Hey there horror fans, I’m Jessica Avery and I’ll be delivering your weekly brief of all that’s ghastly and grim in the world of Horror. Whether you’re looking for a backlist book that will give you the willies, a terrifying new release, or the latest in horror community news, you’ll find it here in The Fright Stuff.
I’m writing to you live from the depths of quarantine this week, folks. Though, hopefully, by the time you read this I will be symptom free and loose once more upon the face of the earth. And while having COVID is about as much fun as being, say, fed through a wood chipper toes first, at least being trapped in my apartment gave me plenty of time to come up with this week’s horror picks. From home décor inspired by a legendary horror favorite, to new works of Gothic and Slasher goodness, to a few books that might have you second guessing your next subway ride, let’s have some fun!
“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” Throw Pillow Case by OctoberRoadDesigns
I love The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It’s hands down one of my favorite scary stories. So when I saw this simple but attractive throw pillow case, reprinting the famous scene of Ichabod’s frightening late night ride, the “Horseman” in hot pursuit, I fell head over heels. It’s also worth noting, for the Halloween-hearted (which, I imagine, is most of you), that this shop has a whole assortment of themed home décor, including a few other Sleepy Hollow inspired pieces. $12
Ashthorne by April Yates
It’s Ashthorne time! April Yate’s Gothic horror novella is set in the aftermath of WWI, in a manor house that has been repurposed as a convalescence hospital that may be housing more than injured soldiers. Adelaide came to Ashthorne to be a nurse, and to hide from her family. But when she ends up falling in love with Evelyn, the owner’s daughter, the two set out to investigate Evelyn’s suspicions about the hospital and in the end, Adelaide may find that Ashthorne is not the safe haven she hoped it would be
Clown in a Cornfield 2: Frendo Lives by Adam Cesare
For those of you who haven’t read the first book yet, Clown in a Cornfield is a tense, violent YA slasher novel about a small town trapped in its own dying past by the blind nostalgia of its aging population. A nostalgia centered around the now defunct corn syrup factory that once made the town prosperous, as well as the factory’s incredibly creepy clown mascot, Frendo. Which is why I’m so excited that I’m finally going to get the hold the sequel, Frendo Lives, in my hungry little hands. Because just when you thought it was safe to go back into the cornfields, the specter that lurks in the shadows of Kettle Springs has returned to seek revenge on those who once foiled “Frendo’s” sinister plans.
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Alright Jessica, you might be asking, what did the subway ever do to you that you had to dedicate a whole newsletter to subway scenes in horror? Well, nothing actually! I just find the whole idea of underground train systems simultaneously useful and more than a little creepy. All that dark, empty space. Forgotten platforms, no longer in use and sitting in the dark. Glimpsed through the windows of passing trains, like ghosts of another time. The tunnels beneath the tunnels. A whole subterranean world of infrastructure that most people see only in flashes as they travel from stop to stop. Who knows what’s really out there in the dark. Beneath the city, and further down.
The Worm and His Kings by Hailey Piper
Okay, so technically the subway itself cannot be blamed for a creepy cult snatching people out of abandoned subway terminals. Or for any sinister, ancient evils lurking beneath (far, far beneath) the New York City streets, putting strange and unknowable plans into motion. But that scene at the beginning of the novella, when Monique’s girlfriend Donna disappears and there’s just the big, dark, echoing void of the tunnel where she used to be — that’s scary. And the uneasiness of that scene, the pervading sense of wrong, is something Piper carries through the whole book, right up to it’s wormy, unnerving finale. I love this book so much, and oh did you hear: Off Limits Press has announced two sequels, one in 2023 and one in 2024!
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
Of the three books on this list, The City We Became is the only one that doesn’t take place almost entirely underground. BUT, there is a rather memorable scene featuring a giant worm (oops, secondary newsletter theme, apparently) made up of old, decommissioned subway cars, and I felt that at the very least that earned The City We Became an honorary mention on a list of reasons why maybe sometimes it’s just better to stay aboveground. Jemisin’s cosmic horror novel about five New Yorkers who represent the soul of the city and must come together to protect it is probably one of the most innovative books I’ve read in recent years. And with the sequel, The World We Make due out in November, now’s a great time for a re-read.
Survive the Night by Danielle Vega
You know what’s a terrible idea? An all-night underground rave in an abandoned subway tunnel. Call me a stick-in-the-mud if you want, but I’m prefer to think of myself as horror educated. I refuse to be the “don’t go in there” girl, and that definitely includes parties in dark tunnels, with music so loud that nobody could here me, say, being brutally killed and disemboweled in a nearby tunnel. That’s what happened to poor Julie, and she’s just the first when the subway party at the heart of Danielle Vega’s Survive the Night starts to go seriously off the rails. (Ba dum tish). When Casey stumbles on Julie’s dead body and sounds the alarm, she and her friends find themselves trying to escape the subway, only to find every exit barred. Someone doesn’t want them getting out.