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Baker's Dozen

The Count Of 13: Ramsey Campbell's Weird Selection
Sean Kitching , May 6th, 2020 09:26

In a Baker's Dozen diversion, writer Ramsey Campbell guides Sean Kitching through 13 favourite pieces of weird culture, from film to opera and literature, via David Lynch, Arthur Machen and more


Arthur Machen - The White People
A short story, or at least a long short story. I think this is possibly the greatest supernatural horror story ever written. There are a couple of other competitors. The more often I re-read it, the more I think it’s an incomparable achievement, the greatest use of the naive voice in horror. Again, the sense in which the narrator of the main narrative, within the framing device, is telling you of her experience, which she genuinely doesn’t find particularly disturbing, and again it’s precisely because she seems to find this acceptable and everyday, because of how she’s been brought up as a child and a young girl, that she can’t see things that we certainly do. I think it’s also the greatest use of myth and folklore in supernatural horror. Allusions, some of which may be to actual traditions and some of which I assume to be things that Machen has invented and woven in. It’s a classic instance of conveying terror absolutely by allusion. To the extent that I think there are still quite a few people who don’t get what happens at the end, because it’s very delicately and obliquely expressed. The White People is absolute poetry, of a very powerful and eerie kind and I’ve several times attempted to scale its peak as a writer myself and I’ve always fallen, panting back into the foothills.