These are just some of the images that will fill your mind when you turn the pages of rookie author Ed Pessalano’s book of short stories, "Night Shivers."
A cluster of 13 stories full of misfortune, and in some cases, good luck, the spooky tales are targeted to young readers now getting into the horror genre or looking for something else to sink their teeth into. And some of the stories are bound to induce some shivers.
The 28-year-old Brooklyn-based author said his mission was to take readers out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary.
“The goal to make it Goosebumpsish with edge and fun to it,” he said. “It’s a great starter book for kids who want to get into horror.”
Pessalano was always inspired to pen a scary book. Ever since the time when, as a teen, he would go friends’ houses, sit around in campfire fashion and tell stories to spook each other, he kept it in the back of his mind to reproduce some one day.
“A friend's uncle made up a story about a fictitous serial killer in neighborhood;
by end of story he had me convinced that killer was right outside,” he said. “He had me scared and in a grip, that’s what inspired me about that --it's great storytelling, it was fun and terrifying at the same time.”
That’s what Pessalano aims to bring with "Night Shivers." Aimed for ages seven and up, the stories are short and move fast, but at times, end too abruptly, leaving a trail of ‘what if?’ in the reader’s mind. However, the abrupt endings could also serve as a jumping point for young readers who feel inspired to put an alternate twist or ending on what they’ve just read.
But the shortness of the tales, are just what Pessalano intended.
“First I love the variety, a reader is jumping from one story to another and could have a lot of ideas flowing at once,” he said. “If they didn't like that story, can move on to the next one. It’s easy to read in a short span.”
Pessalano said the feedback has been great since publishing the book but some want longer stories. So his plan is to create a "Night Shivers" part two, expanding on the stories a bit, and making them scarier.
“My friends’ uncle story was 5 minutes long; it didn't need special effects – he made it real,” he said. And essentially, that’s what he hopes to invoke with his stories.
The stories of "Night Shivers" are reminiscent of those told to a group of kids or teenagers around a campfire or in a dark room. His aim is to inspire, get kids excited about reading, bring them closer to family and friends; and even get some adults into it.
Normally they tell the story of a young protagonist whose world is quickly upturned by supernatural – or as in the case of the story, “The Mourning”, the oddly natural:
“Standing stiffly on a shadowy front porch, Frederick Conway lifted the rusted door knocker and rapped it angrily against the heavy, forbidding door. A hollow boom echoed throughout the cavernous mansion, replaced a moment later by the sound of shuffling feet.
The dry wooden door emitted a high, creaking squeal when it opened, exposing a wrinkled face peering through a two-inch crack.
“Are…are you my uncle Philip Brannon?" Frederick asked, hoping it was not correct.
"That's me!" he exclaimed with a pulsing excitement that would have seemed impossible from the old man a mere seconds earlier.
A moment later a leathery old woman shuffled into the foyer, pulling gray hair loosely back into a bun.
"Frederick, this is your aunt Melanie. She's not well," Uncle Philip announced, tapping the side of his head with a crooked finger. "Ever since the first death…. It happened three years ago, when we first moved to this God-forsaken dungeon ...
"They're all dead!" Aunt Melanie shrieked. "Three of them out there in the mausoleum.”
The book is not Pessalano’s first time writing with kids in mind. He has written articles for children’s magazines. He hopes that "Night Shivers" takes off and that it could be for some, what R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps was for many generations. And he doesn’t intend to stop writing for the young.
“It’s the purest and fun age of any time, that's when their imagination is at its peak
and the world is colorful, visual,” he said. “The world through a child's eye is beautiful and as we mature, we get jaded and so much imagination and beautiful things are lost."
Pessalano wants to retain that world, and if he has to do it through horror and tales that cause freight, so be it.