by Chris Perridas
In Horror tales, one of the most desolate of tales is sheer hopelessness. The condition of loneliness drives people to acts of insanity and desperation. “Why did he commit suicide”, we shake our heads in wonder. “Why does she put up with that abuse,” we wag our tongues. The ultimate imprisonment is solitary confinement. Loneliness. When loneliness joins isolation and hopelessness, terror ensues. Tim Lebbon claims one of the best recent expositions of this with his story White.
A reasonably kind man, Lebbon has nevertheless imagined a tale in which snow brings isolation – and something ominous and deadly comes on its winds. His ability to describe around the monsters and their fiendish results without being explicit chills the reader’s imagination.
A classic tale is John W. Campbell, Jr.’s magnum opus, Who Goes There (1938). IT has been filmed by masters John Carpenter (1982) and Howard Hawks (1951). By sheer coincidence, the story might appear to be the third of a trilogy of Antarctic horrors starting with Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (circa 1838), continuing to H. P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness (written late Winter 1931) and culminating with Campbell’s work. All of these speak of miscellaneous and mysterious horrors in the bleakest part of our world – the Antarctic.
This story extracted from an 1855 New York Times newspaper sounds like a Jack London tragedy.
The story tells of a party trapped in a freezing blizzard, the only hope to chop up the wagons and burn them for heat. In a last desperate measure they killed the oxen, and stuffed a mother and her baby into the steaming innards. Alas, even that final hope failed, and death ensued. The human will is powerful, but ultimately a miscalculation, a brief moment of bad luck, and life snuffs out like a candle in the wind.
From this come trembling horror stories.
Previously published on the Miskatonic Books Blog on 5th October 2011. With thanks for letting me republish. Don’t forget to click through and read there as well.