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Book Review: "The Mammoth Book of Folk Horror" ed. by Stephen Jones

5/5 - an amazing folk horror anthology of old and new...

By Annie KapurPublished 2 months ago 4 min read
From: Amazon

...The true evil has nothing to do with social life or social laws, or if it has, only incidentally and accidentally. It is a lonely passion of the soul — or a passion of the lonely soul — whichever you like. If, by chance, we understand it, and grasp its full significance, then, indeed, it will fill us with horror and with awe. But this emotion is widely distinguished from the fear and the disgust with which we regard the ordinary criminal, since this latter is largely or entirely founded on the regard which we have for our own skins or purses. We hate a murder, because we know that we should hate to be murdered, or to have any one that we like murdered.

The White People by Arthur Machen

Folk Horror is my favourite sub-genre if you did not know already. I love everything about these dark and supernatural tales that have a rustic and weird quality about them. They could be set in the forests or abandoned locations of folklore. They could include ghosts and witches, carlin and evil unrested spirits. They could be about mere mortals or they could be about the old god, Pan. In The Mammoth Book of Folk Horror, there are many stories to explore, many I have read before and some that I have not. But after establishing what is meant by the sub-genre at the beginning of the book, I was more than ready to begin reading.

The anthology opens with one of the most well-known folk horror stories of all time, The White People by Arthur Machen is perhaps the best way to open the compilation. A story nearly every horror fan has already read but, something trusted to bring us into the book. For those of you who do not know, The White People opens with two men having a discussion on the nature of evil when one of the men reveals that he has a 'green book'. This book is a diary that belonged to a young girl who documented some real evils within the text. It reads of other-worldliness, witchcraft and the supernatural. The ending is always something of awe to me because there's an extended metaphor hidden in there somewhere. When you find it, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

From: Michael Marshall Smith via X

A story I have never read before that I enjoyed was called St Ambrews Well by David A Sutton. According to the introduction to the story, it is based on the author's own childhood experiences of going on caravan holidays in South West England and learning about all the local legends surrounding the well. It is a story with a strange aura and it's about a well that is concealed by a door. Two friends go out on a caravan holiday and it isn't long before they start to experience some weird things. They see things that may or may not be really there, they experience oddities and, as the story comes to a climax there is a lot of stuff about whether it is correct to tell the truth about what is happening here. I don't want to reveal too much because it will give the story away but it is really well written and has that weird cornish atmosphere that you really do associate with the oddities of the country lifestyle that lends itself to old legends of hauntings.

Another story I enjoyed was one that I have read once or twice before but it really never gets old: The Hound by HP Lovecraft is one of the great stories of folk horror if you like reading about old curses and amulets. This story is about a man who is on the brink of suicide as he recalls robbing graves with a friend of his named St John. As they rob a jade amulet from the neck of a skeleton they notice it as the one mentioned in the Necronomicon but steal it anyway. Slowly, after the robbery they begin to hear sounds that aren't there, see things that may or may not be around - they begin to go mad with anxiety and paranoia. The amulet is a cursed object yes, but I won't give the whole story away here - there's so much more.

Filled with incredible and dark stories, this book makes a great case for being one of the better folk horror anthologies I have encountered over my time. It has both recogniseable and completely new short stories which are all very enthralling. Honestly, I would recommend this to all horror fans everywhere - it was just a joy.


About the Creator

Annie Kapur

195K+ Reads on Vocal.

English Lecturer

🎓Literature & Writing (B.A)

🎓Film & Writing (M.A)

🎓Secondary English Education (PgDipEd) (QTS)

📍Birmingham, UK

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