Speculum Gothicum: Four Dark Tales

The four dark tales here gathered represent Gothic at its literary high-point. Inexorable doom, cursed life, a grim setting, and nameless horror all find their place. The crown of these stories is perhaps the first, “The Headsman”, a long and well-woven tale of life gone awry. The second, “The Iron Shroud”, shows a Romantic-Gothic fascination with the medieval, and has its own take on the motif of time ticking away and walls closing in. The third, “Horror: A True Tale”, is the epitome of Gothic fiction: an old mansion, a hideous visitation, and a blighted life. The fourth, called “The Thirteenth”, is set, like the first, in Germany, and imparts in the reader the dread sense that, whatever may ensue, a happy ending is not to be found.

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The Witchfinder

“The crowd was there—the living crowd eager for death—palpitating with excitement—each heart beating with one pitiless feeling of greedy cruelty. And the bells still rang ceaselessly their merry, joyous, fête-like peal.”

After nightfall, in the market-place of Hammelburg, the wretched and crippled form of the witchfinder crouches alone before the smoking cinders of his latest victim. Bloodlust and vengeful bitterness, mistaken in himself for holy zeal, are yet unsated. In him there stirs already the desire to seek another. But for this poor creature, both tormentor and tormented, relief may yet come in a way unexpected.

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