Let the Horror Begin! First Spooky Read of the Season

A fall nip is finally in the air and the leaves are starting to change here in Connecticut. I love reading spooky stories in the fall (who doesn’t??) and was eagerly anticipating the release of Tricks and Treats, which was released last month.

From the publisher: Some of Connecticut’s finest authors—from the eighteen hundreds through today—showcase their spookiest tales in this collection. Discover some lesser-known works from literary greats Twain, Gilman, Stowe, and Brainard, and chilling stories from contemporary authors Crandall, Foley, Longo, Munson, Schoonover, Strong, and Valeri. This collection will make you proud to be a Nutmegger. “Connecticut authors, you scare the hell out of me, but I grow to love you—more and more, with every creepy tale.” ~ From the foreword by Rob Watts, author of AMERICANA and THE CROOKED ROADS THROUGH CEDAR GROVE

I had the pleasure of hearing a few of these stories read last year at a reading in Manchester, CT that my friend John Valeri, one of the authors in this anthology, invited me to. Here’s a brief rundown of the 14 stories and 1 poem that comprise this collection:

  • John Valeri: “Just Cause” is the lead story and it reads like a Marcia Clark novel. It’s a tight crime piece about a convict accused of killing his wife who escapes on Halloween. Ruh-Roh. Valeri’s second story in the collection, “Blood Relations,” has a cinematic vibe that, at times, gave me the feel of watching a horror movie. Both stories have strong dialog that effortlessly moves the action along. I’m already a fan of Valeri’s reviews and author interviews and will now follow his fiction, as well.
  • Melissa Crandall: Is apparently an aficionado of the revenge story. Her “Dreams on Racks” is a heck of an imaginative story and of special enjoyment for movie buffs. “The Cellar” is a moving story of a young girl, her harried mother, and the pain they suffer at the hands of the men in their lives. There’s an old mirror in the basement and, like the Mirror of Erised in Harry Potter, one must to take care around old mirrors.
  • Mark Twain: “The Californian’s Tale” (1893) is a surprising tale, one I’d read in the past and also enjoyed this time around. The narrator is a house guest of an old prospector who, along with his friends, is preparing for the return of his young wife who has been away vising her family.
  • Ryanne Strong: “Halloween Hubris” is a story that made me LOL, or at least snort with pleasure, at the climax. “Sophie” is a ghost story involving children, which automatically tends to increase the creepiness factor for me.
  • Stacey Longo: “Zombie Witch” is an imaginative story that caused me to walk down the Halloween decoration aisle at Stop & Shop the other day with more curiosity than years past. “Time to Let Go” is a story about a young man dealing with heartache that made me think of Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, which I read earlier this year.
  • Dan Foley: “A Trick of a Treat” and “The Bag” are two stories that pack a nice wallop. I got a kick out of both stories, but the former is stuck in my mind and makes me glad I’m not trick-or-treating this year.
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe: “The Ghost in the Mill” (1872) is a classic fireside tale, a wonderful story within a story. It hearkens back in time to tell the tale of a man who disappeared and how, during a raging snow storm, an old Native American woman helped reveal the truth.
  • G. Elmer Munson: “What About that Daughter of Yours?” Is an intense sketch that made me think of scenes written by Stephen King or Joe Hill. Painful, quick, surprising.
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman: “The Giant Wistaria” first appeared in print in 1891 and is a delightful ghost story with roots (pun intended) that stretch back to colonial days with characters that remain fresh and alive. [Word buffs: when Gilman published the story Wistaria was a common spelling of Wisteria.]
  • Kristi Petersen Schoonover: “Crawl” has some nice atmosphere and tension. I’ll never look at baby blankets in quite the same way.
  • John G. C. Brainard: “Maniac’s Song” is a poem and the oldest piece in the collection (the author died in 1828). It seems more sad and tragic than spooky, but it has stuck with me and made me return to it for several readings.
Strong, Foley, Longo, and Valeri at last year’s reading.

Thanks to these fine writers, my Connecticut basement now seems creepier than ever and I’ve been checking to make sure the windows are locked before bed. Their stories have been an excellent kick off to my own spooky autumnal reading. Overall, the collection is heavy on the spooky and, thankfully, light on grossness and gore. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more from these writers.

Title: Tricks and Treats: A Collection of Spooky Stories by Connecticut Authors
Author: Multiple authors, edited by Stacey Longo with Forward by Rob Watts
Publisher: Books & Boos Press, August 31, 2016
Source: I bought the Kindle version, which is only $2.99. Paperback is $12.99. (Prices valid as of the date of this post).
Bottom line: If you like horror without a lot of gratuitous violence and gore, this collection should appeal. Good entry for those participating in the Reading New England Challenge (#ReadNewEngland).


  1. Chris! Can't thank you enough for this review. It's gratifying to know that people are enjoying the book — and particularly so when it's people you know and respect.

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