Full Title: Our Haunted Shores: Tales from the Coasts of the British Isles by Emily Alder, Jimmy Packham and Joan Passey
As we have all known for a while now, my love for the British Library Tales of the Weird is pretty expansive. I love reading scary stories, some of which have no author named, others only published in Blackwood's Magazine and everything in between. The anthologies often cover a vast amount of different stories on a particularly weird theme. My recent reads in the series have included The Uncanny Gastronomic and Dead Drunk - both of which I have enjoyed a lot. This anthology I have just read is entitled Our Haunted Shores: Tales from the Coasts of the British Isles and is especially weird for me because I thoroughly dislike beaches and coasts (but mainly I dislike beaches) so everything in here only justifies my discontent with the beach. However, that is not to say it isn't frightening and weird at some points.
Stories by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Bram Stoker, HG Wells, Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, EF Benson, Christina Rossetti and many more litter this book with tales of terror from the coastlines. From anonymous pieces from magazines to poems which ring the same fright as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, this book has everything to turn you away from the sea, the ocean and no matter how much you love the beach, you will probably sit this one out after reading this anthology.
One of my favourite stories in the whole anthology is actually a narrative poem and this poem even opens the entire anthology. Whether it is really as great as it seems or I am just in awe of the curation of this book, I do not entirely know. But what I do know is that this is an excellent way to start to terrify your reader. Entitled The Haunted Beach by Mary Robinson, this gothic horror narrative poem tells the story of a town where rumour spreads about the ghost of a shipwrecked sailor. When young Sophia becomes intrigued by the story and ventures out to the haunted beach, she encounters a ghastly figure in perpetual torment. In the style of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, he begins to tell his story in warning - a story of betrayal, cruelty and horror. It is atmospheric, well-written and beautifully rhythmic. Clearly, it is the best thing that could have been chosen to open the anthology, drawing and trapping the reader in the watery shores of the dark from the very beginning.
Another story I enjoyed was called Sea-Fit by Algernon Blackwood. Known for his weird tales of horror, Algernon Blackwood writes a story of fright about a crew who shun social interaction, remain isolated and, known for the bad luck of the area, the atmosphere becomes increasingly mysterious and suspect. The grotesque and unsettling are the expertise of Blackwood and so, he writes them in with incredible style, maintaining the horror throughout the story from the outset of tension to the climactic ending. Terrifying events patter throughout and leave the reader grabbing the edge of their seats. It is a beautifully atmospheric story with a great descent throughout. All this added on to the fact that this is clearly the horrifying writing of Algernon Blackwood makes it an absolute treat to come across in the anthology.
Crooken Sands by Bram Stoker, Out of the Earth by Arthur Machen, A Ghost of the Sea by Frances Prevost, The Sea Raiders by HG Wells and Legends by HD Lowry were also stories I thoroughly enjoyed and I definitely thought that they were worthy of mention in the review as standing out in the anthology.
All in all, I feel like this anthology lacked nothing and missed out on nought. It was terrifying, horrific, in some parts it would make you feel sad and in others it could make your skin crawl. It plays on the idea of cosmic terror whilst maintaining a strictly gothic sound. As far as the selection of texts goes, I think that the curation and editing deserves some credit as it brings the reader in and gets them dangerously involved with each story - up close and personally.