Paul's Reviews > The Fourth Pan Book of Horror Stories

The Fourth Pan Book of Horror Stories by Herbert van Thal
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May 12, 14

bookshelves: pan-books-of-horror-stories
Recommended for: horror fans everywhere

This series populated my teenage nightmares with psycopaths, torturers, vampires, sadists and unnaturally pale young girls. It was wonderful stuff because, mostly, the writers had already dispensed with the gothic trappings of the ghost story and were concentrating on the poetry of severed limbs and eyeballs and gouts and screaming.

Some highlights:


William Sansom - Various Temptations

Ronald Raikes, 31, is wanted for questioning in connection with the murders of four London prostitutes who have been strangled in a week. On impulse, our Ron climbs a ladder and finds himself in the bedroom of Clara, a plain and lonely woman who's just been reading about the murders. Naturally, he gets into conversation with her, they agree to get married, and he strangles her. I've compressed events a little, but that's the gist of it.


Martin Waddell - The Pale Boy


The Burnells are set upon adopting a little boy and when they visit the orphanage and are introduced to Paul they're knocked out by his pale elfin features. But of course it doesn't really work out.


Ray Bradbury, ‘The Emissary’

Reworking of The Monkey’s Paw and gave me a real jolt aged 14. Later stolen by Stephen King and reworked into Pet Semetary.


Robert Bloch - Lucy Comes To Stay

Vi is in rehab, drying out after a humiliating drunken episode at a party. Her friend Lucy convinces her that her husband George and special nurse Miss Higgins are having an affair and that they have no intention of seeing her released. So she chops them up. In the Pan Books women are able to chop up two people at once.

Richard Davis, ‘Guy Fawkes Night’

One of at least three Pan Book stories about burning up a real live person instead of a guy on Bonfire Night. In England this does happen from time to time, but not that often. The Pan Books give a wrong impression of English life.

Vivian Meik - The Two Old Women

"They are human ghouls - perverted, secret drinkers and probably given to morally corrupt practices." However, you have to make an effort to get on with your in-laws, I suppose.


Septimus Dale - The Little Girl Eater

The pier has collapsed leaving Mason, his bones broken, trapped beneath a steel girder with the tide coming in. His only hope is that 6 year old Miranda, who finds him sticking out of the rubble, will inform her mummy and mummy's "friend" Johnny of his plight. But Johnny has just filled her head with some scary tale about a little girl eater, and so she gets the wrong idea. One of my all time favourite stories.


Robert Aickman, ‘Ringing the Changes’

In an English seaside town, on All Souls Night all the local dead people get up and dance around. It might sound like a downer but them bones still got rhythm.


MS Waddell, ‘The Importance of Remaining Ernest’

The pulp horror version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest crammed into 20 pages. Hilarious and very poor taste.


Joseph Payne Brennan – Slime

"A thing of slimy blackness, a thing which had no essential shape, no discernible earthly features. It was a shape of utter darkness, one second a great flopping hood, the next a black viscid pool of living ooze which flowed upon itself, sliding forward with incredible speed." However, you have to make an effort to get on with your in-laws, I suppose.


Sir Frederick Treves, ‘The Elephant Man’

The collection ends with a chapter from a memoir by a famous doctor - the original story of Joseph Merrick of Leicester (1962-1890), whose story we all know now. And one of the saddest ever
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Comments (showing 1-8)




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message 8: by Simon (new)

Simon Hedge "The Pan Books give a wrong impression of English life."
Great line!


message 7: by Kate (new)

Kate Your forays into spoiler-alert territory surprise me. Tsk tsk.


message 6: by Cecily (new)

Cecily Martin Waddell wrote horror?!
The same Martin Waddell who wrote Owl Babies and Can't You Sleep, Little Bear??
Gosh, that's a surprise.


Paul it's curious when you approach authors from different angles like that - I had the other experience - Martin Waddell wrote kids books?? So, yes, he was a Pan Book regular, and specialised in gruesome horror comedy. Also wrote under pseudonyms such as ... Septimus Dale (see above).


Paul Kate - oh, you think so? I had thought that if anone actually goes and locates a copy of this and gets round to reading it, it will be at least 5 years from now and they will have forgotten about anything I or anyone els said about the various stories. But you may be right.


message 3: by Cecily (last edited May 13, 2014 03:03PM) (new)

Cecily Using a pseudonym, even if you make no effort to keep it secret, makes sense, though I can also see why you might want to have a single name/brand. The fact Wadell had a pseudonym, but used it only sometimes, is all the odder, but maybe it's precisely because the two audiences are SO different, it's unlike to cause confusion.


Paul well, what happened was that the Pan Books began in 1959 as your usual reprint anthology but was morphing by vol 4 into an original story collection; and Herbert van Thal, who I was surprised to find was a real person, gathered a small team of British writers to contribute, and when he wanted to have three stories in one volume by one writer they just invented pseudonyms for the purpose. I think that's fairly common in genres.


message 1: by Emma (new)

Emma Owl Babies is like a horror story for toddlers. Except the ending. But it's full of suspense, and owl-let fear... I'm not so surprised.


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