What’s Ghosts With Teeth all about?:
Many of us grew up on The Pan Book of Horror Stories and its later incarnations, Dark Voices and Dark Terrors (The Gollancz Book of Horror), which won the World Fantasy Award, the Horror Critics’ Guild Award and the British Fantasy Award, but for a decade or more there has been no non-themed anthology of original horror fiction published in the mainstream. Now that horror has returned to the bookshelves, it is time for a regular anthology of brand-new fiction by the best and brightest in the field, both the Big Names and the most talented newcomers. A Book of Horrors is the foremost in the field: a collection of the very best chiller fiction, from some of the world’s greatest writers.
Ghosts With Teeth is the third story in this short story collection edited by Stephen Jones. It involves a husband and wife who return to their sleepy little town after some time away and find a lot of things have changed… along with the arrival of some unexpected and very unwelcome guests.
What did I think?:
Beware! This short story is not for the faint-hearted. It’s one of my favourites of the collection so far and the author, Peter Crowther describes it beautifully:
“My idea was that maybe the old chestnut about poltergeists being little more than Casper the Friendly Ghost is a long ways off of the truth. Thus the ghosts in my tale don’t just move ornaments around and empty drawers onto the floor… no sirree. The ghost in my tale have teeth. And they bite.”
Our story begins with a married couple, Hugh and Angie, who are travelling back to their small town after spending some time in Boston with Angie’s sister Nan. It is a dark and stormy night setting the scene perfectly for the horrors that are to come, and they are almost turned away from entering the town by a local police officer called Maude who the couple know well. She is closing off the road preventing any further cars from going through but decides to let the couple through as a favour which they may not thank her for later. Especially when she utters the words that circle around their minds later – “Ain’t like you’re going to be going anyplace once you get there.” Almost immediately, the couple are on edge and get the sense that something isn’t right. This feeling is only increased when they arrive home to a deserted town and a neighbour who stops only long enough to deliver a cryptic message – “They’re here, Hugh,” and disappears down the street. In a rainstorm, remember.
Approaching their house, Hugh believes he sees someone at their bedroom window but then dismisses it as a trick of the light or shadows, as on entering their property he realises the burglar alarm has not been tripped. The arrival of the Sheriff should put their minds at ease, but strangely enough he appears to be acting a little oddly and delivers little cryptic messages of his own. Then the worst happens. Angie disappears from the house very quietly and with no warning. Although reassured by his friend Gary, Hugh still worries incessantly about her, why would she suddenly vanish? And why didn’t he hear her leave? Numerous other odd things happen throughout that night that really send a shiver down the spine including the radio turning itself on, sounds that make Hugh believe someone has turned over in bed, a closed door suddenly opening (VERY slowly, of course!) and the scariest phone call I have read about in years. It probably doesn’t help that it’s Halloween also which as we all know is prime ghost and ghoulie time. This all leads to an absolute “killer” (no pun intended!) of an ending that made every hair on my arms stand on end.
I am not familiar with Peter Crowther’s work, but this short story will definitely make me seek out some of his others. It was very reminiscent of Stephen King, whom as you probably know if you are a regular reader of my blog, is my all-time favourite author. I should probably disclose that if you are of a nervous disposition, get creeped out by ghost stories, or are alone in the house when you read this, I’d probably say steer clear! For me however, it was a wonderful and chilling addition to my short stories challenge and although I’m now jumping at the slightest sound, I highly recommend it.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY – The Colour Out Of Space by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft