The longest story in The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings is also Mike Mignola’s only new Hellboy adventure in 2003! Come along as Hellboy investigates a haunted house and discovers his own unexpected connection to the spirits within. P. Craig Russell (Sandman, Murder Mysteries) adapts Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson’s story about a child who leads friends and family into an abandoned house, and Paul Chadwick and his longtime Concrete editor Randy Stradley team up for a creepy short about a haunted suit. In the strangest entry in the book, Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother) and Evan Dorkin (Hectic Planet) recount the legend of a haunted doghouse.
With a Victorian ghost story illustrated by Gary Gianni, and an interview with real-life séance medium L.L. Dreller, plus a new Devil’s Footprints story and outstanding contributions from international artists Uli Oesterle (Germany) and Lucas Maragnon (Mexico), this is the ultimate book for horror-comics enthusiasts and fans of fantastic artwork.
The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings, by various authors and artists 6.5
After the pleasant surprise that was ‘In the Dark‘, I was quite keen to get to this other anthology, which I’d been putting off for an unfathomably long time; given Dark Horse Comics’ reputation, I half-imagined that this would be a choice selection of spooky short stories.
I was sorely disappointed.
For starters, the collection only features nine short stories; anthologies are a crap shoot at the best of times but, with so few, the odds are not good. Secondly, one of the stories has no art, it’s all text, and another isn’t even a frickin’ story: it’s a bloody interview! WTF!
So much for Dark Horse’s slogan: “Drawing on your nightmares”
1. Gone, by Mike Richardson and P. Craig Russell: I enjoyed this story because it has an ominous quality to it, without going for cheap scares. It sets up the notion that people disappear in a derelict house, and always provides a relatively plausible reason for them to go in. And the consequences of everyone’s actions are well felt. Nice. 7.75
2. Dr. Carp’s Experiment, by Mike Mignola: This is actually a Hellboy side-story and it really didn’t do much for me. For starters, I’ve never been attracted to the character and comics (I’ve slogged through a few). But, secondly, the piece is mostly action and it’s not even rendered coherently. It’s kind of the antithesis of ‘Gone’. 5.5
3. Thurnley Abbey, by Perceval Landon (with art by Gary Gianni): Interestingly, this Dark Horse “graphic novel” also features a novella. It’s about a traveler who is told by another traveler the story of his horrifying encounter with a ghost in Thurnley Abbey. It wasn’t especially compelling even though it was well-written. I just can’t muster any interest in 19th century Britain and its globetrotters/adventurers. I’m sure someone else would. 6.0
4. This Small Favor, by Scott Allie, Paul Lee and Brian Horton: I enjoyed this haunted house tale because it told the backstory before going on with an exorcism that isn’t all it appears to be at first glance. I especially liked that the characters’ behaviours seemed realistic and that there was a hidden layer of humour to it. 7.5
5. Forever, by Uli Oesterle: Although the idea of a cursed tattoo is lost on me, given that I don’t have a tattoo (and, thus, it doesn’t tap into my own personal fears), I enjoyed the direction it took and especially liked he ending. It’s a bit sinister and gleefully morbid. 7.25
6. The House on the Corner, by Milton Freewater, Jr. and Lucas Marangan: Another haunted house tale – this time being recounted to a young boy who has just moved into it with his parents. It only loosely establishes the backstory and doesn’t really satisfactorily resolve anything. Plus which it’s not scary, eerie and/or disturbing. 6.0
7. Spirit Rescue: This is actually not a piece of fiction, but an interview of séance medium Larry Dreller by Scott Allie. I was really bored, both because I’m an unbeliever and because it got far too technical. You’d have to have an interest in the subject to dig what Dreller and Allie were discussing. 2.0
8. Lies, Death, and Olfactory Illusions, by Randy Stradler and Paul Chadwick: This one’s about a kid who discovers that another student has died in an accident, only to haunt him because he was the only person in school who didn’t entirely push him away – so he couldn’t let go. It’s merely okay, but the art isn’t very good, so it feels half-baked. 5.5
9. Stray, by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson: This is the first story in a stellar series called ‘Beasts of Burden’, which features the adventures dogs and a cat dealing with supernatural and/or horrifying events in their neighbourhood. In this case, they’re trying to call upon a Wise Dog to help them investigate and exorcise a ghost in Jack’s dog house. The script is sharp, the dialogues are funny and the art is superb. 8.25
Aside for “Gone” and “Stray”, I could have done without most of this book. Thankfully, the latter is collected in ‘Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites’, along with seven other short stories from the series, so I have no need to hold on to this anthology.
In fact, I highly doubt I’ll ever pursue the rest of the ‘The Dark Horse Book of…’ series, which included follow-up volumes “Witchcraft”, “The Dead” and “Monsters”. This was such a mixed bag, and a bit of a disappointment, that I just can’t be bothered.