The Damp Chamber and Other Bad Places, by Frank Chigas

The Damp Chamber and Other Bad Places, by Frank Chigas book coverGenre: Horror Anthology
Publisher: Medusa Press
Published: 2003
Reviewer Rating: five stars
Book Review by Paul Goat Allen

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Okay, let’s just cut to the chase: The Damp Chamber and Other Bad Places by Frank Chigas is one of the best collections of horror stories I’ve ever read – if not the very best. With the stylish storytelling prowess of Stephen King, the audacious gruesomeness of H.P. Lovecraft, the psychological intensity of Ramsey Campbell and the cerebral machinations of Algernon Blackwood, this masterful collection absolutely blew me away! As I was devouring story after story into the wee hours of the night, I kept asking myself, “Who the hell is Frank Chigas and why haven’t I ever heard of him?”

The answer is simple: this is his first published book – a coming out (of the grave) party if you will.

The title story, “The Damp Chamber,” is a lesson in terror about a young urbanite tasked to repair and sell his recently deceased uncle’s property in rural Wisconsin, upon which sits a much storied house. As he pries information out of the property’s tip-lipped neighbors, the mysterious history of the house is slowly uncovered. Inbreeding squatters, deformed half-humans, death cults, pagan rituals and ghostly apparitions are just the beginning… “The Space Between the Walls” is another eloquent tale of psychological deconstruction about a young couple who move into a dream apartment only to find a fatal flaw – and it’s not roaches. The bayou is the setting for “The House of August,” a cautionary tale about a sadistic landowner and the consequences of tempting fate. “And Darkness Slumbers” is a Blackwoodian tale about how killing a monstrosity in a graveyard can help strengthen the bond between a young man and his future father-in-law.

Arguably the most intricately crafted and emotionally powerful story in this collection, “The Copper Bell,” chronicles the strange life of a reclusive poet who gives up fame and fortune in search of inner fulfillment. His quest leads him to Japan where he stumbles across an abandoned village void of life. Upon further investigation, the poet finds his muse…

The Damp Chamber and Other Bad Places is an artistic masterwork that should – and will – be cherished by horror aficionados for generations to come: from the 19 nightmare-inducing stories included to the fantastic macabre artwork throughout from the author himself, this $40 collection is worth ten times the price. It’s evident that the people at Medusa Press put a lot of tender loving care into this production – from the cover design to the inner illustrations to the story layout to the font selection, The Damp Chamber and Other Bad Places will be a prized collector’s item once the rest of the world finds out about Frank Chigas.

Paul Goat Allen is the editor of Barnes & Noble’s Explorations science fiction/fantasy book review and is the author of Burning Sticks, Old Winding Way and Warlock Dreams.

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