Vintage Treasures: Nightfrights edited by Peter Haining

Vintage Treasures: Nightfrights edited by Peter Haining

Nightfrights (Peacock/Penguin, 1975). Cover by David Smee

They say that science fiction and fantasy readers love to identify with their heroes. To imagine themselves learning that they’re a wizard, attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Or being called to participate in The Hunger Games, or captain a starship.

I get it. I’m 59 years old, and the instant I saw the cover of the 1975 edition of Nightfrights I identified with the wide-eyed old coot on the cover. That’s what qualifies as an intrepid hero I can identify with these days. Awakened in the middle of the night, called upon to investigate the inhuman shrieks in the backyard, telling ourselves it’s just raccoons but knowing in our heart that’s it’s ghouls. Or Bughuul, from that Sinister movie I just watched on Prime. Or our neighbor Jerry, driven mad by fumes from his lawnmower. Don’t come any closer Jerry, I’ve got Alice’s rolling pin, and I know how to use it.

[Click the images to identify with larger versions.]

Inside cover, and line art by David Smee

David Smee’s cover, uncannily true-to-life as it may be, is not Smee’s only contribution to this vintage collection. The editor, prolific British anthologist and author Peter Haining, has handily divided his creepy tales into three distinct eras:

Tales That Frightened Your Grandparents
Tales That Frightened Your Parents, and
Tales That Will Horrify You

Smee contributes original art, one for each section, which are striking enough to reproduce here. You’re welcome.

Peter Haining edited over a hundred genre anthologies, including Beyond the Curtain of Dark (1966), The Ghouls (1971), The Nightmare Reader (1973), Dead of Night (1981), and The Mammoth Book of Haunted House Stories (2000). No article like this would be complete without a snapshot of his impressive catalog, so I’ve assembled a small sample of his anthologies below.

Some of Peter Haining’s anthologies: The Ghouls (Pocket Books, 1972), Dead of Night
(William Kimber, 1981), Weird Tales: A Facsimile Selection from the World’s Greatest Fantasy
 (Carroll & Graf, 1990), Beyond the Curtain of Dark (Pinnacle Books, 1972),
The Future Makers (Belmont Books, 1971), The Fantastic Pulps (St. Martin’s Press, 1976),
Weird Tales, Volume 1 (Sphere, 1978), Mysterious Railway Stories (as by William Pattrick;
W. H. Allen, 1984), Supernatural Sleuths: Stories of Occult Investigators (William Kimber, 1986)

There’s probably not enough years left to me to read all of Haining’s anthologies, which is both amazing and a little terrifying.

Nightfrights contains a rich mix from some of the world’s most famous practitioners of spooky tales, including Robert Louis Stevenson, Wilkie Collins, Edgar Allan Poe, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, E. Nesbit, H. G. Wells, M. R. James, Ambrose Bierce, Algernon Blackwood, Agatha Christie, August Derleth, John Wyndham, Robert Bloch, Mervyn Peake, Ray Bradbury, and Joan Aiken. It also contains “Dracula’s Guest” by Bram Stoker (the chapter famously cut from the original Dracula novel), and the 1985 essay “The Man in White” by Andrew Lang.

Poe’s contribution “The Tell-Tale Heart,” one of his most famous tales, is the chilling story of a man who kills a lodger because of his milky blue “evil eye,” and it’s almost certainly what inspired the David Smee cover.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents

Editor’s Foreword, by Peter Haining

Tales That Frightened Your Grandparents

“The Body Snatcher” by Robert Louis Stevenson (Pall Mall Christmas “Extra” 13, December 1884)
“The Story of a Terribly Strange Bed” by Wilkie Collins (Household Words, April 24, 1852)
“The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe (The Pioneer, January 1843)
“Madam Crowl’s Ghost” by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (All the Year Round, December 31, 1870)
The Man in White, by Andrew Lang (The Red True Story Book, 1895) — nonfiction
“Man-Size in Marble” by E. Nesbit (Home Chimes, December 1887)

Tales That Frightened Your Parents

“Dracula’s Guest” by Bram Stoker (Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories, 1914)
“The Valley of Spiders” by H. G. Wells (Pearson’s Magazine, March 1903)
“The Haunted Dolls’ House” by M. R. James (The Empire Review, February 1923)
“The Middle Toe of the Right Foot” by Ambrose Bierce (San Francisco Examiner Aug 17, 1890)
“The Transfer” by Algernon Blackwood (Country Life, Dec 9, 1911)
“The Lamp” by Agatha Christie (The Hound of Death and Other Stories, 1933)

Tales That Will Horrify You

“The Lonesome Place” by August Derleth (Famous Fantastic Mysteries, February 1948)
“Close Behind Him” by John Wyndham (Fantastic, January-February 1953)
“Enoch” by Robert Bloch (Weird Tales, September 1946)
“Same Time, Same Place” by Mervyn Peake (Science Fantasy, August 1963)
“The Small Assassin” by Ray Bradbury (Dime Mystery Magazine, November 1946)
“Furry Night” by Joan Aiken (Argosy (UK), November 1958)

Here’s a look at the last two interior illustrations by David Smee.

Interior Illustrations by David Smee

Our previous coverage of Peter Haining includes:

Vampire, edited by Peter Haining (2013)
Beyond the Curtain of Dark, edited by Peter Haining (2015)
The Weird Tales Anthologies (2019)

Nightfrights was published in hardcover in the UK by Gollancz in 1972, and reprinted in paperback by Peacock Books/Penguin in 1975. The paperback edition is 301 pages, priced at £0.80. The cover is by David Smee. There is no US paperback, or digital edition, and it has been out of print for 48 years. I bought a copy on eBay for £9 earlier this year.

See all our recent Vintage Treasures here.

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Aonghus Fallon

I remember us discussing this a few years back – it was a seminal book for me – but I’d forgotten Smee did the line drawings for each section as well. Enoch was particularly scary: familiar territory for Bloch fans maybe, but a great little story nonetheless.

Thomas Parker

I love those illustrations! If I stacked up all the Peter Haining and Marvin Kaye books I have, I could use them to get onto the roof of my house.

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