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Voodoo Tales: The Complete Ghost Stories of Henry S. Whitehead

af Henry S. Whitehead

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521390,365 (4)3
'And behind him, like a misshapen black frog, bounded the Thing, its red tongue lolling out of its gash of a mouth, its diminutive blubbery lips drawn back in a murderous snarl...'Let Henry S. Whitehead take you into the mysterious and macabre world of voodoo where beasts invade the mind of man and where lives of the living are racked by the spirits of the dead. In this collection of rare and out of print stories you will encounter the curses of the great Guinea-Snake, the Sheen, the weredog whose very touch means certain death, the curious tale of the 'magicked' mirror, and fiendish manikins who make life a living hell. Included in this festival of shivering fear is the remarkable narrative 'Williamson' which every editor who read the story shied away from publishing. With deceptive simplicity and chilling realism, Whitehead's Voodoo Tales are amongst the most frightening ever written.… (mere)
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This entry in the Wordsworth Tales of Mystery and the Supernatural, Voodoo Tales is a true treasure trove, collecting 37 of Henry S. Whitehead's exotic brand of weird tales. H. P. Lovecraft was a great admirer of Whitehead’s work, describing it as “subtle, realistic, and quietly potent.” This is a hefty brick of a paperback, checking in at nearly 700 pages, and well worth the effort of reading through in its entirety. The book includes stories from the three original anthologies, West India Lights; Jumbee and Other Voodoo Tales; The Black Beast and Other Voodoo Tales; as well as six other stories. Many of these highly entertaining tales feature Gerald Canevin, likely derived from Whitehead's own persona, as the narrator, often accompanied by his esteemed friend Lord Carruth, both with a keen interest in all things uncanny. His writing is crisp and tight, and his stories invariably intriguing. Occasionally Whitehead throws a sharp curveball by having some dire situation end happily, as an unexpected twist. These stories stand among the upper echelon of weird fiction. It must be noted that although Whitehead generally tries to present the West Indies black population in sympathetic and respectful terms, racism still bleeds through with occasional racial stereotypes, and crude and offensive vernacular spoken by characters.

Here are the story synopses, with the standouts asterisked ***:

WEST INDIA LIGHTS
Black Terror - This is a great way to open the anthology, as it gives some insight into Voodoo beliefs and the associated psyche of West Indies natives.
West India Light - A strangely animated element of an old painting points the way to uncovering a dark family secret.
Williamson - A brilliant but somewhat heavy-handed tale, but that ham-fisted style is not surprising as this is the first story Whitehead wrote, circa 1910, but not published until 1946. Nevertheless, a classic. ***
The Shut Room - Lord Carruth and Mr Canevin seek the solution to the mysterious disappearance of leather goods at the Coach and Horses Inn.
The Left Eye - This is a wonderfully lurid pulp story, which first appeared in a 1927 issue of Weird Tales. ***
The Tea Leaves - A tale of fate foretold from the bottom of a teacup. ***
The Trap - Canevin must deduce the cause of the mysterious disappearance of one of his young students, and devise a method to ensure his safe return.
The Napier Limousine - Responding to an urgent request, Canevin and Lord Carruth take an unusual short hop in the title vehicle to help avert a tragedy. A neatly constructed story with a satisfying coda. ***
The Ravel Pavane - In this romantic tale with an otherworldly element, a pianist experiences a deep reverie when hearing the title piece.
Sea Change - Any synopsis might just give away too much here; best to go into this one cold. Be assured though, this is top shelf. ***
The People of Pan - Great atmospheric story of Grosvenor, the world’s richest man, and his amazing adventure on the mysterious island of Saona. ***
The Chadbourne Episode - Farm animals and a young boy have gone missing in Connecticut in this gruesome tale, spiced with a heavy dose of 1930’s era xenophobia.
Scar-Tissue - The strange mystery behind Joe Smith's ghastly scar is revealed in this intriguing tale of ancestral memory and poetic justice.
In Case of Disaster Only - A good yarn about precognition and telepathy.
Bothon - Powers Meredith receives a sharp blow to the head, and then experiences a strange aural phenomena.
The Great Circle - A wonderful panoramic description via a descending aircraft opens this adventure tale of a lost-race. While there are some exciting moments, this bloated story would have been far more effective if its length were halved. ***
Obi in the Caribbean - A very short treatise on West Indian obi (magic) superstitons.

JUMBEE AND OTHER VOODOO TALES
Jumbee - A Caribbean-flavored ghost story.
Cassius - Chilling West Indian tale of a “Thing” which viciously attacks a St Thomas houseman, and seems to reside in a miniature hut, fashioned by all appearance as a child’s dollhouse. ***
Black Tancrède - Though this one starts in convoluted fashion, it eventually finds its footing midway though to deliver a creepy tale of revenge.
The Shadows - What exactly are those strange shadows that appear in the house where Old Morris died? And how exactly did he die?
Sweet Grass - This may be Whitehead’s quintessential voodoo tale, which ncludes some of his most lush and intoxicating prose. ***
The Tree-Man - Canevin relates the incredible story of Silvio Fabricus, who has a strange devotion to a certain tree. Another one of the best! This one will linger with you... ***
Passing of a God - Doctor Pelletier relates to Canevin the strange story of a Mr Carswell and his frightful medical condition. ***
Hill Drums - When travel writer William Palgrave disparages Charlotte Amalia, capital town of St. Thomas, in a magazine article, repercussions ensue from even the lowest layers of the social strata.

THE BLACK BEAST AND OTHER VOODOO TALES
The Black Beast - Whitehead perfectly sets the scene with an ominous description of the old House known as Gannett’s, now shuttered for half a century. But after the property passes to younger heirs, the Gannett’s is leased to a Mrs Garde, who experiences something frightful and inexplicable. Canevin sets out to discover exactly what happened there in the autumn of 1876. ***
Seven Turns in a Hangman’s Rope - The dreadful tragedy of Saul McCartney is eerily relived in a most unusual oil painting which Canevin discovers among the artifacts in a house in Fredericksted on the island of Vera Cruz. Canevin, after exhaustive research, recounts the infamous events of 1825 in this extraordinary pirate tale, hinging on the sure hand of one skilled in the arts of darkness. ***
Mrs Lorriquer - Being the story of the title character and her odd demeanor whilst playing cards.
The Projection of Armand Dubois - After Mrs du Chaillu collects an old debt from Dubois, she is visited by strange apparitions.
The Lips - Lurid tale of one slave’s vengeance on a cruel master of a slave ship.

OTHER STORIES
The Fireplace - When the Planter’s Hotel in Jackson, Mississippi, burns to the ground on December 23, 1922, four prominent Southern citizens lose their lives. Whitehead neatly unwraps the sublime backstory, making this one of his best. ***
The Moon Dial - The story of Said Yussuf, the young son of the Maharajah of Kangalore, and his eternal fascination with the full moon.
No Eye-Witness - Everard Simon’s subway ride back to Brooklyn is usually uneventful, but on this one particular evening it leads him into a highly unusual situation.
Across the Gulf - Alan Carrington’s mother had always believed that if a deceased mother comes to a child in a dream it portends a disaster in the family. Six years after she dies, she finally comes to Alan in a dream, leaving him to wonder if it is indeed a warning.
The Tabernacle - Kashmir Strod places his Sanctissimum cloth inside his new beehive, with remarkable consequence.
The Door - The ending is really no surprise in this trifle in which a man belatedly attempts to right a wrong he committed against his parents.
Sea-Tiger - Arthur Hewitt, en route for the West Indies, is thrown overboard in a violent storm, but miraculously survives this near-death experience - followed by a very strange aftermath. ( )
  ghr4 | Mar 15, 2019 |
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'And behind him, like a misshapen black frog, bounded the Thing, its red tongue lolling out of its gash of a mouth, its diminutive blubbery lips drawn back in a murderous snarl...'Let Henry S. Whitehead take you into the mysterious and macabre world of voodoo where beasts invade the mind of man and where lives of the living are racked by the spirits of the dead. In this collection of rare and out of print stories you will encounter the curses of the great Guinea-Snake, the Sheen, the weredog whose very touch means certain death, the curious tale of the 'magicked' mirror, and fiendish manikins who make life a living hell. Included in this festival of shivering fear is the remarkable narrative 'Williamson' which every editor who read the story shied away from publishing. With deceptive simplicity and chilling realism, Whitehead's Voodoo Tales are amongst the most frightening ever written.

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