SOMETHING TO READ
Terror can lurk in many forms -- a nasty neighbor, an evil dog, shadows on the road, a repeated nightmare, a crowd of crows.
With Halloween around the corner, readers will find chills aplenty in "The Oxford Book of Scary Tales" (selected by Dennis Pepper, Oxford University Press, $14.95, 156 pages), an illustrated collection of more than 30 scary stories and poems from around the world.
Sheila LaVelle's "Dear Jane" is written as a collection of letters home from summer camp. In Catherine Storr's "Crossing Over," find out how volunteering to walk a dog for an old lady can kill you. Particularly good are Vivien Alcock's "A Change of Aunts" and Daniel Wynn Barber's "Tiger in the Snow." Dennis Hamley's "Supermarket" is a story of psychological terror, of a 9-year-old boy lost in a crowded supermarket. Kevin Crossley-Holland's "Slam and the Ghost" is a short, snappy tale of brothers and ghosts.
Author William Mayne included three of his own very strange stories in this varied collection of 26 "Supernatural Stories" (Kingfisher, $6.95, 223 pages) from around the world and featuring authors as different as Mark Twain, with the classic "The Woman With the Golden Arm," and Ray Bradbury, with "Zero Hour," a frightening futuristic tale of children assisting an alien invasion. There are shades of the Twilight Zone in Alison Lurie's "The Highboy," featuring a very nasty piece of furniture. Also very fine is Robert Westall's "The Call," the suspenseful story of an emergency service on Christmas Eve and a mysterious call from a woman who says she's about to be murdered. There are also a couple good (although not scary) ghost stories. Martin Wilkinson's "Thorns" features mysterious little men who force a farmer to pay them rent, and Helen Cresswell's "A Kind of Swan Song" tells of a little girl who returns to her mother after death. Leave it to Truman Capote (author of "In Cold Blood") to add the creepiest story to the lot, with "Miriam," about a lonely old woman in New York City whose quiet life is thrown into turmoil when she lets a waif of a girl into her apartment and then can't make her leave.
If you prefer your chills and thrills in the form of nonfiction, Daniel Cohen's books may intrigue you. "Ghostly Warnings" ($14.99, Cobblehill Books, 64 pages) is a short collection of accounts of people who reported warnings from the dead. Sometimes the warning comes from a ghostly double. Once, French writer Guy de Maupassant was working in his study when a figure sat down -- and started dictating to him the story he was writing! Then there was a California artist who kept seeing her double, although the double always seemed to be about five years older. On one occasion the double had a limp -- and sure enough, the artist was injured in a car accident and developed a permanent limp.
Other reports include a Oiuja board warning a woman her husband was about to kill her, an Irish noblewoman whose dead brother appeared in a dream with a scary prediction about her future, and the ghost of a woman returning to yank the bedclothes off, and otherwise bother, her husband and his new wife.
Cohen's "Werewolves," ($14.99, Cobblehill, 114 pages) complete with a long bibliography, explores the fascination of people around the world and over the centuries with the idea that a person could take the form of an animal and then return to human form. Not only were there werewolves but werefoxes, werebears, wereleopards and even werehippopotamuses!
Cohen offers interesting explanations of the evolution of the werewolf idea, and some of his accounts come from actual court cases. In 16th-century France, many people were tried as witches but some were executed as werewolves.
There's some pretty gruesome stuff in here. Cohen reports that a barrel of human bones was found in the house of a tailor from Paris who was executed as a werewolf in 1598. The trial records were ordered destroyed because the case was so shocking. A century later, French soldiers were sent to hunt "the beast of LeGevaduan" which stalked the countryside, killing and mutilating children as they tended flocks of sheep. In one unusual case, also in France, a judge saved a 14-year-old "werewolf" boy from execution for killing several children, declaring him insane, and the boy spent his remaining years locked up in a monastery.
There have also been werewolf reports in more recent times. The author tells the story from early this century of a woman who said she was followed home late at night from a train station in Wales by what appeared to be some kind of wolf man. The creature disappeared when she shone a flashlight in its face.
The author also discovers that the werewolf is still to be found -- roaming the Internet. Included at the end is a list of the 10 greatest werewolf movies.
-- Jean Westmoore
Q. Why are wolves so mean on cartoons and not in real life? -- Jimmy Schimmel
A. Wolves are mean, if you're a rabbit. Because if you're a rabbit, you might be dinner. Same for many other animals, from farmers' chickens to big wild elk. So if a cartoon picks animals for characters, a wolf is a natural bad guy. But in some ways, wolves aren't as horrible as many people think. Wolves try to stay away from human beings and rarely attack people. Of course, if a person surprises any wild animal, especially a mother guarding her babies, the animal might attack. Wolves are also the ancestors of our pet dogs.