Fantasmagoriana Deluxe
Eric Guignard and Leslie S. Klinger, eds.

Dark Moon Books (November 28, 2023)
Reviewed by Carson Buckingham

I’m here to tell you that 18th and early 19th century German ghost stories are a different breed of cat. Different, but most definitely purebred.

It is interesting to note that Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (soon to be Shelley) and Vampyr by Dr. John Polidori were created as a direct result of an evening of reading German ghost stories. The impressed listeners, who also included Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, then decided to give writing their own ghost stories a try, and it was the work of the two novice writers in the group that has endured.

And the book they were reading that night? Fantasmagoriana—this very one! The eight original stories from the original 1812 tome were tracked down and preserved in this beautifully rendered anthology in all their bump-in-the-night spookiness.

I loved every story in this book. The style is quite different from contemporary horror writing, though. There are no jump scares, no blood and guts and veins in the teeth… nothing but superb paranormal suspense. The modern reader will need to adapt to the antique style and phraseology endemic to these old German stories, but it is easily handled after a paragraph or two… and so worth it.

The stories are as follows:

“The Spectre-Barber”—A man wasted his fortune, and it is restored in a highly unusual manner. I loved the ending.

“The Family Portraits”— Haunted portraits open a path of influence between two families.

“The Death’s Head”—What could be better? A gypsy carnival, a skull, and a ventriloquist?

“The Death-Bride”—engagements, inconstant lovers, and death take center stage here.

“The Fated Hour”—A story of two sisters and a prophecy.

“The Revenant”—A youthful, passionate marriage burns out but is saved by strange means.

“The Grey Chamber”—A haunted guest room.

“The Black Chamber”—I loved this one. It was a parody of The Grey Chamber and quite amusing.

Besides The Black Chamber, my favorites were “The Fated Hour” and “The Death’s Head.”

You’ll want to buy this book and get a genuine piece of horror history for yourself. Hey, if it’s good enough for Mary Shelley…

5 Stars—Highly recommended.

About Carson Buckingham

Professionally, Carson Buckingham has made her way in life doing all manner of things, most of which involve arson. She is currently employed as a freelance writer on a work release program. In her spare time, she studies forensics, in hopes of applying her new knowledge to eluding the authorities more effectively the next time. She is originally from Connecticut, but now resides in Kentucky—and Connecticut is glad to be rid of her.