Welcome to the very first installment of Pandora’s Pick of the Week, featuring an array of novels, short stories, and movies that exemplify the horror genre and that I personally recommend to you. We’re starting off with a classic gothic tale by the master of American horror in the 1800s…
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
By Edgar Allan Poe
Background: Published in 1839. The Usher House was actually a real place in Boston, which may have inspired the story. It seems the owner caught his wife having an affair with a sailor, and he entombed them in the cellar, where their bodies were found when the Usher House was torn down in 1800.
What it’s about: “The Fall of the House of Usher” follows a narrator into the home of his ill friend Roderick Usher, who is suffering mental afflictions. Roderick’s twin sister, Madeline, tends to fall into deathlike trances. About the mansion is an air of desolation and decay.
When Madeline dies, Roderick has her entombed in the family vault. A storm breaks out; horrible sounds thump from within the house in time with their increasing anxiety. Roderick, at his breaking point, cries out that they buried Madeline alive, and she appears, bloody, at the door.
Death claims the Ushers as the narrator frantically departs, the house crumbling in the storm behind him.
Why it will keep you up at night: Though Poe doesn’t come right out and say it, there’s an implied incestuous relationship between Roderick and Madeline. Factor in Roderick’s deteriorating mental state, Madeline being buried alive, the humanlike character of the ancient mansion, and finally the resurrection of the supposedly-dead, and you’ve got yourself enough disturbing ideas to start questioning your own sanity.