Halloween Carnival: Volume Two

Edited by: Brian James Freeman

Published By: Hydra

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

                I love the horror anthologies that Brian James Freeman puts together.  His latest group of anthologies is set during Halloween, what is thought to be the most haunted night of the year.  I missed Volume One, but there was no way I would miss the rest of them.

                Halloween Carnival: Volume Two begins with Mr. Dark's Carnival by Glen Hirshberg, a haunting ghost story.  In the small town of Clarkston, Montana, Halloween is a special holiday.  Everyone in the town gets involved, creating haunted mazes, participating in haunted house fun and just having a great time scaring the heck out of people per longstanding tradition.  Professor David Roemer’s favorite class takes place on this night – the tale of the elusive Mr. Dark’s Carnival.  He, himself, has never actually been to the carnival, which requires special invitation.  But on this night, the night his protégé commits suicide, Roemer finally gets his invite – can he handle what’s coming?

                In The Facts in the Case of My Sister by Lee Thomas, magic is something to be dabbled in, but tranceshypnosis…these are special things that should not be dabbled in by the young.  When David was a boy, he loved magic and believed he would one day become a magician.  He was always looking for a more interesting, more challenging trick.  When he discovered the power of placing people in trances, he was surprised to discover he could actually perform this feat.  But one must be careful with this power.  When you believe you are using it to help, it could be you are actually setting that individual up for a horrific fall.

                Next up is Mischief Night by Holly Newstein is about the mischief and pranks that take place the night before Halloween.  Known as Mischief Night in Pennsylvania, this is the time in which harmless pranks like papering or egging take place.  When Norman and his friends decide to prank his Principal in revenge for a suspension, he could never know how horribly wrong this prank would go.  By the end of the night, there would be broken bones, glass, blood and a dead body.  

                The Ghost Maker by Del James is about a mob hitman and his issues with All Hallows Eve.  Coming the day before All Saints Day, this is the only time of the year that this hitman ever regrets his job…a job he happens to do very well.  Strange things happen around this time of the year and his guilt has him on edge.  So when his boss calls and invites him to another boss’ Halloween party, this hitman is wary…especially when he sees the costume his boss has clad himself in for the event.

                The final story in the anthology is The Pumpkin Boy by Al Sarrantonio.  Detective Len Schneider left Milwaukee and moved to Orangefield, hoping to escape the mistake he made that ended in the death of a young boy at the hands of a serial killer.  He thought Orangefield would be cleaner, nicer, but evil finds a way into every town eventually.  When five-year-old Jody Wendt disappears, Len picks up the case, much to the chagrin of co-Detective Bill Grant.  Though he really doesn’t open up much to Len, Bill knows that strange things happen in Orangefield around Halloween…strange things that have caused Bill to turn to the bottle for solace.  He hopes that Len doesn’t take this case too personally, but when another young child goes missing, Bill knows that Len will lose it.  He also knows that he will have to get involved, especially when he discovers who really is abducting young children in Orangefield and why.

                Wow!  What a terrific read!  I finished this book in a day and a half.  Each and every story held my interest and ended with a surprising twist.  Mr. Dark’s Carnival and The Pumpkin Boy were the longest and most developed tales and actually ended up being my favorites in the anthology.  Mr. Dark’s Carnival is a surprising story in that it is about something completely unexpected.  You think you are along for a dark carnival ride, but the ending reveals that this was something else entirely.  The Pumpkin Boy is also one of those tales with a twist that is wholly unexpected.  There’s more to this story than meets the eye…and more than is actually on paper.  I can see another Bill Grant or Pumpkin Boy story in the future.

                Halloween Carnival: Volume Two was everything I could have hoped for and more.  I’m sad I missed the original volume, but I am stoked that I get to read the rest of the five book series!


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