Hallowed Days
Daniel Hale
JournalStone Publishing (November 20, 2020)
Reviewed by Andrew Byers

Hallowed Days by Daniel Hale is a chilling and imaginative collection of fifteen short stories (plus one poem) that harness the eerie and enigmatic aura of two of the most iconic festivals of the year: Halloween and Christmas. With a keen sense of the macabre and a knack for storytelling, Hale delivers a series of tales that plunge readers into the heart of these beloved holidays while exploring the darker, often overlooked, facets of the festivities.

Do you prefer your Santa Claus to be horrific? (I know I do.) If so, you’ll enjoy “When Santa Stayed,” which shows that children may have a clearer perception of what Santa is really like than do adults. “Transmissions of Unknown Origin Intercepted from the Arctic Circle” offers another vision for how Santa Claus operates and, well, it’s terrifying. I haven’t seen anything else that quite touches this radical interpretation, but it’s not to be missed. “Regifted” is almost so short that if you blink you’ll miss it, but it too is another very successful sinister retelling of the Santa Claus mythos.

Hale’s Christmas tales aren’t all about Santa Claus, of course, and one of my favorite non-Santa stories is “The Hungry Nutcracker,” about a bad little boy named Timmy who gets his just deserts.

If Halloween is your jam, then there are plenty of stories that evoke a wonderfully festive feeling of everyone’s favorite fall holiday. “The Old Halloween Store” is a nice blend of creepiness and feel-good sentiment—a perfect combination for Halloween that is hard to craft—in which a grumpy old man who is tired of having his house egged decides to participate in decorating his place for Halloween and visits the local Halloween shop to outfit his home. “The Other Hayride” is another great example of a Halloween tale that relies on the nostalgia that so many of us feel for a holiday we treasured in childhood but that now merely pales in comparison for us in adulthood. “The Candy Lady” is a nice long one about an annual Halloween ritual that must be undertaken by a selection of children, who must visit the iconic witch in the woods and accept—and consume—a treat that she offers them. That’s a very nice evocative piece that brings back those childhood fears of fairy tales and venturing into the homes of strangers to ask them for a gift.

The collection closes with “Pact of the Lantern,” my favorite in the collection, a story that introduces readers to a trio of goblins who dare to defy old seasonal traditions. Hale’s narrative weaves a captivating web of folklore and just the right evocation of the Halloween season, inviting readers to contemplate the enduring power of rituals and the consequences of challenging tradition.

Throughout Hallowed Days, Hale showcases his talent for weaving together folklore, mythology, and the supernatural with contemporary spins on classic holiday elements and motifs. His prose is evocative, drawing readers into each story’s unique world and immersing them in its atmosphere. The pacing is well-executed, with each story offering a new and enthralling experience.

Hallowed Days is a perfect read for horror fans who also love the holidays, whether that be Halloween or Christmas (we’ve also got a collection opening story about Easter thrown in for good measure). Daniel Hale’s collection of short stories is a testament to his storytelling prowess, offering a captivating exploration of the darker aspects of holiday traditions. With its blend of folklore, supernatural elements, and modern sensibilities, this book is a delightful and unsettling journey into the heart of Halloween and Christmas. Prepare to be enchanted and haunted by the vivid and imaginative worlds crafted by Daniel Hale in Hallowed Days. Definitely recommended for your holiday reading list.