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Colonial Horrors: Sleepy Hollow and Beyond

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This stunning anthology of classic colonial suspense fiction plunges deep into the native soil from which American horror literature first sprang. While European writers of the Gothic and bizarre evoked ruined castles and crumbling abbeys, their American counterparts looked back to the Colonial era’s stifling religion and its dark and threatening woods. Today the best-known This stunning anthology of classic colonial suspense fiction plunges deep into the native soil from which American horror literature first sprang. While European writers of the Gothic and bizarre evoked ruined castles and crumbling abbeys, their American counterparts looked back to the Colonial era’s stifling religion and its dark and threatening woods. Today the best-known tale of Colonial horror is Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” although Irving’s story is probably best-known today from various movie versions it has inspired. Colonial horror tales of other prominent American authors—Nathaniel Hawthorne and James Fenimore Cooper among them—are overshadowed by their bestsellers and are difficult to find in modern libraries. Many other pioneers of American horror fiction are presented afresh in this breathtaking volume for today’s reading public. Some will have heard the names of Increase and Cotton Mather in association with the Salem witch trials, but will not have sought out their contemporary accounts of what were viewed as supernatural events. By bringing these writers to the attention of the contemporary reader, the book will help bring their names—and their work—back from the dead. Featuring stories by Cotton Mather, Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Fenimore Cooper, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, H. P. Lovecraft, and many more. 


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This stunning anthology of classic colonial suspense fiction plunges deep into the native soil from which American horror literature first sprang. While European writers of the Gothic and bizarre evoked ruined castles and crumbling abbeys, their American counterparts looked back to the Colonial era’s stifling religion and its dark and threatening woods. Today the best-known This stunning anthology of classic colonial suspense fiction plunges deep into the native soil from which American horror literature first sprang. While European writers of the Gothic and bizarre evoked ruined castles and crumbling abbeys, their American counterparts looked back to the Colonial era’s stifling religion and its dark and threatening woods. Today the best-known tale of Colonial horror is Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” although Irving’s story is probably best-known today from various movie versions it has inspired. Colonial horror tales of other prominent American authors—Nathaniel Hawthorne and James Fenimore Cooper among them—are overshadowed by their bestsellers and are difficult to find in modern libraries. Many other pioneers of American horror fiction are presented afresh in this breathtaking volume for today’s reading public. Some will have heard the names of Increase and Cotton Mather in association with the Salem witch trials, but will not have sought out their contemporary accounts of what were viewed as supernatural events. By bringing these writers to the attention of the contemporary reader, the book will help bring their names—and their work—back from the dead. Featuring stories by Cotton Mather, Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Fenimore Cooper, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, H. P. Lovecraft, and many more. 

30 review for Colonial Horrors: Sleepy Hollow and Beyond

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mir

    I open the book, meaning to look up something from a story I already know, something a friend has asked about. But, this story begins in a completely different place from the one I am familiar with! I look at the page numbers and it is, at most, half the length it should be. This is obviously a cut-down version, not the entire story. It is, I gather as I look over it, only the part the editor felt was relevant to his "Colonial" theme. [Additional note for non-Americans: this just means the Colon I open the book, meaning to look up something from a story I already know, something a friend has asked about. But, this story begins in a completely different place from the one I am familiar with! I look at the page numbers and it is, at most, half the length it should be. This is obviously a cut-down version, not the entire story. It is, I gather as I look over it, only the part the editor felt was relevant to his "Colonial" theme. [Additional note for non-Americans: this just means the Colonial period of US history, and is not related to colonialism as a practice or concept.] I glance over the introduction, which I don't feel like reading as I am no longer planning to read the book because if he's butchered one story I can't trust him not to have done the same with others, and don't off hand see any overt warning about the texts being incomplete. There's only an assurance that the editor has not updated the period language, which is good, but irrelevant to me as I'm returning the book. I can't possibly recommend this except to someone who is uninterested in this type of fiction and merely wants a brief overview. And even then, why bother? I couple stories are famous and widely available (Sleepy Hollow, Rip Van Winkle) and most of the rest are easy to find online. Disappointing, very.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Armand Rosamilia

    I hadn't read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow since I was a kid, and it didn't disappoint. I remembered most of it and wonder how I understood some of the writing, too. As for the rest of this collection... good, a nice slice of history and archaic writing, but nothing I would ever go back to. Some stories were tough to get through for me, but I read them until the end. Overall, more of a history lesson about literature than entertainment for me. 3 1/2 stars. I hadn't read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow since I was a kid, and it didn't disappoint. I remembered most of it and wonder how I understood some of the writing, too. As for the rest of this collection... good, a nice slice of history and archaic writing, but nothing I would ever go back to. Some stories were tough to get through for me, but I read them until the end. Overall, more of a history lesson about literature than entertainment for me. 3 1/2 stars.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dale

    and things that go bump in the night… My thanks to my contacts at Pegasus Books, Iris Blasi, Katie McGuire, Maia Larson, and Bowen Dunnan for my review copy of this book. You guys rock! These are stories and essays from early America. I found it incredible that stories by Washington Irving, Edgar Alan Poe, and Henry James are sharing a book with essays written by Increase and Cotton Mather! While the supernatural elements of Irving, Poe, and James are products of imagination, the Mathers, father, and things that go bump in the night… My thanks to my contacts at Pegasus Books, Iris Blasi, Katie McGuire, Maia Larson, and Bowen Dunnan for my review copy of this book. You guys rock! These are stories and essays from early America. I found it incredible that stories by Washington Irving, Edgar Alan Poe, and Henry James are sharing a book with essays written by Increase and Cotton Mather! While the supernatural elements of Irving, Poe, and James are products of imagination, the Mathers, father, and son, were deadly serious in their writings. On the words of Increase and Cotton Mather people could lose their freedom and even their life! My favorite story in this volume is the story of “The Devil and Tom Walker” by Washington Irving. There are several stories by Irving in the book, with “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” given the honor of starting the volume. But it is the tale of Tom Walker’s deal with the devil that tops my list of favorite Irving tales! The historical supernatural essays of the Mathers was chilling. No doubt these words were read by the ones presiding at the infamous Salem Witch Trials. The essays delve into the ideas of the time that condemned people f pacts with Satan on very little evidence. It makes the blood run cold in a man’s veins to think of innocent people who died because of these men… Other authors featured in this volume are Nathaniel Hawthorn, Charles Brockton Brown, an entire novel by John Neal, Rachel Dyer; James Fennimore Cooper, WF Mayer, Howard Pyle, and ends with an excerpt from “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” by horror legend HP Lovecraft. What I liked least in this volume was the poem “Moll Pitcher” by John Greenleaf Whittier. Whitter is known for his mastery of foot and meter, but in this case, he doesn’t hesitate to express in 15 words what he might have said in 6. The poem is extremely long winded and it just doesn’t excite me enough to enjoy plowing through 22 pages of stuffy poetry. There is certainly more here to read that can grasp a reader’s attention and pull him or her straight into the story as it unfolds. I recommend this book! I give it four stars… Quoth the Raven…

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cait Poytress

    I had high hopes this book would be good. It really wasn't. I had high hopes this book would be good. It really wasn't.

  5. 4 out of 5

    SUSAN

    An absolutely perfect book to add to any horror enthusiast’s library, this book contains a fantastic selection of supernatural stories from an impressive array of authors. Because the authors are usually known for much more famous works, these may have fallen on the wayside. A new light shines on these (yay!) which is a more uncommon collection since these tales occur during the Colonial era of the USA. I was so excited to find this collection. In comparison, the UK has such a rich history of hor An absolutely perfect book to add to any horror enthusiast’s library, this book contains a fantastic selection of supernatural stories from an impressive array of authors. Because the authors are usually known for much more famous works, these may have fallen on the wayside. A new light shines on these (yay!) which is a more uncommon collection since these tales occur during the Colonial era of the USA. I was so excited to find this collection. In comparison, the UK has such a rich history of horror, suspense and the supernatural and you have many collections existing, but trying to find a worthy collection in Colonial America is not so easy. And historians and horror buffs may enjoy the differences found here when dealing with witches or other supernatural occurrences. Each story has a brief introduction to the author which was so very welcome (when is the last time you read Hawthorne?) and helps set you in the right mind frame for the following story. The Poe tale especially was a joy to read because yes, it seemed to have some cosmic horror vibes. The Sleepy Hollow tale was fantastic to re-read, the descriptive style of the writing is so perfect. Cotton Mather! The Bell Witch! Each author has their own style (there was only one story which was a little exasperating for me to read due to the style) but they all have their own flow and I found myself reading far more quickly than I thought I would. This would definitely be a book that would make an excellent gift to the right collector.

  6. 5 out of 5

    MasterGamgee

    Sorely disappointed that I was not able to read - and enjoy - this collection of stories. Actually, I tried and ended up thumbed through most of them and only managed to get through one story (Sleepy Hollow). Guess these lofty, dry authors aren't my cup of tea and I was really looking forward to reading them. :( Sorely disappointed that I was not able to read - and enjoy - this collection of stories. Actually, I tried and ended up thumbed through most of them and only managed to get through one story (Sleepy Hollow). Guess these lofty, dry authors aren't my cup of tea and I was really looking forward to reading them. :(

  7. 4 out of 5

    Aidan

    I quite enjoyed the pieces by Irving and Hawthorne, but some of the rest of these were quite a slog to get through. I had anticipated more pieces of fiction actually written during the colonial period, period, but most of these seemed to be written quite a while after.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Maneki Neko

    This collection of American stories, both fiction and non fiction, from 1680s New England through 1920s Lovecraft, was nothing short of amazing, and Graeme Davis's notation was excellent. I learned a lot here, and despite the challenging language (I learned so many new words! and went down so many more Google rabbit holes!), was stunning from start to finish. (Though I should note: this book is really a more academic than a fast paced early American thriller. It is a challenging read.) When I wa This collection of American stories, both fiction and non fiction, from 1680s New England through 1920s Lovecraft, was nothing short of amazing, and Graeme Davis's notation was excellent. I learned a lot here, and despite the challenging language (I learned so many new words! and went down so many more Google rabbit holes!), was stunning from start to finish. (Though I should note: this book is really a more academic than a fast paced early American thriller. It is a challenging read.) When I was little, my dad would read Washington Irving's stories to my brother and me when we would go camping in rural New York (where much of the stories are set). I really appreciate his brand of horror, with warm humanity and lots of dry humour. I am very familiar with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, but reading it again this time gave me a new appreciation for how funny it is. Some standouts from the rest of the book: -Washington Irving was the first to coin the nickname Gotham for New York, from the old Dutch for Goat Town. -THE Cotton Mather's (true?) report of a bewitched woman with 6 piglike lactating nipples was an image that really stuck with me. -The Money Diggers (also by Washington Irving), about two old misers who encounter the devil in the woods, was a favourite, including the chilling imagery of a man looking for his wife and finding only her apron, hanging from a tree in the woods, with her heart and liver inside. -John Neal's account of the trial and execution of Sarah Good was riveting and so haunting. -I ended up skipping Moll Pitcher, because reading a 900 line poem was just not for me, but I plan to look up a summary in the near future. -Nathaniel Hawthorne was born Nathaniel Hathorne, but added a W to his name to hide his descent from Salem Witch trial judge John Hathorne. By the early 1800s, everyone knew that the Salem Witch trials was a shameful stain on the country's history. It seems obvious now, but is something I had never really considered: when did people start being ashamed of that? -Cranberry mania in 1850s England: the cranberry was a fruit that came from the New World to England, and people really went crazy for everything cranberry there (especially the sauce to eat with meats), because it was new and suddenly en vogue. In the 1850s, though, the cranberry crop in New England failed and there was a huge shortage of the fruit available in England. People were desperate for more cranberries and they surged in price, making those cranberry farmers with a successful crop very rich almost overnight. It didn't last very long, just a few years, but led to the growth of cranberry production on a large scale in America, with speculators buying up boggy land throughout New England and New Jersey, and made it THE sauce of Thanksgiving in 1863. Interesting stuff that I didn't expect to learn about in a horror anthology!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Meaghan

    I spent much of my childhood in New England. Early American cemeteries with grinning skull tombstones. Wood beam buildings with low ceilings. Early winter nights buffeted against gaping brick hearths. Old maple trees that creak in the wind. I was steeped in colonial settings. In my last semester as an English major, my college had kind of run out of classes for me to take — ones that I was interested in any way — and as I had a reputation for being a good student I was allowed to do an independen I spent much of my childhood in New England. Early American cemeteries with grinning skull tombstones. Wood beam buildings with low ceilings. Early winter nights buffeted against gaping brick hearths. Old maple trees that creak in the wind. I was steeped in colonial settings. In my last semester as an English major, my college had kind of run out of classes for me to take — ones that I was interested in any way — and as I had a reputation for being a good student I was allowed to do an independent study. I chose to focus on the American gothic, something we had only touched on briefly. I had devoured the British gothic classics but now I wanted to see the American take on it. I wrote up my own syllabus (approved by the professor) and sought out those voices that could only have been shaped by early American folk lore. I found plenty of short stories, and a couple of novels. Wieland; or the Transformation (1798) by Charles Brockden Brown was jaw-dropping and is still one of my favorite books. I wish this collection by Davis had been around as it would have been tremendously helpful for my reading list. Whether you are looking to expand your understanding of literary styles or simply want a good ghost story, I highly recommend this well-constructed collection. Please read my full review: https://mwgerard.com/review-colonial-...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kerry

    I read only portions of this anthology when I realized it was more of an academic sampling rather than a cozy-up-to-the-fireplace-on-a-crisp-autumn-evening chiller. (The HP Lovecraft story was creepy though!) Davis's brief introduction is excellent, explaining how religious superstition in the American colonies influenced the colonists' fear of the natural world and anything beyond their known experience. He also points out that there wasn't a formal distinction between fiction and non-fiction a I read only portions of this anthology when I realized it was more of an academic sampling rather than a cozy-up-to-the-fireplace-on-a-crisp-autumn-evening chiller. (The HP Lovecraft story was creepy though!) Davis's brief introduction is excellent, explaining how religious superstition in the American colonies influenced the colonists' fear of the natural world and anything beyond their known experience. He also points out that there wasn't a formal distinction between fiction and non-fiction at that time. Presumably this would have fed a willingness or pressure to believe fearful theories and accounts from respected spiritual leaders like Cotton and Increase Mather - an early susceptibility to fake news.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jess Tress

    This collection contains stories written over the span of nearly 250 years, from authors such as Increase Mather in 1684, to HP Lovecraft in 1927. The format of the tales themselves varies nearly as much, including poetry, journal entries, excerpts from magazines, as well as short stories. As diverse a collection as it is, there is a overarching theme of the most delicious and most devious horror: witches, werewolves, vampires, daemons, creepy little girls, buried pirate treasure, plenty of ghos This collection contains stories written over the span of nearly 250 years, from authors such as Increase Mather in 1684, to HP Lovecraft in 1927. The format of the tales themselves varies nearly as much, including poetry, journal entries, excerpts from magazines, as well as short stories. As diverse a collection as it is, there is a overarching theme of the most delicious and most devious horror: witches, werewolves, vampires, daemons, creepy little girls, buried pirate treasure, plenty of ghosts, and of course, one eponymous headless hessian. I was absolutely delighted by this book, and while not every story was my favorite, they were all surprisingly readable, and gave me a decent dose of good old-fashioned colonial horror.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Emily Purcell

    An only rarely chilling look at the roots of the horror genre in America using essays of various kinds (such as religious, folklore and memoirs) as well as short stories all set before to just after the War of Independence. My only complaint about this book is that a lot of it is taken up by Washington Irving's Legend of Sleepy Hollow and a long extract from H.P. Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, two works which anyone interested in this topic is likely to be intimately familiar with. An only rarely chilling look at the roots of the horror genre in America using essays of various kinds (such as religious, folklore and memoirs) as well as short stories all set before to just after the War of Independence. My only complaint about this book is that a lot of it is taken up by Washington Irving's Legend of Sleepy Hollow and a long extract from H.P. Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, two works which anyone interested in this topic is likely to be intimately familiar with.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jay Rothermel

    An uneven collection. It collects "true" anecdotes and folklore, alternating with short stories and novel excerpts. The high points are several Washington Irving tales collected as "The Money Diggers," and the great colonial section of Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. North America was settled in a series of horrible social advances by the bourgeoisie; the editor lets this go unmentioned. An uneven collection. It collects "true" anecdotes and folklore, alternating with short stories and novel excerpts. The high points are several Washington Irving tales collected as "The Money Diggers," and the great colonial section of Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. North America was settled in a series of horrible social advances by the bourgeoisie; the editor lets this go unmentioned.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    I had never read Sleepy Hollow and found it humorous and entertaining. Some of the stories were too hard to understand, written in centuries-old English. I particularly enjoyed another Washington Irving story, the Money Diggers, that emphasizes the value of appreciating what you have instead of constantly striving for something better.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Brannigan

    I enjoyed this a lot. It’s a mix of fiction and nonfiction all based in the early Colonial period. Everything has a horror/supernatural slant. It’s arranged chronologically. I enjoyed this as I was able to see each writer’s influences as I read. This would be a perfect October read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lukas Holmes

    Actually picked this up, way before I ever met Davis, at The Molly Brown House Museum in Denver. This is my favorite because it's just exactly the sort of writing and story that I dig. Classic writers, classic America, scary fun. Actually picked this up, way before I ever met Davis, at The Molly Brown House Museum in Denver. This is my favorite because it's just exactly the sort of writing and story that I dig. Classic writers, classic America, scary fun.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Hammer

    Not all the stories were written in colonial times which I guess I was expecting

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sam Berry

    A wonderful sampling of the period that gives so much more than the narratives themselves.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sara

  21. 4 out of 5

    Christian

  22. 5 out of 5

    Emma Bailey

  23. 5 out of 5

    Evan Clark

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Johnson

  25. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

  26. 5 out of 5

    Allison Prietz

  27. 5 out of 5

    Cate

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cyndi

  30. 5 out of 5

    Midnight Blue

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