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The Castle of Dr. FettersteinFor the Love of Good Horror Stories
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, February 17, 2013    Share

Two books would come along that affected my life for 2-years and forever change my imagination and my concepts of horror fiction. I was living in Kansas City, MO, having just moved from Tampa, FL. My parents divorced when I was young and I wanted to get to know my father so I moved for 2-years to Missouri. From the start I didn’t like Missouri that much. The winters were so cold and I often fell walking on icy roads. To make matters worse, I was starting middle school, that terrifying time when you are rushing towards adulthood and your body and mind go through all these strange changes. I was 13 at the time and had no idea what was waiting for me down that long dark tunnel. When I started middle school, I had no friends; other students would pick fights with me. I complained about Missouri and the people and had a really bad time. Everyone loves to pick on the new guy. Finally when I was extremely frustrated and searching for a way out, I found it in an unlikely source.

There was a book fair at school and I picked up two short story collections that caused me hours of pleasure. Sometimes I would spend whole weekends just reading in my room. One was 18 Best Stories by Edgar Allan Poe with an Introduction by Vincent Price. I immediately bought that book based on the cool cover art and the fact that it contained Price’s writing and editing. Of all the great horror icons, Price was always the most fun and campy. I love him battling Boris Karloff in Roger Corman’s The Raven. This collection was a good one because it had many of his best short stories like The Fall of the House of Usher, The Masque of the Red Death, and the one that gave me nightmares, The Tell-Tale Heart.

The other writer was unknown to me. Again, I bought it based on the cover art that had a strange green skinned creature with pointed ears, walking in a field, somewhere in eerie New England. Being a lifelong fan of Sci Fi and Horror movies, I had to have it.

Published by Scholastic Book Services, this was The Shadow over Innsmouth and other stories of Horror by H. P. Lovecraft. I was at the right age to be exposed to Lovecraft at 13. Even more so than Poe, Lovecraft grabbed a hold of me and wouldn’t let go. I was totally immersed in his writing style and would read for hours and hours, not taking the time to eat lunch or go outside or watch a movie. He was the first writer who put me on reading marathons when nothing matter except the text. Along with the title story, this collection contained my favorite Lovecraft story called The Colour Out of Space. The opening lines hooked me in like no other story since.

“West of Arkham the hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has ever cut.”

Just what was waiting to devour a scared kid in those awful wild hills?

In the Colour Out of Space, a strange meteor lands on a farmer’s field with terrible consequences. His wife and son go insane, the surrounding vegetation disintegrates into a nasty grey powder, and something horrible is lurking inside the well. Clearly the right formula for creating nightmares and tearing away from me this Disney notion that everything is going to be safe and turn out well for everyone, not so in Lovecraft’s fiction. You have to learn to survive no matter what you are up against. Years later when I was studying for my BA in English at the University of South Florida in Tampa, I was taking a required course on Literary Criticism, where you learn about the different literary theories and apply critiques to text. For my Final Exam I had to pick a story or novel and write a 10-page essay. This was easy for me because I have always loved to read and write and my chosen story was The Colour Out of Space. The Professor liked my essay and told me that few students have ever written on that story.

Also in the Scholastic collection was the Sci Fi story, In the Walls of Eryx, about an astronaut who lands on Venus, with a dwindling food supply, he is trapped inside an invisible maze that slowly begins to erode his sanity. After the Colour Out of Space, In the Walls of Eryx became my second favorite story.

The main story from the collection is actually my third favorite, The Shadow Over Innsmouth about a young man who travels to the strange city of Innsmouth only to discover terrible creatures that chase him around town. I related to this story because like the main character, I was in a horrible unknown place and felt like I was being persecuted by something that was really out to get me and hurt me.

The rest of the stories were all good like The Transition of Juan Romero, The Outsider, The Festival, and Imprisoned with the Pharaohs. During this same time in my life I also discovered one of my favorite directors. I happened to be at the mall one afternoon and bought Night of the Living Dead on VHS. This led me to seek out the films of the legendary director, George A. Romero.

After two years of living in Missouri, I made the big decision to finish up middle school at Monroe in Tampa. I was back home again. I went through the same process of being the new kid but there were no fights this time, just people trying to get to know me that I generally ignored everyone because I like to have this air of mystery around me.

Growing up in the 80’s, one horror writer loomed over all and that was Stephen King. I remember going to a small comic book store called the Book Worm on Manhattan Ave. I was talked by my friends into picking up Night Shift by Stephen King. Sitting outside, close to the corner of Himes, and Euclid, my friend read one short story to me called Battleground. In that story a hitman kills a toy manufacturer. Soon, he receives, a box containing little green plastic army men that come alive and try to kill him. It was such an awful story. Nowhere was there the vivid imagination of Lovecraft or Poe. Battleground was so weak that I decided not to read King for years. I saw King’s hardcover books at all the bookstores like Walden and B. Dalton and I thought, “why would anyone want to read someone who writes so bad?”

I rediscovered Stephen King, just after high school, when I was still living at home and trying to get into college. For Christmas I received The Stand: Complete and Uncut. I spent a month glued to that novel and develop a better appreciate of King.

Even to this day, Stephen King pales in comparison to Lovecraft and Poe. His short stories are very bad and sometimes a chore to read, but some of his novels are not that bad. I have read a few King stories here and there but honestly, I can take him or leave him. He lacks the powerful imagination that Poe and Lovecraft had. Poe would show you the darkness inside the human mind with brilliant psychological horror stories. Lovecraft would take you on journeys and introduce you to terrible entities that didn’t care if you lived or died.

Both writers influenced me and were my first exposure to how real horror was best expressed in print. Both writers work best when first read at 12 or 13. People who didn’t read Lovecraft or Poe at that age and try to read them later on in life have a hard time probably because the suspension of disbelief is stronger in the young.

So when the next violent Tampa rainstorm comes, I will light a candle, should the power go out, and pick up a book by Lovecraft or Poe and experience the terror the lies within those pages.

"The Castle of Dr. Fetterstein" is ©2013 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2013 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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