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"that suspiciously lingering smile"

Since we've been counting down the scariest books of all time, a poll seems in order:

What is the scariest book you've ever read?

And - oh yes - a meme!

According to the Edmonton Journal, the scariest book of all time is The Collected Short Stories of Edgar Allan Poe (including such works as "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Cask of Amontillado," and "The Tell-Tale Heart," written from 1832 to 1849). Here is an excerpt from one of my personal favorites, "The Fall of the House of Usher":

At the request of Usher, I personally aided him in the arrangements for the temporary entombment. The body having been encoffined, we two alone bore it to its rest. The vault in which we placed it (and which had been so long unopened that our torches, half smothered in its oppressive atmosphere, gave us little opportunity for investigation) was small, damp, and entirely without means of admission for light; lying, at great depth, immediately beneath that portion of the building in which was my own sleeping apartment. It had been used, apparently, in remote feudal times, for the worst purposes of a donjon-keep, and, in later days, as a place of deposit for powder, or some other highly combustible substance, as a portion of its floor, and the whole interior of a long archway through which we reached it, were carefully sheathed with copper. The door, of massive iron, had been, also, similarly protected. Its immense weight caused an unusually sharp grating sound, as it moved upon its hinges.

Having deposited our mournful burden upon tressels within this region of horror, we partially turned aside the yet unscrewed lid of the coffin, and looked upon the face of the tenant. A striking similitude between the brother and sister now first arrested my attention; and Usher, divining, perhaps, my thoughts, murmured out some few words from which I learned that the deceased and himself had been twins, and that sympathies of a scarcely intelligible nature had always existed between them. Our glances, however, rested not long upon the dead --for we could not regard her unawed. The disease which had thus entombed the lady in the maturity of youth, had left, as usual in all maladies of a strictly cataleptical character, the mockery of a faint blush upon the bosom and the face, and that suspiciously lingering smile upon the lip which is so terrible in death.

- from "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe (1839)

Read the entire "The Fall of the House of Usher" at Bartleby.com.
Read the entire "The Fall of the House of Usher" at Project Gutenberg.
Visit PoeStories.com.
Visit Poe's Virtual Library.



( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 5th, 2006 12:46 pm (UTC)
Lord, I remember reading a collection of his stories one night while babysitting. There was one light on in the house...and it picked that time to burn out. Scared the hell out of me.

On another note, have you ever read Robert McCammon's, "Usher's Passing"? It's a sequel of sorts to Fall of the House of Usher. Interesting take and a wonderful read on its own. But then, I've loved just about everything McCammon has writen.
Oct. 5th, 2006 07:57 pm (UTC)
someone else has read usher's passing! :O i'm shocked and so happy. i LOVE that book; my paperback has long since lost its cover to too much flipping and bending and folding. :D
Oct. 6th, 2006 02:32 pm (UTC)
Okay, you two have got me going on this Usher's Passing thing. I've never read it, but clearly I need to do so! Thanks to you both for the recommendation - I'm definitely going to get my hands on a copy! :)
Oct. 10th, 2006 01:11 am (UTC)
For some odd reason, that book never seemed to make much of a splash. Glad to finally run into another of its fans!
Oct. 5th, 2006 02:39 pm (UTC)
I was really not able to read scary things when younger and am only now starting to be able to enjoy volunteering for such things, lol. The black riders in Lord of the Rings were enough to keep me up at night. I was cruelly tricked (hehe) into reading "The Telltale Heart" by a teacher when I was in high school and I swear 20 years later I can still remember how it gripped me! *shiver*
Oct. 6th, 2006 02:27 am (UTC)
The Black Riders were scary, they still come snuffling through my dreams. It's the cosiness of the Shire and the sense of being besieged that chills me, I think.
Oct. 6th, 2006 02:34 pm (UTC)
It's the cosiness of the Shire and the sense of being besieged that chills me

Well put!
Oct. 6th, 2006 02:33 pm (UTC)
Yikes! Reading "The Tell-tale Heart" is like jumping into the deep end of the pool of scariness! LOL! *hugs you*
Oct. 5th, 2006 03:50 pm (UTC)
Ah, Poe :) Hehe, witchcat and I were discussing this morning what would be number 1. Our guesses included Phantom of the Opera and pretty much anything by H.P. Lovecraft... My pick was The Dunwich Horror...

But yes... Poe does indeed strike terror into one's heart... cause it is so possible for some of the things to occur... and also eats at some of humanities deepest fears...

By the way, you coming to the TN Highland Games?
Oct. 6th, 2006 02:35 pm (UTC)
Oooh, I could go with The Dunwich Horror, for certain!

This weekend is Belmont's Preview Day, so I'm afraid duties there will take up some time. I'm still hoping to make it to some of the games, but I honestly don't know if that will happen. Thanks so much for the heads up about the event, though! It's exactly the kind of thing I'm interested in attending!
Oct. 5th, 2006 04:12 pm (UTC)
I love Poe!! I remember the first time I read,the gold bug,being my favorite. I must admit,I could not read the other tales of horror.too afraid as it was of the night. I still do not like horror,but good literature is pricless!

"Tis the wind and nothing more"

((EH)) I will have to think of my favorite of books.
Oct. 6th, 2006 02:38 pm (UTC)
I just adore Poe, not only because of the psychological aspect of his work, but also because he and his "tales of ratiocination" were such pioneers of my first love, science fiction. (In fact, my interest in the Gothic is directly tied to my love of SF.) He is made of awesome. :)

I'd love to know your favorite books! You have great taste in literature. (((syrcleoftrees)))
Oct. 5th, 2006 05:13 pm (UTC)
I *would* say "The Tell-Tale Heart" but the truth is, that really only gets me when it's *performed*.

But after that, I think it's Edith Nesbit's thriller short stories. Specifically, Man Sized Marble and Hurst Of Hurstcote Damn, I still get crawling skin after reading them over dozens of times!
Oct. 6th, 2006 02:39 pm (UTC)
Ooooh, excellent call! Edith Nesbit had an amazing way with words. I always love your choices of literature.
Oct. 5th, 2006 05:40 pm (UTC)
*eep* forgetting name of author.

Shirley Jackson?

It became a film. It was scary too. My bad....brain is dead and I'm too lazy to google.
Oct. 6th, 2006 02:41 pm (UTC)
Ooooh, The Haunting of Hill House! Great call. The psychological angle for that one was even creepier than the possible haunting. Was the haunting real, or was she losing her grip on sanity? Or both? Wonderful choice.
Oct. 5th, 2006 06:31 pm (UTC)
Enjoy the meal!! *laughs and points at the meme* But I assume it was quite tough and woody *loooool*

Unfortunately I haven't read any really scary book!! Exciting yes..but scary?? I've read "Dracula" or "Interview with a vampire" but I wasn't scared. Maybe I'm too insensitive ;o). In my youth I read regularly a dime novel called "John Sinclair - the ghost hunter"...so I'm probably "immune" against ghosts and other monster ;o))
Oct. 6th, 2006 02:43 pm (UTC)
Enjoy the meal!! *laughs and points at the meme*


But I assume it was quite tough and woody *loooool*

Ah, that's what the salsa and sour cream are for. *wink*

Ew, I think I just grossed myself out. :)

Exciting yes..but scary??

I understand what you mean. I get rather thrilled, but not exactly scared - at least most of the time! The things that really scare me are true events, things from the news or history.

John Sinclair - The Ghost Hunter sounds like great fun!
Oct. 5th, 2006 06:42 pm (UTC)
I love Poe! Thanks for posting all those wonderful literature snippets. I enjoyed them all :)))
Oct. 6th, 2006 02:44 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'm so glad you're enjoying them! ((((Syredronning))))
Oct. 6th, 2006 01:14 am (UTC)
I don't know if I agree if Poe's the scariest. I really don't get scared much by stories.
Oct. 6th, 2006 02:48 pm (UTC)
I just adore Poe, not only because of the psychological aspect of his work, but also because he and his "tales of ratiocination" were such pioneers of my first love, science fiction. (In fact, my interest in the Gothic is directly tied to my love of SF.) But I think I get more thrilled by most fiction than genuinely scared. I get more scared from true events, either from the news or history.
Oct. 6th, 2006 01:23 am (UTC)
I think it's not fair to select a collection of short stories for the most scary. After all, how can one story by another author compete with all of Poe? I confess I chose Phantom of the Opera as the scariest I've ever read (though I remember being majorly creeped out the first time I read it) because I was miffed it didn't make the top five.
Oct. 6th, 2006 02:50 pm (UTC)
*sings* "He's there, the Phantom of the Opera...!!!"

I think you're probably right about it being unfair to put single stories by other authors against a collection by Poe. He's Poe, after all! Who can compete?
Oct. 7th, 2006 02:45 am (UTC)
Lovecraft? They seem to be about the same style.
Oct. 7th, 2006 12:56 pm (UTC)
I actually like Lovecraft even better, personally. But even he held Poe in awe - I guess the fact Poe was such a pioneer figure works in his favor, the whole "he did it first" phenomenon. But you're right, Lovecraft's work is competitive, to be sure.
Oct. 6th, 2006 02:24 am (UTC)
I had to wrack my brain over this one; not Poe or Lovecraft or James or King. Even some of Bradbury comes closer. Perhaps something by Wyndham, maybe Day of the Triffids, maybe not. It's the way he embeds the wrongness in the deceptively commonplace.
Oct. 6th, 2006 02:54 pm (UTC)
Oooh, Triffids! I need to reread Wyndham. It's been too long, but just remembering it gives me delightfully disturbing chills (a la Jack Finney's Invasion of the Body Snatchers).
Oct. 6th, 2006 11:46 am (UTC)
Ahhahah. It's probably tasteless (*snigger*) to suggest that BSE may pay you a visit. :D

And "cataleptical" is a v. cool word.
Oct. 6th, 2006 02:58 pm (UTC)
*snort* You know I live for tastelessness. And that's just funny. Touche!

See, I count on you for this type of thing. :)

( 30 comments — Leave a comment )

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