Book Review – Appalachian Horror, an Anthology from Aphotic Realm

appalachian horror

I’ve never been to the Appalachians but know a little from movies and TV, so even though I had no first-hand experience of the place, I was familiar with the general vibe. I’ve heard it’s picturesque and beautiful, but with these stunning backdrops can come terrifying tales.

Well this collection of great short stories, edited by Bo Chappell, has really put me off ever visiting, I can tell ya!

Things start off superbly with the creepy End Trails by John Morgan. Two guys are backpacking across ‘The Trail and are terribly lost. Worse still is the strange tent that appears every morning right next to theirs. The tent stinks of rancid decay, and the thing looks as though awful atrocities have occurred inside. But if you look inside and witness the horrors, well, things aren’t going to end well for you. This story set things up perfectly.

Jeffery X Martin’s The Ghost Sang tells the story of a freelance photographer who travels to a small, dilapidated town to capture some gritty shots she hopes to make some money from. She’s certainly not welcomed by the locals, but she’s a tough one and is confident of holding her own if any trouble ensues. Well said trouble comes along completely out of the blue. A mysterious root grows here, and her presence is actually more welcomed than it first appeared.

Blood is Always Thicker by Tony Evans had an unnerving vibe throughout, where two dudes plan to visit a remote part of the forest on a hunting trip. There’s a legend of a witch in these here trees, one that’s rubbished by the pair, although they don’t quite believe their doubts. The ending here was great, a nice shocking twist that needs to be experienced for yourself. It also perfectly encapsulates the title.

Another tale of a small town with strange locals and even stranger practices was The Town of Afurisit by Charity Langley. A girl is ‘sent’ to the town by her History Professor as a sort of prize. OK, the set-up here felt a little forced but the setting of the town was frightening enough for this to be forgiven. Although she doesn’t want to be there she embraces her visit with the insane lady she’s staying with. When she’s taken to church the following morning things get freaky weird, and fast. You’re screaming at her to just get the hell out of there, but she just doesn’t listen. This was a grim and great story.

C.W. Blackwell’s The Bend was a welcome tale of the undead, but with a new twist. A man who has lost his wife and child lives on a farm with his remaining daughter. When corpses wander around his land he does the only thing he can; he locks them in his basement. This was a dark, dark story, with a melancholic ending that was equal parts sad and deranged.

I really enjoyed Braids, Like Roots by Damascus Mincemeyer. It had a strange cult, possession, and insanity; tick, tick, tick! A man recounts what happened to him as a boy on the farm he grew up on. I don’t want to give anything away but the twist that came really threw me. The boy’s father never wanted to end up like his own father before him. But will he, is it destiny? Just read it!

I was always looking forward to getting to Renee Miller’s story, and Trespasser did not disappoint. It follows a girl on her own who decides that, after a messy break-up, a trek through the forest is just what she needs. But when she finds an old shed with creepy satanic sigils painted on the floor, she decides it may be better to just get the hell out of there. But that’s easier said than done. This one had another awesome plot twist where things turned out to be not quite what they seemed.

The closing story here was Hemlock Winds by Shawn Lachance. Told for the most part through journal entries, this was the tale of a grieving widower Trailin’ it up. Of course, things turn sinister but what was really enjoyable here was the descent into madness that he went through (am I a bit sick to use the word ‘enjoyable’?). Anyway, this story was a great way to finish things, and made me hungry for more.

This was a superb collection of short stories. Although the remit was kind of specific, each author managed to put their blood-stained stamp on these apparently picturesque mountains. If only there were more…

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