Tag Archives: Stephen Gammell

I still get twitchy about the question: “Who’s got my golden arm?” It’s probably why I don’t really care for precious metals.

48. Long Lankin – Lindsey Barraclough

Every once in a while, less so nowadays, someone creates (or illustrates, damnit, Stephen Gammell) a story for young people that will scare them half to death. It will stick in the back of their minds, jumping to the surface when they hear a noise, see a creepy tree, or are walking all alone, late at night, past a graveyard. Long Lankin is a scary fucking book. Reading it made me jumpy and paranoid during the daylight and frankly, a story about post-World War II era British children and folklore should not have managed to accomplish that task. The last thing that made me that jumpy was The Blair Witch Project (saw it in the theater, pre-most of the hype or at least I had no access to hype, didn’t think it was real though, still scary. No corners).

There’s a level of scarcity and secrecy in Long Lankin that just puts a damper on the mood and pushes it into a murky, stifling place. Children aren’t allowed to know what they need to know and there’s an exciting amount of dramatic tension at play as a result. Another contributor to the effectiveness are Barraclough’s lush descriptions. She does an excellent job describing how rooms feel when the windows have been nailed shut for years and I can even feel my breath hitch thinking about the stale air (of course, as an allergic-asthmatic, that’s always going to be a sticking point of terror for me). And that classic British damp is ever-present, rotting away the shingles and leaving room for creepy beasties to get through.

The one thing that didn’t work for me was the ending, but it’s quite the journey to get there, so overall it’s a worthwhile read.

Pickles dramatically reenacts my experience reading Long Lankin. Did you hear that?

Pickles dramatically reenacts my experience reading Long Lankin. Did you hear that?

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Maybe if I gave it some salted nuts it would return to its home.

34. Prom Dress – Lael Littke

I sometimes enjoy reading about cursed objects. When I was younger and read The Restless Dead by Daniel Cohen the story about the evil chair freaked me right out. As did the story about Esther and her poltergeist. I was legitimately terrified of acquiring a poltergeist throughout my adolescence (because that’s apparently when they’re most attracted to you and willing to exacerbate your angst with shit you can’t prove you didn’t do). I’m pretty sure both those stories are in The Restless Dead, I had this habit of reading and being utterly wigged out by ghost stories in elementary school, so it could have been another book by Daniel Cohen, but I’m sure it was one of his…they seemed innocuous because they weren’t absolutely terrifyingly illustrated by Stephen Gammell. I have shaken my fist at the sky out of frustration over how scary Stephen Gammell’s illustrations are! Super scary.The least scary way I have seen cursed objects discussed was on the show Haunted Collector. That was relatively useless watching for me and I enjoy objects and paranormal wackiness. I sometimes worry that one of the antiques I purchase regularly will end up being haunted. I don’t want to be haunted by a chalkware cow or a Big Boy bank, but there’s a possibility that I will be. It is unlikely that I will be haunted by clothing, well, unless some cowboy farmer ghost gets pissed about me wearing his shirt…

Anyway, this Point Thriller about an actual cursed dress: Prom Dress by Lael Littke, was very engrossing. The story starts with one girl who makes a bad decision – taking the cursed dress from its home in a lady’s attic – and it wrecks her dancing skills. And then it moves on to another girl…and then another…before everything comes full circle and the dress’s original owner is insane. The most fun parts of the book were the moves from person to person, the way the dress lures them in using its girly mind games and making each girl think they’d look really awesome in it or that it’s just right for some upcoming occasion and then – it causes different horrible things to happen. It’s like the dress knows their insecurities. Just like my chalkware cows know when I’m vulnerable. Good luck getting off the fridge! As young adult stories go, it’s not that deep but it moves and doesn’t feel like it’s missing something. Sometimes, these thrillers could use some character infusion; Prom Dress has some well fleshed out narrators, despite covering so many different perspectives.

The episodes of Supernatural that deal with cursed objects are definitely some of my favorites. Especially Bad Day at Black Rock, but the one from season seven was one of the more enjoyable pieces of season seven.

Duncan and Murderface maintain vigilance against curses, wherever they may come from. Or they could be collecting them- it’s hard to tell with these girls.

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