by Vicente would be able to continue to craft his diablitos and teach the next generation to do it as well. Today you can find work in this style at Mexican markets, souvenir shops, and even galleries in and beyond Michoacan, and in places such as San Antonio in the US!