Halloween Scene: "The Lonesome Place" (1948)

I’m reading through this book right now called Horror Times Ten from 1967. I got it while yard sailing with Em and her parents earlier this year along with two other horror anthologies like it and two Fletch books. I’ll get to a review of the whole book when I’m done, but I wanted to comment on a story called “The Lonesome Place” by August Derleth. I’d never heard of Derleth before, but according to the intro before the story, he was a big deal when it came to preserving HP Lovecraft’s works. He also wrote one hell of this story here.

“TLP” is about a man recalling a childhood fear of a place where he and his friend swear a big scaly monster lived. It’s one of those tales where you don’t really know if you can trust the narrator or whether the beast is real or not, but what got to me about the story isn’t necessarily a shared memory with the narrator, but a familiarity with the feeling. I can’t remember a specific place from my childhood that scared me, but I can relate to that level of youthful fear when you don’t really know what you’re dealing with and your imagination fills in the gaps. Hell, it still happens to me sometimes.

I especially like this passage and think it’s something parents and adults should remember when dealing with scared kids:

What do grown-up people know about the things boys are afraid of…But what about what goes on in their minds when they have to come home alone at night through the lonesome places? What do they know about lonesome places where no light from the street corner ever comes? What do they know about a place and time when a boy is very small and very alone, and the night is as big as the town, and the darkness is the whole world? When grown-ups are big, old people who cannot understand anything, no matter how plain? A boy looks up and out, but he can’t look very far when the trees bend down over and press close, when the sheds rear up along one side and the trees on the other, when the darkness lies like a cloud along the sidewalk and the arc-lights are far, far away. No wonder then that things grow in the darkness of lonesome places that way it grew in that dark place near the grain elevator. No wonder a boy runs like the wind until his heartbeats sound like a drum and push up to suffocate him.

I was kind of shocked when I realize that this story was from 1948 because it still reads so universally. I can’t even think of a word that would have thrown me back over 60 years. That’s definitely the mark of a great scary story in my mind. I was also reminded of a few of Stephen King’s works that I’ve read. As usually, I’m not accusing King of stealing from Derleth, just wondering if King read him. Or maybe they just have a shared monster in their past.