Cover/TOC Reveal: Behold the Undead of Dracula


Few things thrill me more than getting to announce the publication of one of my stories in an upcoming anthology, except for maybe getting to announce the publication of one of my stories in an upcoming anthology… that has cover art by Trevor Henderson!

As if that wasn’t thrilling enough, the anthology in question just so happens to be a tribute to the colorful carnage of Roger Corman’s Poe pictures, the psychedelic psychosis of Mario Bava, and the grisly, gloomy gothicism of Hammer Film Productions.

Edited by Jonathan Raab and published by Muzzleland Press, Behold the Undead of Dracula: Lurid Tales of Cinematic Gothic Horror will debut at NecromiCon Providence 2019 in August. Paperback and ebook copies will be available online shortly thereafter. In the meantime, sink your fangs into the table of contents below:

“Go to the Devil” by Matthew M. Bartlett

“Over the Violets There That Lie” by Gwendolyn Kiste

“George Strait and the Black Orchard Grimoire” by Mer Whinery

“Vengeance of the Blood Princess” by Dominique Lamssies

“Diabolus in Musica” by William Tea

“Taste of Fear in the Night (European Release Title: Curse of the Mountain Witches)” by Tom Breen

“You Should Smile More: The Blood Coven of Arkana” by Heather L. Levy

“Mina’s Castle” by Sean M. Thompson

“Cleaver Castle of Carnage Presents: The Coven Strikes Back” by Christa Carmen

“The Bloody Cask of Rasputin” by Thomas C. Mavroudis

“The Filthy Creation of Frankenstein” by Gemma Files

Cover art by Trevor Henderson

R.I.P. Charlee Jacob


I just heard. Bram Stoker Award-winning horror author Charlee Jacob has passed away. I haven’t been able to find out much information, but those closest to her have confirmed it’s true. The ews seems to be making its way around the genre fiction community very slowly for some reason, which distresses me. People should know. We’ve lost a true great

As Brian Keene noted in a memorial post on Facebook, Jacob was a pioneer of what we now know as extreme horror and bizarro fiction. Some people look down their noses at such genres, viewing them as nothing but mindless gore or just “weird for the sake of being weird,” but those charges could never be leveled at Jacob. She was a poet as much as anything else, and she brought that sensibility into her prose. There was a lyricism and emotion to her fiction even when it was at its most grotesque. And, no doubt, it often got very grotesque.

It wasn’t just her writing talents that made Jacob special, though, but also her determination to use them despite the not-inconsiderable obstacles in her path. Jacob suffered from Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis (which I suspect might have played a role in reducing her prominence in the public eye in recent years). Despite her illnesses, she released somewhere around two dozen books over the course of her career, from novels to short story collections to books of poetry to collaborations with other authors. That’s more than many of us will ever accomplish. What’s more, she was by all accounts a woman of razor wit and unflagging good humor. The stories I’ve heard from those who knew her personally inspire as much laughter as they do tears.

In the coming days, as news gets around, I hope to see many more tributes penned to her, and ones far better than this. She deserves as much.

Mannequin: Tales of Wood Made Flesh is Finally Here!


Summer is almost upon us. The sun is shining and the temperature’s rising. If you’re a normal person, that means backyard cookouts, trips to the beach, and vacation plans. If you’re a shut-in like me, though, it means cranking up the AC and curling up with a couple dozen books. Luckily, there’s a brand new anthology out today that’ll make a perfect addition to that stack. And best of all, I’m in it.

The debut anthology from Silent Motorist Media, Mannequin: Tales of Wood Made Flesh is available now in both paperback and ebook formats. It features 16 stories about glassy eyes that should not see, wooden mouths that should not speak, porcelain bones that should not break, and plastic hearts that should not hate… but they do. They do.

My story, “Husks,” is about a man plagued by guilt over refusing to make amends with his estranged, now deceased father. Upon inheriting the family farm he becomes obsessed with making its soil flourish once again, even if doing so wreaks havoc on his marriage, his health, and his sanity. All the while, his efforts are overseen by a lone scarecrow, its burlap face blank but for a garish painted grin.

Check out the full contributor list below, then click on over to Amazon and order yourself a copy.

Ramsey Campbell
Michael Wehunt
Christine Morgan
Richard Gavin
Kristine Ong Muslim
Nicholas Day
William Tea (hey, that’s me!)
S.L. Edwards
Matthew M. Bartlett
S.E. Casey
Austin James
Jon Padgett
Duane Pesice
Daulton Dickey
Justin A. Burnett
C.P. Dunphey

Introduction by Christopher Slatsky

R.I.P. Roky Erickson


I came to Roky Erickson in a roundabout way. A local punk band I liked, Lugosi’s Morphine, had recorded a cover of “Night of the Vampire,” and it quickly became my favorite song of theirs… even though I had no idea it wasn’t actually “theirs.” It was probably a year, maybe more, before I realized that this track I dug so much had been recorded for a Roky Erickson tribute album. “Who the hell is Roky Erickson?” I wondered. And that was when I fell down the rabbit hole. Or, if you prefer, the elevator shaft.

Before then, I didn’t know how much of so many things I loved owed a huge chunk of their origins to Erickson. In the ‘60s, his group The 13th Floor Elevators was the first to ever refer to itself as “psychedelic rock,” and the band’s raw, snotty, proto-punk sound likewise embodied a style that would come to be known as garage rock. In the ‘70s, Erickson’s second group The Aliens prefigured the horror-punk of The Misfits and the psychobilly of The Meteors with its harder-edged music, b-movie lyrics, and song titles like “I Walked with a Zombie,” “Stand for the Fire Demon,” and “Creature with the Atom Brain.”

It was not just Erickson’s lyrics that were haunted, however. In 1968, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and for years drifted in and out of psychiatric hospitals, where his “treatment” included forced electroconvulsive therapy (AKA shock treatment). At one point, he was even arrested and subsequently committed for the crime of possessing one single joint. In the ‘80s, Erickson announced that he was possessed by the spirit of a Martian and that, as an extraterrestrial anomaly, he was subject to constant psychic assault from the rest of humanity. Later he began hoarding junk mail and taping it to the walls of his home, to the point where he was eventually arrested on charges of postal theft.

Perhaps worst of all, throughout his career Erickson was taken advantage of time and time again by predatory record contracts that dwindled his royalty payments to almost nothing.

In that way, as great as Erickson’s impact has been on music, his iconic status goes far beyond that. More than just a rock ‘n’ roll innovator, Erickson was, is, and will continue to be a poster child for every underappreciated outsider and persecuted weirdo in the world, for anyone and everyone who has ever felt like a space alien locked away in some great, big, planet-sized insane asylum.

Artists as varied as ZZ Top, Henry Rollins, the Butthole Surfers, the Jesus and Mary Chain, R.E.M., and Mogwai have all paid tribute to Roky Erickson over the years, acknowledging his influence. Despite efforts by mainstream society, and perhaps even his own mind, to hold him back, he was a traveler, an earthbound astronaut who blazed burning trails through hallucinogenic starfields, showing us all the glories of that magic place where, as he put it, “the pyramid meets the eye.”

Just like he sang on the 13th Floor Elevators’ biggest hit, I’m gonna miss him.

R.I.P. Dennis Etchison


Confession: The first horror novel I can remember reading was not a towering classic like Dracula or Frankenstein, nor even a New York Times Bestseller gateway-drug à la Stephen King’s The Shining. It was something no more prestigious than a cheap paperback novelization of a slasher movie. Its spine was cracked and its pages were yellow. And it was great.

I read Halloween II, a book I’d inherited from my mother, years before I ever saw the movie upon which it was based. Hell, I hadn’t even seen the first Halloween back then. Nor had I fully graduated from reading R.L. Stine’s kid-friendly Goosebumps books, which were all the rage during my ‘90s-kid childhood. Still, Halloween II served as a crucial stepping stone for me. It was the first horror story I ever read whose pages numbered in the triple digits, and it was also my first taste of adult horror.

Halloween II was written by Jack Martin, an author who I would never read anything else by. I would, however, go on to read a lot of stuff by Dennis Etchison, the man behind the Jack Martin pseudonym. Where Martin had but a short life consisting of only a couple more novelizations (one of another Halloween sequel, the other of David Cronenberg’s Videodrome), Etchison boasted a long and illustrious career as a novelist, short story writer, and anthologist. Much like Charles L. Grant, Etchison represented an aspect of the horror genre that was more driven by atmosphere and psychology than what mainstream audiences often gravitated towards in the ’80s and ’90s. He was, in many ways, a writer’s writer.

Naturally, when news broke of Etchison’s recent passing, it didn’t take much to get me itchin’ to revisit some of his work, preferably something I hadn’t read in a long time. But what? Maybe his novel California Gothic, concerning a complex web of unreliable narrators navigating unreliable realities in the celluloid shadows of Hollywood. Or maybe his classic short story “The Dog Park,” with its bleak and biting dissection of loneliness, desperation, and show-biz cannibalism. Or maybe MetaHorror, an anthology he edited for the vaunted Dell Abyss line, which ambitiously pushed the envelope of what genre fiction could be at a time when its definition was very much in flux.

Rifling through a box of books while trying to decide, I chanced across Halloween II. The same copy that had once belonged to my mother. The same copy I’d read more than two decade ago. Its spine was even more cracked now, its pages yellower than yellow. A wave of nostalgia swept over me. My choice was made.

It almost goes without saying that Halloween II is far from Etchison’s finest work. I read a review once that surmised Etchison mainly wrote novelizations as a way to collect an easy paycheck. I don’t know if I believe that. I do know that Etchison was a dyed-in-the-wool cineaste, even acting as a consultant for the film-focused chapters of Stephen King’s Danse Macabre. I’ve heard that he was a personal friend of director John Carpenter. And I’m aware that he famously co-wrote a screenplay for Halloween 4 which went unused after being dubbed “too cerebral” by the sort of people who decide such things.

In any case, reading Halloween II today illuminates one thing for certain: Great writers are great writers, full stop. Their greatness shines through regardless of what material or constraints you give them, or even what they themselves might think of the job. Even working within the confines of a story given to him by someone else, saddled as he was with characters, events, and ideas that were not his own, Etchison’s voice remains unmistakable. His flair for poetic description and ominous mood give an otherwise screen-accurate adaptation a flavor distinct from its cinematic source.

It may pale in comparison to his original works, but as far as formative genre introductions I could have done a lot worse than Dennis Etchison playing in somebody else’s sandbox. Like an old beat-up paperback at the bottom of a cardboard box, it’s comforting to know that Etchison was and always will be there. He proved just as important a piece of my literary development in adulthood as he was in my youth.

I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning from him.

My Top Ten Favorite Evil Effigy Movies (+1)

To celebrate the upcoming release of Mannequin: Tales of Wood Made Flesh (featuring my new story, “Husks,” as well as fiction by Ramsey Campbell, Michael Wehunt, Kristine Ong Muslim, Jon Padgett, Matthew M. Bartlett, Christine Morgan, and many more), I thought it’d be fun to make a list of some of my favorite evil effigy stories from that other great love of mine: cinema.

What exactly do I mean by “evil effigy” movies? Well, these are films about something that is made to look like a living thing, but it isn’t actually alive… until one day it is… and then it goes about making others living things into not living things. Get it?

Basically, I’m talking about dummies, dolls, scarecrows, statues, golems, homunculi, and, yes, mannequins. Some of them get up and kill on their own, while others make some poor schlub do the dirty work for them. My only two requirements here are: 1. there has to be at least a suggestion of the effigy’s autonomy (in other words, movies where we know right from the start that the dummy/doll/whatever is definitely not alive, those are out), and 2. the effigy itself has to be a primary focus for the movie, not just relegated to one or two smaller set-pieces (so flicks like Poltergeist, Maniac, and May, as well as anthologies like Tales From the Hood, Dead of Night, and Trilogy of Terror are also out).

Of course, there’s still a bit of wiggle room here, so some of you might disagree with which movies I judge meet the above requirements. In which case, you can go write your own damn blog. Anyway, remember that these are just personal favorites, not necessarily films I think are objectively great. Hell, some of these aren’t even good movies, at least not in a technical sense. But I love them anyway.

Okay, enough preamble. Here, in no particular order, are My Top Ten Favorite Evil Effigy Movies (+1)…

effigy (0)Waxwork

“More fun than a barrel of mummies!” boasts what might be my favorite horror-comedy tagline of the ‘80s, and Waxwork lives up to it. Starring Zach Galligan of Gremlins fame and David Warner of more-awesome-movies-than-I-can-list fame, b-movie auteur Anthony Hickox’s best film sees Warner as a suave warlock luring Galligan’s schoolmates into a wax museum so he can transport them into the gruesome scenes the dummies depict (such as a werewolf transformation, a zombie uprising, a bloody vampire dinner-party, and even an erotic torture-chamber lorded over by the Marquis de Sade). Why? Because once all the dummies have been “fed” they’ll come to life and kick off the “voodoo end of the world.” Obviously.

Waxwork is nonsense through and through, but damned if it isn’t fun. Hickox wears his love for the genre on his sleeve, using the movie’s daffy premise as an excuse to cram in as many classic horror characters as possible. Frankenstein’s Monster? Check. The Phantom of the Opera? You betcha. Jack the Ripper? Damn right. The Invisible Man? Despite the name, you can’t miss him. The Mummy? Not a barrel’s worth, but yeah, we got one. It’s like a Famous Monsters of Filmland greatest-hits compilation updated with a gory Grand Guignol flourish.

effigy (8)Kakashi

I’ve heard people refer to Kakashi, a semi-obscure adaptation of a Junji Ito manga, as “one of those movies where nothing happens.” Good thing those are some of my favorite kinds of movies! I mean, things do happen: a young woman travels to a secluded farming village searching for her brother, who disappeared after receiving a strange letter summoning him there. So far, so Silent Hill. When she arrives, she finds the townsfolk hostile, more interested in preparing for their upcoming “scarecrow festival” than answering questions. She begins dreaming of scarecrows and wakes up clutching fistfuls of straw. As the festival date approaches, how all these seemingly unrelated events fit together is slowly (and I do mean sloooowly) revealed.

I understand if some viewers find Kakashi too languid or subdued. But for those who enjoy quiet horror where thing feels just slightly off as opposed to outwardly ghastly, this film projects a mood I can only describe as straight-up hypnotic. It lulls you in with its surface mundanity, only pulling back the veil for very rare, very brief glimpses of how fucked-up shit really is. Only in the final third does all that build-up pay off, though in not as explosive a fashion as some would prefer. To torture a cliché, it’s not the destination that’s important here, but the journey. And this journey is one of delicate, haunting grief, the kind you never talk about but which is always there, just behind your eyes.

effigy (3)Child’s Play 2

It’s impossible to bring up killer dolls and not tip your hat to Charles Lee Ray AKA Chucky, the subgenre’s undisputed king. Despite an imminent remake, it’s noteworthy that the original franchise is still going strong, having released its most recent entry in 2017, with a spinoff television series currently in the works. Most admirably, the franchise remains the brainchild of prime mover Don Mancini, who wrote the first four movies, then wrote and directed the subsequent three, maintaining a surprising level of quality throughout. What’s more, Mancini is constantly pushing the narrative forward while staying true to three decades’ worth of continuity.

For my money the peak of the franchise remains the first sequel, Child’s Play 2. Director John Lafia’s use of extreme camera angles and distorting lenses gives this installment a uniquely nightmarish style that makes viewers feel like children themselves. It also allows the diminutive serial killer to tower over the audience with a grisly, grinning malevolence bolstered by voice actor Brad Dourif’s Jack Nicholson-inspired performance. The grand finale where Chucky stalks his victims through a brightly lit toy factory packed to the rafters with doubles of himself is intense, and its surprisingly brutal mutilation-by-assembly-line climax hits even harder when you remember that, despite looking like a lifeless doll, Chucky is still a thinking, feeling, bleeding entity.

effigy (10)Magic

Before Anthony Hopkins was Hannibal Lecter, he was Corky Withers, a bumbling nebbish with a deeply repressed dark side. Corky is only able to express himself through his ventriloquist dummy, Fats, a foul-mouthed smartass who isn’t afraid to speak his mind. But wait, shouldn’t it be Corky’s mind he’s speaking? What started as an outlet for Corky’s id is rapidly becoming a living thing all its own. When Corky begins an affair with a married woman named Peggy (played by a sympathetic, conflicted Ann-Margret), it isn’t long before Fats gets jealous. If you thought this dummy’s wit was sharp, just wait until he pulls out his knife.

Based on the William Goldman novel of the same name, Magic is at its heart a tortured romance. The question is, which of its pair of unhealthy pairings is the most unhealthy, Corky and Peggy or Corky and Fats? Playing things deadly serious throughout, Magic rejects camp humor in favor of building a methodical engine of tension that retains its air of mystery all the way to the bitter end. And all the while, the main attraction is Hopkins. Since he voices Fats too, the actor basically gets to play two different characters here. Such duality proves captivating; Corky is as pitiful as Fats is diabolical. In the end, though, it’s moments where we see hints of one within the other that prove most chilling of all.

effigy (17)Tourist Trap

Charles Band is no stranger to evil effigy flicks. As a director, producer, and head of two separate b-movie studios (Empire Pictures from ’83 to ’89, then Full Moon from ’89 onward), the man could be said to have a wee bit of an obsession. There’s the Puppetmaster series, for one. And the Demonic Toys series. And Stuart Gordon’s Dolls. And about a million other movies with “Doll” in the title. Seriously, Google the guy; his filmography goes on forever. Even with his name attached to so many of these kinds of pictures, 1979’s Tourist Trap is still arguably the best. If not that, it’s certainly the strangest.

A funhouse mirror take on familiar horror tropes, Tourist Trap is an eerie, disorienting tale about a bunch of teens whose jeep breaks down along an abandoned stretch of highway. The only souls to be found for miles are a helpful weirdo who calls a destitute roadside attraction home, a masked mystery man with a froggy voice and a habit of suffocating folks under globs of gooey plaster, and, oh yeah, a friggin’ army of mannequins that seem to follow our protagonists everywhere they go. The movie plays its cards close to the chest for much of its runtime, stringing you along through one surreal set-piece after another (the part where the mannequins’ jaws drop open so they can, for lack of a better word, sing is pants-shittingly freaky). In time, the rest of the universe seems to disappear entirely. All that’s left is an isolated night-world where batshit insanity and department-store dummies reign.

effigy (1)The Doll

I’ve often said that when it comes to film I prefer ambitious failures with interesting ideas to competent successes that take no risks. Take the most recent entry on this list, 2017’s The Doll. Being an extremely low-budget indie production its problems are legion, including a tenuous and inconsistent script, amateur acting, laughable kill scenes, a meandering non-sequitur cameo from Ron Jeremy (!), and more. But it does have one gold-star advantage that no other horror movie before or since has ever had: Valeria Lukyanova. The uncanny onscreen presence of this Ukrainian model, who made global headlines as a “Human Barbie Doll,” is the result of pure stunt-casting genius. It recontextualizes not only the movie’s story—in which Lukyanova plays an animate but lifeless synthetic woman pimped out by the devil-worshiping mad scientist who created her—but also the movie itself as a product and the audience’s reaction to that product.

On a personal note, I’ll point out that I consider myself a transhumanist and body-autonomy advocate. As such I have serious ethical concerns about any movie which further others someone who has already been othered to a depressing degree (the fact that Lukyanova has some rather noxious ideas about race does little to alleviate my concerns, though it does add some new ones). Even still, I can’t deny the subtle power and morbid fascination inherent in sophomore director Susannah O’Brien clumsy but brash weaponization of the male gaze.

effigy (2)Black Devil Doll

Where The Doll turned the male gaze against us, Black Devil Doll happily indulges it to absolute excess. As soon as we see the introductory animation claiming this film has been “rated X by an all-white jury,” we know exactly what we’re in for. African-American director Jonathan Lewis parodies the blaxploitation genre with a horror-comedy sleazefest centered around Mubia Abul-Jama, an executed black-militant serial killer whose disembodied soul possesses (and subsequently “blackifies”) a Howdy Doody doll. After his long stint in the slammer, Mubia is understandably horny. Thus begins what mythologist Joseph Campbell might call “the hero’s journey,” as Mubia seeks out “a fresh fuckin’ batch of strange.” But murderous habits die hard, and so too do a number of buxom beauties.

Ruthlessly skewering every slasher-movie cliché and African-American stereotype in the book, Black Devil Doll is actively stupid, often mean-spirited, and always offensive. Fortunately, the sheer level of absurdity here makes it difficult to take any of its politically incorrect grotesqueries seriously. In between many, many, many leering shots of actresses Heather Murphy, Natasha Talonz, Precious Cox, Erika Branich, and Christine Svendsen, there are also graphic, Troma-esque scenes of puppet fucking, puppet shitting, and puppet drug use. Set to a druggy jazz-funk score by The Giallos Flame, this mix of mature content and immature execution makes Black Devil Doll a live-action cartoon perfect for perverts and psychos alike.

effigy (11)The Golem

Silent horror films, especially those in the German Expressionist tradition, are unlike anything else you’re likely to ever watch. They’re otherworldly, mythic, and rare; indeed, a huge number of these movies have been lost to time. The one under discussion here is actually the final part of a trilogy, with no complete prints of the first and second entries known to exist. This 1920 classic (the full title of which is The Golem: How He Came into the World) is actually a prequel to the other two. Set in medieval Prague, prejudice against Jews prompts Rabbi Loew (a fictionalization of the real-life kabbalah mystic of the same name) to create a clay golem as a protector for his people. When Rabbi Loew’s assistant discovers the woman he loves in bed with another, he tries to sic the golem on the man. This selfish act of jealousy opens the colossus up for possession by the demon Astaroth, who drives it on a rampage through the city, terrorizing the very people it was built to serve.

An epic in under 90 minutes, The Golem may not be as stark an example of Weimar-era cinema as Nosferatu, Warning Shadows, or The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, but its stark, stylized imagery (courtesy of pioneering cinematographer Carl Freund) stays with you long after the film is over. What’s more, few icons of the period cut as imposing a figure as the title character (played by co-director Paul Wegener), whose lumbering movements and blank expression suggest dangers both physical and spiritual.

effigy (13)Scarecrows

Gun-toting antiheroes versus ambulatory burlap-sacks. It shouldn’t work, but it does. Of course it’s a product of the ’80s. Taking the Predator/Aliens action-horror route, the imaginatively titled Scarecrows drops a squad of well-trained and well-armed crooks into a cornfield late one night following a daring multimillion-dollar heist. With the authorities on their tails and greed and paranoia splintering the group from within, the last thing they need is some curiously specific form of supernatural comeuppance wherein killer scarecrows remove their internal organs and replace said guts with hay and money. But, oh yes, supernatural comeuppance wherein killer scarecrows remove their internal organs and replace said guts with hay and money is exactly what they get.

After a deceptively restrained and suspenseful first act, Scarecrows swings for the fences with splattery abandon, pitchforking hands, knifing faces, and gouging out eyeballs with barb-wire. But what really makes Scarecrows special is its potent doom-laden ambience. The sky is always pitch-black. No day-for-night shots here. The movie’s namesake villains move silently among the stalks, only speaking telepathically to mimic the voices of their victims. And in a refreshing break from convention, the script skillfully sidesteps any real explanation for the scarecrows’ origins. There are implications of black magic and a recurring photograph of three farmers, but nothing is explicated. For all the film’s indulgences, it knows the darkest dread lurks in all the things we don’t know.

effigy (6)Ghosthouse

Remember that scene in Poltergeist where the kid’s clown doll turns monstrous and attacks him? Umberto Lenzi remembers. Legend says that if you hold a copy of Ghosthouse to your ear, shut your eyes, and listen closely, you can actually hear Lenzi’s voice whisper “Hey, what if we made a movie where instead of just being a one-scene-wonder that spooky clown doll was the main attraction?” And so, from little acorns mighty oaks grow.

Bizarrely marketed in some territories as an unofficial Evil Dead sequel, Ghosthouse reimagines the Poltergeist plaything as property pilfered from the restless dead. Given as a gift to the cat-stabbing daughter of a grave-robbing mortician, the clown doll transforms into a conduit for supernatural mayhem, promptly killing the young girl’s family. Skip ahead ten years later and some ham-radio enthusiasts track a mysterious broadcast consisting entirely of carnival music and screams to the now abandoned funeral home (fun fact: Lucio Fulci used the same shooting location in House by the Cemetery). Before you can say “mama mia,” Italian cinema’s signature blend of gory, nightmare-logic mayhem kicks into high gear. Guillotine bisections! Hatchet head-chops! Exploding lightbulbs! Ecloplasmic sinkholes! Spectral dobermans! THE GRIM FUCKING REAPER! None of it makes any sense, but you won’t care.

effigy (7)Pin

All I have to do to sell you on this one is to tell you what the title refers to. Pin is the name for an anatomically correct life-size dummy resembling a man without any skin, which aloof Dr. Linden uses as a teaching tool for his two young children, Leon and Ursula, encouraging the rugrats to talk to it as if were a real live person. Let me repeat that in case you missed it: this is an anatomically correct life-size dummy resembling a man without any skin. That’s disturbing even before little Leon catches his father’s nurse fucking it. Yes, that is a thing that happens.

Understandably, Leon grows up with a few screws loose, developing an obsessive relationship with Pin not unlike the one Anthony Hopkins shared with Fats in Magic. And much like in that film it’s never 100% clear whether Leon’s conversations with Pin are solely the product of a disturbed mind or something more arcane. Another parallel is that Pin is also based on a novel, this time by Andrew Neiderman. Pin, however, is so much weirder and more lurid than Magic, even if it does dance around the source material’s more overt themes of incest (small wonder that Neiderman went on to ghostwrite books for the estate of deceased Flowers in the Attic author V.C. Andrews). Whether the lack of explicit brother-sister boots-knockin’ is a flaw or an improvement is a judgement I leave to you.

Cover & Contributor List for Mannequin: Tales of Wood Made Flesh


Do you walk a little faster whenever you pass a storefront with still, silent figures standing sentinel in the window? Do you feel their blind plastic eyes watching you, hear their painted rictus grins laughing at you? Do you ever worry that maybe they’re not the ones on display for us, but that we’re on display for them?

If you don’t now, you will after reading Mannequin: Tales of Wood Made Flesh, the debut anthology from Silent Motorist Media (the same good folks who named me one of their “Ten Weird Writers to Save Us All“). Showcasing 16 stories of deadly dummies, diabolical dolls, and other eerie effigies, Mannequin promises to plunge readers deep into the darkest region of the uncanny valley. And the best part? I get to help!

Marvel at the Don Noble cover art above, then drool over the recently announced list of contributing authors below:

Ramsey Campbell
Michael Wehunt
Christine Morgan
Richard Gavin
Kristine Ong Muslim
Nicholas Day
William Tea (hey, that’s me!)
S.L. Edwards
Matthew M. Bartlett
S.E. Casey
Austin James
Jon Padgett
Duane Pesice
Daulton Dickey
Justin A. Burnett
C.P. Dunphey

Introduction by Christopher Slatsky

Mannequin: Tales of Wood Made Flesh is due out in June, and will be available in both paperback and ebook formats wherever eldritch tomes of forbidden knowledge are traded for human souls. So, like, Amazon.