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American Supernatural Tales

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  1,028 ratings  ·  117 reviews
As Stephen King will attest , the popularity of the occult in American literature has only grown since the days of Edgar Allan Poe. American Supernatural Tales celebrates the richness of this tradition with chilling contributions from some of the nation’s brightest literary lights, including Poe himself, H. P. Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Nathaniel Hawthorne, ...more
Paperback, 478 pages
Published April 24th 2008 by Penguin Classics (first published 2007)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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Bill Kerwin

This is a well-chosen anthology. If it is inconsistent in quality, the problem is not to be found in Joshi's choices, but in the decline of supernatural fiction during the latter part of the 20th century.

The older stuff is the best. Irving's "German Student" is nothing more than a campfire story for boy scouts, and not really a very good one at that. The Hawthorne tale about Randolph's portrait is better, but not exactly gripping. Then comes Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher," and--not havi
Glenn Russell

"A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain - a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of umplumbed space." Thus spake S. T. Joshi as to what qualifies as a tale of the supernatural.

Johann (jobis89)
"That's life for you," said MacDunn. "Someone always waiting for someone who never comes home. Always someone loving some thing more than that thing loves them. And after a while you want to destroy whatever that thing is, so it can't hurt you no more." - The Fog Horn. Ray Bradbury.

A collection of American supernatural tales ranging from the years 1824 to 2000. Ghosts and elder gods and vampires and demons... oh my!

This collection was a really interesting read, I really liked how the stories are
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
Excellent anthology of fine horror stories. If you want to get into horror you definitely should start here: Washington Irving, Poe, Lovecraft, Klein, Leiber, King... there are many big names with their stories in here starting with Irving as one of the earliest authors in horror and ending with Caitlin Kiernan. The stories are from classic to pulp fiction to more science fiction orientated horror. Sometimes the science fiction share in the stories was a bit too strong for me (I prefer classic h ...more
Apr 26, 2019 marked it as to-read
[Note: Originally published in 2007 as part of Penguin Classics series editions; republished with introduction by series editor Guillermo del Toro.]

Naturally, I've already read a number of these over the years, some, like "The Fall of the House of Usher," so long ago (middle school!) that they certainly merit rereading. Stories which I've reviewed on goodreads already are hyperlinked.

The adventure of the German student / Washington Irving -- Edward Randolph's portrait /
Nathaniel Hawthorne -- Th
Jun 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
'It upset me to see how little I've actually read, how far I still have to go. So many obscure authors, so many books I've never come across...' A beautifully collected book full of hidden gems that I enjoyed and some I skimmed over. There is something for every horror enthusiast in this book of American Supernatural Tales. ...more
Arisawe Hampton
Sep 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Full of great dark emotional twists. Easily a collection I’ll be coming back to.
Excellent group of tales to be read. I enjoyed myself so much reading these. I should look for some more of these type of books.
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
S.T. Joshi has presented a good collection of strange tales from American fiction. It gives one a taste of what there is and what you will find if you seek it out.

This collection only touched the tip of the iceberg of great American weird fiction.
Oct 15, 2014 rated it liked it

American Supernatural Tales collects twenty-six short stories by American authors organized in chronological order, from Washington Irving’s 1824 tale, “The Adventure of the German Student,” to Caitlín R. Kiernan’s 2000 tale, “In the Water Works (Birmingham, Alabama 1888). This collection was edited by S. T. Joshi, and the 2013 reissue of this book as part of the Penguin Horror series also includes an introduction by Guillermo Del Toro.

In the intro
If you are looking for a collection of "supernatural"/horror short stories, look no further. This was a solid sampling of stories from some of the genre's best authors. I was so excited to dive into this one to not only read selections from some of my favorite authors, but also to discover some of the other greats that I hadn't read before. As with any collection, there were some stories that I enjoyed more than others, but for the most part, I really liked what I read and even found a few new f ...more
Oct 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, horror, collection, pc, 2020
As with all compilations there's going to be some great ones and some duds. I did find that there was only a couple stories I didn't care for and they were more towards the 2nd half of this book. That being said that means they were from the more recent authors as this book has it's tales listed chronologically by year. Guess that means I prefer the older scary stories and that hardly suprises me seeing as how I adore HP Lovecraft and Poe but can't stand Stephen King. Still a great collection ov ...more
Sep 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Some great stories and some mediocre ones average out to an acceptable but disappointing overview of the American supernatural tradition. Includes an extensive historical introduction and biographical notes for each author, which is nice, but which all reflect Joshi's usual partisan blind spots, which is less nice.

Joshi opens by noting that the supernatural genre emerges in the 18th century as science delineated what is natural and what is beyond rational bounds (there's that liminality again).
Apr 29, 2008 rated it liked it
A good primer for me, so uncultured in American Literature (really: I'd never read anything by Nathaniel Hawthorne, HP Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, etc, etc). A lot of the stories are merely so-so, with two notable exceptions:
Shirley Jackson's the Visit and T.E.D. Klein's The Events at Poroth Farm. The former's a subtle but psychologically f'ed up "why is this scary" story - I hate conversations where characters appear not to hear each other at all, so CREEPY! The latter scared the shitting shit
Ruby  Tombstone Lives!
Gorgeous, gorgeous edition. I'd have bought the Lovecraft volume too, except I have all those stories already. So much pretty printed paper.

Anthology - American Horror Stories

Aug 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I usually find horror fiction sort of pathetic, but this cherry-picking of two centuries is varied, trend-setting, often golden. Hawthorne, Poe, Bloch, Matheson, Oates. I have no patience for Lovecraft and his legion.

The phases: High Gothic to Pulp to magic realism to splatterpunk, blessedly omitting the most recent and hypersuccessful form, urban fantasy / paranormal romance. Henry James’ prose is every bit as clotted and unpronounceable as reputed. High point (apart from Poe’s ‘House of Usher
Jun 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very impressive collection indeed. It begins with "The Adventure of the German Student" by Washington Irving (0riginally published in 1824) and ends with "In the Water Works (Birmingham, Alabama 1888) by Caitlin R. Kiernan (originally published in 2000), and covers a lot of stories from various authors in between: Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, Thomas Ligotti, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, David ...more
Nov 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Some of these stories made me roll my eyes so far back in my head that they just did a complete 360 degree rotation in my eye socket.

This disproportionate nature of stories from people of color and women speaks volumes to the priorities American (read: Western) literature favors.

A good introduction overall to some less popular authors while reinforcing why the popular authors are so famous (Poe, Jackson, King). It’s a disservice to put them in an anthology with some seriously ridiculous prose.
Shivani Maurya
"To learn what we fear is to learn who we are."

What is horror exactly? Is it in details of a tale by the fireside? Is it the unseen, the unnatural? Or is it in the details left out? Has supernatural become its only trope? Or does it in fact hide within our minds? Waiting for our beliefs to crumble, so it can seize control of our petrified beings? While I was reading this book, I found myself wondering about these and many more questions. After all that's what horror does best..makes one ques
Maria A 🌙
Jun 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Great introduction to some authors I didn't know, but it's a mixed bag. Some great stories while others were rather boring and bad. ...more
Lancelot du Lac
Oct 02, 2018 rated it liked it
All the 26 horror stories have been carefully chosen from different sub-genres such as psychological horror, science-fiction, post-apocalyptic, gothic etc spanning 19th and 20th centuries. A must read for those who really appreciate this kind of literature and who want to see different aspects of it. If you're looking for clichéd stuff or jumpscares reminiscent of today's horror movies, then this book is not for you, as hardly 3 to 4 stories have a tiny pinch of that element (you might not even ...more
Sara Dee
This was my scifi/fantasy/horror book club pick for October.

It was a fun read, but it did have some downsides...

First of all, I've realized that I am not a huge fan of most American authors, especially when it comes to horror. Some I love of course, but it's just like with horror movies...we aren't up to par with other parts of the world and their horror.

I also did not like the fact that the little blurbs were before the stories, most of them gave spoilers. I would have liked it A LOT more if th
Jack Wolfe
Oct 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shocktober #5. The grand-arch-dean-master of the Weird's collection of American supernatural tales is... pretty decent! I'll go story by story for maximum scares.

- The Adventure of the German Student (Washington Irving) - *** - As stuffily and overelaborately written as any pre-Poe American horror (or American anything), but with an awesomely disgusting ending.

- Edward Randolph's Portrait (Nathaniel Hawthorne)- ** - As stuffily and overelaborately written as any pre-Poe American horror... And ye
Jun 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: a lot of people
Recommended to Micah by: no one.
Very good collection for those looking to get a good hold on American horror stories from throughout the history of the whole country. I found some of the stories in the last third of the book not up to the level of the rest of the collection but everything was solid to say the least. I read this around Halloween and it did a good job getting me in the right mood for that celebration.
Sep 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
Great anthology! I really enjoyed it. There were only a few stories that really didn't grab me, but even those were still well written and fit in this book. My favorite story over all was " the Events at Poroth Farm" bt T.E.D. Klein. That story had me in the edge of my seat! ...more
Jan 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
If this collection proves one thing, it's that the use of full, grammatical sentences has fallen out of favour in the last forty years of supernatural storytelling.

Otherwise, a frighteningly good, thoroughly enjoyable collection worthy of its place on a horror fan's bookshelf.

This volume is currently the only way you can buy a reprint of T.E.D. Klein's utterly brilliant The Events at Poroth Farm, (which was later expanded into his slightly less obscure novel, The Ceremonies) and if you are interested in Weird Fiction then that novella absolutely justifies the price of entry by itself. A spectacularly strange and creepy story that also manages to weave a critical analysis of the genre's history into its narrative, by the end I found myself frustrated that Klein's othe ...more
Mar 09, 2017 rated it liked it
I was interested in reading some quality ghost stories, and this collection came up on a few lists, though they’re not all ghost stories. This chronology of American supernatural tales spans the likes of Washington Irving, Henry James, Poe, Lovecraft, Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, and Joyce Carol Oates. With such a broad time frame, some of the stories are sure to be dated and were likely included for historical purposes. The first few stories might as well be summed up with, “…but she turned o ...more
Fazal Ur Rehman
Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I accidently stumbled upon this book while searching for some other works. The cover was alluring and the hardbound book had a mesmerizing effect. This was a copy of American Supernatural Tales, an anthology of twenty-six short stories related to supernatural horror, by American authors.
The anthology, expertly curated and edited by S.T.Joshi for Penguin Books, comprises of one story per each author, placed chronologically, from the time of America's founding till the present. You can almost feel
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anthology, horror
This was a really fun read, and I'm glad that I got the special Penguin Horror edition because Guillermo Del Toro's introduction is fascinating and has pointed me towards some other books I really need to read. For that matter, the stories in this book introduced me to a lot of good authors, and I'll be getting a lot of new books in the not too distant future to start reading some of their works. This collection is edited by S.T. Joshi, which is part of what made me pick it up - I enjoyed his ed ...more
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Sunand Tryambak Joshi (b. 22 June 1958 in Pune, India) is an Indian American literary scholar, and a leading figure in the study of Howard Phillips Lovecraft and other authors. Besides what some critics consider to be the definitive biography of Lovecraft (H. P. Lovecraft: A Life, 1996), Joshi has written about Ambrose Bierce, H. L. Mencken, Lord Dunsany, and M.R. James, and has edited collections ...more

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