Halloween Carnival: Volume Three
Edited by: Brian James Freeman
Published By: Hydra
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
As soon as I finished the second horror anthology in the Halloween Carnival series edited by Brian James Freeman, I had to check out the next one. I could have put the reviews of both books together in one article, but with authors and stories this good, each volume deserves its own special review. Without further ado, the review of Halloween Carnival: Volume Three:
It all begins with The Way Lost by Kelley Armstrong, an author whose works have been reviewed on this website before. In this short tale, a man named Dale looks back at his time as a child in Franklin. He recalls something strange about Franklin that none of its residents ever seemed to want to discuss. Each Halloween night, all of the kids in his town would venture out into the streets to Trick-or-Treat, but there would always be one that never returned. As he recalls, he ignored his mother’s warning about going into the woods on Halloween, believing it was something in the woods causing the disappearance of the children. That’s how he remembers things anyway.
In Kate Maruyama’s La Calavera, the Dia de lost Muertos Festival is coming to the Hollywood Cemetery and one young lady is determined to attend. Years before, she had attended the festival with her roommate Jasmine, but Jasmine is gone and the loss is a weight that is hard to bare. Perhaps going to the festival with a calavera in Jasmine’s likeness can bring her back for that one moment and all would be right with the world again? But can our protagonist actually let go?
This is followed by The Devil's Due by Michael McBride. The town of Pine Springs, Colorado is known for its harsh winters, but also for its beauty and prosperity. This is a town that people don’t just walk away from and its businesses and even homesteads are passed down from one generation to another in the families that live there. To what does Pine Springs credit this quaint prosperity that they live in? Well, there is a tradition that takes place one night a year and no one has ever thought to shirk their responsibility on that night. So, what happens when one man finally does?
Taylor Grant’s A Thousand Rooms of Darkness centers around Anne, a woman suffering from Samhainophobia: fear of Halloween. Anne has suffered this fear since she was a child and it stems from losing a number of close family members on or around that fateful night. She’s been keeping her fear under control and, with the help of a therapist, has been living a normal life. She’s even gotten married. But their first Halloween together is fast approaching and the hallucinations and voices are returning. Anne, who has kept her phobia a secret from her husband, is forced to reveal it, especially after her therapist meets with an untimely demise. As the visions and voices are growing stronger each day, one question remains: Can Anne and her husband actually survive their first Halloween together?
We round things out with a longer tale – Greg Chapman’s The Last Night of October. Gerald Forsyth is a man who lives in fear. Ever since his diagnosis of emphysema, he has lived in dread of Halloween night. That’s because, ever since that diagnosis, he has been visited by the ghost of his childhood friend. Throughout the years, he has kept silent vigil in the house his parents once owned, staring at the front door and refusing to open it for anyone. But on this Halloween night, Gerald has a new nurse visiting him and she knows nothing of his seeming irrational fear of trick-or-treaters. All these years, Gerald has kept the ghost at bay by not opening the door. This year, his nurse opens the door to the little boy wearing a Frankenstein mask and actually invites him in! Can they hope to survive the night?
There is a theme running through Halloween Carnival: Volume Three. In each of the story, the reader is relying on the flawed recollections of the story’s main characters. We don’t realize that their memories of circumstances surrounding various important events in their lives are not entirely factual. In The Way Lost, Dale remembers kids disappearing on Halloween night and never being found again. That’s not exactly how things happened, but we don’t realize this until the end. The same can be said about La Calavera, A Thousand Rooms of Darkness and The Last Night of October. The only tale that’s a bit different is The Devil’s Due – our perception of what is going on in Pine Springs is not skewed by the main character. He simply doesn’t know the extent of the hell the people of the town have gotten themselves into until he rebels against the tradition they’ve been keeping for over a century.
As in Volume Two, each tale found in Halloween Carnival: Volume Three is captivating. Each and every author featured hear is very descriptive, allowing the reader the opportunity to envision everything that is happening in their mind’s eye. Each and every author here knows how to snatch and keep the reader’s attention, doling out only so much information…so many clues…until the big reveal at the end of the story. I loved each and every minute of this anthology and can’t wait to check out the next volume!