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Remember that monster on the wing of the airplane? William Shatner saw it on The Twilight Zone, John Lithgow saw it in the movie-even Bart Simpson saw it. "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" is just one of many classic horror stories by Richard Matheson that have insinuated themselves into our collective imagination. Here are more than twenty of Matheson's most memorable tales of fe Remember that monster on the wing of the airplane? William Shatner saw it on The Twilight Zone, John Lithgow saw it in the movie-even Bart Simpson saw it. "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" is just one of many classic horror stories by Richard Matheson that have insinuated themselves into our collective imagination. Here are more than twenty of Matheson's most memorable tales of fear and paranoia, including: "Duel," the nail-biting tale of man versus machines that inspired Steven Spielberg's first film; "Prey," in which a terrified woman is stalked by a malevolent Tiki doll, as chillingly captured in yet another legendary TV moment; "Blood Son," a disturbing portrait of a strange little boy who dreams of being a vampire; "Dress of White Silk," a seductively sinister tale of evil and innocence. Personally selected by Richard Matheson, the bestselling author of I Am Legend and What Dreams May Come, these and many other stories, more than demonstrate why he is rightfully regarded as one of the finest and most influential horror writers of our generation.


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Remember that monster on the wing of the airplane? William Shatner saw it on The Twilight Zone, John Lithgow saw it in the movie-even Bart Simpson saw it. "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" is just one of many classic horror stories by Richard Matheson that have insinuated themselves into our collective imagination. Here are more than twenty of Matheson's most memorable tales of fe Remember that monster on the wing of the airplane? William Shatner saw it on The Twilight Zone, John Lithgow saw it in the movie-even Bart Simpson saw it. "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" is just one of many classic horror stories by Richard Matheson that have insinuated themselves into our collective imagination. Here are more than twenty of Matheson's most memorable tales of fear and paranoia, including: "Duel," the nail-biting tale of man versus machines that inspired Steven Spielberg's first film; "Prey," in which a terrified woman is stalked by a malevolent Tiki doll, as chillingly captured in yet another legendary TV moment; "Blood Son," a disturbing portrait of a strange little boy who dreams of being a vampire; "Dress of White Silk," a seductively sinister tale of evil and innocence. Personally selected by Richard Matheson, the bestselling author of I Am Legend and What Dreams May Come, these and many other stories, more than demonstrate why he is rightfully regarded as one of the finest and most influential horror writers of our generation.

30 review for Nightmare At 20,000 Feet

  1. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    8 Excellent short stories, 1 Boring short misfire, and 11 Dazzling, GRANDtastic short masterpieces combine to make this one delicious helping of gumdrop goody goodness....in a scare you stool-less and leave you whimpering kind of way. This is a rare blend of literate, high quality prose and "oh shit" screaming terror. Matheson's story-telling is addictive and the heavy, meaty sense of tension-filled dread with which he is able to consistently imbue his stories is truly special. Yeah, I thought t 8 Excellent short stories, 1 Boring short misfire, and 11 Dazzling, GRANDtastic short masterpieces combine to make this one delicious helping of gumdrop goody goodness....in a scare you stool-less and leave you whimpering kind of way. This is a rare blend of literate, high quality prose and "oh shit" screaming terror. Matheson's story-telling is addictive and the heavy, meaty sense of tension-filled dread with which he is able to consistently imbue his stories is truly special. Yeah, I thought this collection was pretty terrific. Of the 20 tales in this collection, the following are the 11 AWEgasm causing masterpieces that I thought Matheson just knocked out of the park: NIGHTMARE AT 20000 FEET: I must have seen the Twilight Zone episode with a bucky young Captain Kirk a dozen times before finally reading/listening to this classic tale of a mentally troubled passenger seeing a “Gremlin” on the wing of an airplane. Well, as good as the James T. and Rod Serling were at the adaptation, it was a thin, pale shadow to the robustness of the original in its ability to create a rising, pulsating sense of terror. What a great way to lead off this collection as it showcases Matheson’s tremendous skill at layering on real terror with psychological perception so that the reader continues to ask themselves...how much of this is real? DRESS OF WHITE SILK: Holy nutshakers people, this one had me waiting for the bomb to drop (metaphorically as well as in my shorts) from the very first line. Everything about this story of a seriously bizarre little girl and her strange obsession with dead mommy’s heirlooms (including the titular silk dress) spelled CREEPY with a capital AHHHHH!! This one reminded me a lot of Matheson’s "Born of Man and Woman" which is one of my all time favorites. Short, tension filled, engrossing and with the best last line of the entire collection. BLOOD SON: This superb story concerns another very odd boy (I sense a pattern developing) who becomes OBSESSIONALLY “out of his nutty little mind” OBSESSED with vampirism after reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula. He wants to be one...very, very badly, making his family, school mates and neighbors “long tail cat in rocking chair room” nervous whenever he is around. Only an extraordinary writer like Matheson could have pulled this story off as it balances on the edge of “mental instability” and “genuine horror” all the way until another amazing ending. THROUGH CHANNELS: If you want an absolute case study in the art of “let the readers imagination fill in the horror” than this may be it. I have heard from some that this was one of the lesser works in this collection but I would respectfully disagree (and give them a raspberry behind their back). This is a masterly piece. The story takes place in an interview room where a son is being questioned by police about the “horrific” murders of his parents and two of their friends. While I think by the end of the story, it is pretty clear “what happened” it is all slowly pieced together based on the reactions of the officers and the boy who have all seen the crime scene. I will remember this one for a while. WITCH WAR: This 5th story makes it a stellar 5 out of 5 for Matheson in this collection. Despite being completely different from the others, the quality and imagination are superb. This one has a very “Village of the Damned” vibe to it and involves a group of prepubescent (but “holy shit” powerful witches absolutely demolishing an army of soldiers (with tanks, planes, etc.) sent to destroy them. Much more actiony than the previous stories, but the best part of the story is the casual, unemotional mind-set of the little girls who see this as nothing more than a fun game to play. DISAPPEARING ACT: Another fantastic product by Matheson, this story involves a struggling writer who begins an affair with another woman. After arguing with his wife, he calls up his mistress only to discover that no one has ever heard of her. Thus begins a true piece of psychological terror as things begin to disappear from the characters life as if erased from history. This is masterful story-telling. LEGION OF PLOTTERS: One of the most disturbing stories in the collection, this is a salty little psychology study of a man who has hit 11 on the paranoia scale and believes, literally, that everyone is out to get him. When this story is over, it will make you look at certain news stories in a whole new light. DANCE OF THE DEAD:Arguably the most “important” story in the collection for its scathing and piercing commentary on loss of empathy and the ability to human beings to give up the ability to feel compassion for their fellow man. This is also, in my opinion, the most difficult story in the collection to navigate through as it is a futuristic tale full of a strange new vocabulary (which Matheson uses to great effect). In short, the story takes place in a post World War III America where a group of teens travel to a unique bar to see a very bizarre show. My advice: take your time with this one and even read some commentary on the story before you read it. The haunting image of the “show” will stay with me s good long while. THE CHILDREN OF NOAH: This is as good an example of nasty, big city tourist driving through tiny “out of the way” town and having a bizarre run in with the locals. Think “The Wicker Man” or “The Children of the Corn” and you will be on the right track. However, Matheson brings a little extra oomph to this story through his understated writing, his unlikable main character and the slow, tension filled build up to the terror spewing climax...Ah satisfaction indeed!! THE DISTRIBUTOR: Stephen King mentions in the introduction that without Richard Matheson, he would not be here and compared him to his father in the world of writing horror. Well Stevie boy sure must have found inspiration in this tale as it has some amazing parallels to his “Needful Things” (a book I really like but is not generally seen as one of King’s best...shows what I know). This a terrific little story about a man who comes to town and brings a whole bag of “fucking with your life” with him to distribute among the neighborhood. I loved, loved, loved the ending. THE LIKENESS OF JULIE: Another example of absolutely pitch perfect narrative voice and an ending I did not see coming and still can not believe. A guy named Eddie becomes obsessed with a sweet girl in his physics class and can not stop thinking about her. He devises a vicious plan to drug her and black-mail her into being with him. The creep factor in this story approaches “I need a shower” level and Matheson’s portrayal of an out of control compulsion is amazing. Nasty, haunting and brilliantly written, this is a gem. With the exception of Old Haunts, which for some reason I just did not care for, the remaining 9 stories are all better than good to excellent. Two of the stories “Long Distance Call” and “Prey” are among Matheson’s best known stories and I really enjoyed them. I think it just evidences how much I truly loved the 11 listed above that those two did not make the cut. For those interested the remaining nine stories are: Madhouse Long Distance Call Slaughter House Wet Straw The Holiday Man Old Haunts Crickets First Anniversary Prey Overall, a no doubt about it five 5 rating and Richard Matheson earns an immediate spot among the most impressive writers of speculative short fiction I have ever encountered. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    Remember the Twlight Zone episode with William Shatner seeing gremlins on the wing of the plane? Well, that's the title story. And many others in this collection are just as good.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Good horror stories make you experience the world differently. Unexpected noises make you jumpy. Your slightly odd neighbour begins to look decidedly sinister. You lie in bed thinking that you'll be safe if you don't peek your head out from under your blankets. When you read a good horror story, fear leaks from its pages and infects you. Richard Matheson’s collection Nightmare At 20,000 Feet: Horror Stories is mostly made up of these sorts of stories. You’ve probably read I am Legend - Matheson’s Good horror stories make you experience the world differently. Unexpected noises make you jumpy. Your slightly odd neighbour begins to look decidedly sinister. You lie in bed thinking that you'll be safe if you don't peek your head out from under your blankets. When you read a good horror story, fear leaks from its pages and infects you. Richard Matheson’s collection Nightmare At 20,000 Feet: Horror Stories is mostly made up of these sorts of stories. You’ve probably read I am Legend - Matheson’s story that was recently cinematically butchered by Will Smith. If you haven’t it’s one of the greats – a fantastic read that will blindside you, and blindside you hard. Matheson was a twilight zone writer and he excels at stories with surprising endings that will horrify you, and occasionally even make you laugh. There are some real gems in here- the titular Nightmare at 20,000 Feet is a classic (and was made into an iconic twilight zone story, staring William Shatner), along with Prey, a bullet-fast tale of a murderous wooden doll. The Distributor, recommended to me here on Goodreads, is another winner, a chilling tale of urban terrorism that reads like Eric Frank Russell’s Wasp set in suburbia. It's a pacy, compelling tale that still reads very well. There are also a few clangers too, stories that build well then flame out with an underwhelming ending (such as Witch War which really seemed to go nowhere). Is this common to horror? In my (admittedly limited) reading of the genre I've found that many horror stories start with genuinely atmospheric, palm-sweat inducing build-ups that end with cheesy, unconvincing twists. Several stories in Matheson’s book follow this anticlimactic path – a narrative rollercoaster than scales an ever steeper rise, promising an ever-scarier plummet, that arrives at the top of its arc to reveal a flat section of track and a gift shop. Even Stephen king, that titan of horror whose name cannot fail to be mentioned when discussing his genre, occasionally flubs an ending after tantalising his readers with the sort of build-up that makes you scared to be alone in your own house (As an example I present It: a great story, but the ending… yeesh). Despite all this, when Matheson nails a story, he nails it hard. He builds tension like a master, and he drives even his weaker stories along at a freight-train pace that had me flipping pages with fingertip-searing speed. Matheson's influence on the horror genre is substantial, and several of the stories in Nightmare at 20,000... gave me a sense of déjà vu, reminding me of later works that have no doubt been inspired by his work. King himself is a big fan of Matheson’s, and one of the stories in this volume - Slaughter House - seemed to me to be a possible inspiration for the greatest of his novels (IMHO) The Shining. Unlike say, H.P Lovecraft, Matheson’s short stories can be read together as a whole without his stylistic tics becoming irritating. Nightmare at 20,000... is varied enough in tone, settings and themes to keep things interesting and this is an entertaining compilation that is worth your time, especially if you are interested in the horror genre and the influence that Matheson has had on contemporary writers. Not every story in this book is a winner, but the best ones win big. 3.5 stars.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    Nightmare at 20,000 feet is a collection of short stories by horror and weird fantasy genre trailblazing master Richard Matheson. The collection begins with the title story, a favorite of Twilight Zone fans, both from the show and an episode starring a very young William Shatner and the film featuring John Lithgow in the lead. This is an excellent way to begin because it highlights Matheson’s psychological style of horror blending the surreal and fantastic. Matheson’s genius is close, subtle, th Nightmare at 20,000 feet is a collection of short stories by horror and weird fantasy genre trailblazing master Richard Matheson. The collection begins with the title story, a favorite of Twilight Zone fans, both from the show and an episode starring a very young William Shatner and the film featuring John Lithgow in the lead. This is an excellent way to begin because it highlights Matheson’s psychological style of horror blending the surreal and fantastic. Matheson’s genius is close, subtle, the kind of insanity that covers the distance between the face and the mirror. A stated favorite of Stephen King, Matheson serves as a literary bridge between King and the earlier horror master H.P. Lovecraft. This can best be seen in the Lovecraftian “Children of Noah” and in “Mad House” which must have inspired Stephen King when he wrote The Shining. While some of these stories are little more than sketches like “Dress of White Silk” and “Disappearing Act”, others like “Bloodson”, a pre “I am Legend” and Bradburyesque narrative could be used to inspire longer works. All in all, this is a good collection for a new reader of Matheson as it ranges from the darkly comedic “The Distributor” to the truly disturbing “Likeness of Julie”.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    Like Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson has created timeless stories filled with the surreal, eerie and bizarre, and each one is certainly worth reading.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    This is my first real foray into Matheson's work that I can remember (I read I Am Legend a very long time ago and can't quite recall it). I knew he was an important and influential author but I had no idea to what extent! It feels to me like he's the author that had the strongest influence on Stephen King. Their style of storytelling and pacing (at least in the short story work) is very similar! And you can also see why he was tapped to write The Twilight Zone episodes and why that show adapte This is my first real foray into Matheson's work that I can remember (I read I Am Legend a very long time ago and can't quite recall it). I knew he was an important and influential author but I had no idea to what extent! It feels to me like he's the author that had the strongest influence on Stephen King. Their style of storytelling and pacing (at least in the short story work) is very similar! And you can also see why he was tapped to write The Twilight Zone episodes and why that show adapted a few of his stories. If you're a fan of the show, you'll love this collection as the stories have a very similar structure. I listened to this on audiobook throughout the span of several months. I really enjoyed most of the tales in this collection and was constantly impressed with how clever and creative Matheson was in his storytelling. The concept and idea for each story is compelling and will keep you reading. And not only does Matheson show real skill in building upon these concepts in interesting and original ways and bringing it to a slam-bang ending, but he also has a great sense of what to show, what not to show, and when to do so. In the entire collection the writing has a great sense of mischief throughout, that same sense that King's writing has in his best creepy tales. The best example of Matheson's skill is the best story in the collection, the utterly creepy "Dress of White Silk," about a young girl obsessed with her dead mother's belongings. And that final couple of lines? Holy shit. Other standout stories are: "Disappearing Act," "Legion of Plotters," "The Likeness of Julie," "First Anniversary," "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,""Through Channels," "Blood Son"...hell, who am I kidding? Just read 'em all. Definitely a recommendation if you're looking for some classic horror stories this Halloween season.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    I love Richard Matheson. His short stories are some of the best examples of the craft I've ever seen. He has this way of making me feel like I am a part of the story in a way that works brilliantly, especially considering that Matheson loves an open ending. He lets the reader carry on where he leaves off, and that's one of my favorite things about reading his short stories. Many of the stories in this collection are ones I've read elsewhere, but listening to them on audio this time was fantastic I love Richard Matheson. His short stories are some of the best examples of the craft I've ever seen. He has this way of making me feel like I am a part of the story in a way that works brilliantly, especially considering that Matheson loves an open ending. He lets the reader carry on where he leaves off, and that's one of my favorite things about reading his short stories. Many of the stories in this collection are ones I've read elsewhere, but listening to them on audio this time was fantastic. Blood Son has a manic, urgent needy quality that the reader brought, and I loved it. Long Distance Call was creepy and made me turn on the lights, despite my knowing the story already... the raspy whispered "Hello?" gave me chills. In the best way. Mad House is one of my favorite Matheson stories. It's so good, so detailed in the way that frustration builds and builds and builds... I seriously love this story, both for the psychological aspect, and the manifestation aspect. There are a lot of psychological and paranoia stories in this collection, and they are some of Matheson's best, though back to back like this, it can feel a little bit overwhelming in how similar they are to each other. But, each taken individually, this is an excellent collection of stories.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)

    I found Nightmare at 20, 000 Feet and Other Stories at my excellent public library. The titular story is the basis for The Twilight Zone episode with William Shatner. Well if you like the show, read the book. Your heartbeat stays erratic the whole time. I love the detail in which Matheson describes the harrowing experience the protagonist has. He knows the gremlin is there but the darn thing disappears when he tries to point him out. The flight crew gets more and more convinced that the protagon I found Nightmare at 20, 000 Feet and Other Stories at my excellent public library. The titular story is the basis for The Twilight Zone episode with William Shatner. Well if you like the show, read the book. Your heartbeat stays erratic the whole time. I love the detail in which Matheson describes the harrowing experience the protagonist has. He knows the gremlin is there but the darn thing disappears when he tries to point him out. The flight crew gets more and more convinced that the protagonist is off his rocker. But he knows he's sane. He is frightened out of his wits, but knowing that he's the only hope for the plane. The reluctant hero comes up with a plan to save the plane because the gremlin is steadily and I must add gleefully, tearing it apart. The climax is short, quick, wonderfully executed. You heave a sigh of relief when the story ends. This volume has other classic stories. Another truly affecting story is Slaughter House. Two very close brothers buy and lovingly restore a Victorian house which is possessed by a spirit with nefarious intent. The spirit slowly drives a wedge between brothers and ends up causing a tragic end for one of the brothers. As usual you can see Matheson's skill in writing. He takes his time to build things up to an exquistive level of terror. You feel the pain of the older brother as he fights to save his sibling. I felt it more intensely because I am very close to my sister and I can imagine how much anguish it was causing the protagonist to watch his brother turn into a stranger. For me the end was satisfying although tragic. I won't give it away. But suffice it to say you walk away with a poignant feeling that will stay with you for days. Another memorable tale is about a young boy who so intensely identifies with the tale of Dracula by Bram Stoker that his life goes in an interesting direction. This story leaves you with almost an upset stomach. As I read more and more horror, I realize how conventional I am. I think this is the power of horror, that it can drive home how settled we are into our normal, nice worlds blithely unaware of how ugly the other reality is. Matheson definitely seems to understand this. He uses the tools available to him to craft this into his stories. It could be circumstances that are horrible. It could be the protagonist that is the real horror, or it could be the fate of the protagonist. And even in the case of one story where a guy murders his wife and then is subsequently haunted by her ghost, you still feel shocked at the comeuppance his wife's spirit delivers to him. In some of the stories you find yourself thinking, that's not fair. And maybe that's the real kind of horror that we face everyday, that bad things happen to the normal, everyday person, the not especially good or bad, person. I think that Matheson really impresses me in his skill with the short story because writing a short story is such an art. I haven't read anything from him longer than a novella, but I will definitely look forward to reading a full length novel by him. However, I know I'll have to gird my loins because it will be a very bumpy, if satisfying ride.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chris_P

    NIGHTMARE AT 20,000 FEET: **** DRESS OF WHITE SILK: ***** BLOOD SON: **** THROUGH CHANNELS:**** WITCH WAR: ** MAD HOUSE: **** DISAPPEARING ACT: ***** LEGION OF PLOTTERS: ** LONG DISTANCE CALL: ***** SLAUGHTER HOUSE: *** WET STRAW: **** DANCE OF THE DEAD: **** THE CHILDREN OF NOAH: *** THE HOLIDAY MAN: **** OLD HAUNTS: ***** THE DISTRIBUTOR: **** CRICKETS: *** FIRST ANNIVERSARY: **** THE LIKENESS OF JULIE: **** PREY: *** I think it's needless to talk about the way Matheson wrote his stories. The above ratings have n NIGHTMARE AT 20,000 FEET: **** DRESS OF WHITE SILK: ***** BLOOD SON: **** THROUGH CHANNELS:**** WITCH WAR: ** MAD HOUSE: **** DISAPPEARING ACT: ***** LEGION OF PLOTTERS: ** LONG DISTANCE CALL: ***** SLAUGHTER HOUSE: *** WET STRAW: **** DANCE OF THE DEAD: **** THE CHILDREN OF NOAH: *** THE HOLIDAY MAN: **** OLD HAUNTS: ***** THE DISTRIBUTOR: **** CRICKETS: *** FIRST ANNIVERSARY: **** THE LIKENESS OF JULIE: **** PREY: *** I think it's needless to talk about the way Matheson wrote his stories. The above ratings have nothing to do with his writing style and were given while always having his brilliance in storytelling as an undeniable fact. That is to say that the 2 and 3-star stories were also good but simply not as good as the rest. As I was reading this amazing collection, I couldn't help marveling at how many later films, novels and shows were inspired by this brilliant author (beside the ones that became episodes of The Twilight Zone). Without extreme horror, splatter, profanity and all these techniques used (to no avail most times) by contemporary horror authors to scare the readers, Matheson manages to deliver some intense thrills proving that it's purely a matter of talent to write stories that can cut those who read them as well as the one who wrote them. Such stories simply never get old.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    I expected to like this collection, but I did not expect to love it since I am not generally a lover of short stories. However, Matheson does such a great job of instantly giving you enough background that you feel completely pulled into the story. I found I was able to become vested in the story right away, and that allowed me to connect with the stories. The stories themselves are amazing. My personal favorites were the title story, "Dress of White Silk," "Through Cannels" and "Blood Son." Gre I expected to like this collection, but I did not expect to love it since I am not generally a lover of short stories. However, Matheson does such a great job of instantly giving you enough background that you feel completely pulled into the story. I found I was able to become vested in the story right away, and that allowed me to connect with the stories. The stories themselves are amazing. My personal favorites were the title story, "Dress of White Silk," "Through Cannels" and "Blood Son." Great writing and a very imaginative creep factor. I loved it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    3.5 Stars A couple of really good stories and quite a few not so good stories. Although I might have my expectations set a little too high after reading I am Legend and Hell House.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Troy Blackford

    Holy *crap*, was this a punch in the gut! This collection is for anyone who loves horror. It'll knock your socks off. All kinds of stories: some admittedly better than others, but none of them bad. Many of them exceptional.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Badseedgirl

    Nightmare at 20,000 Feet: Horror Stories by Richard Matheson should be required reading for all fans of horror. Not just because Mr. Matheson was one of the first Grand Masters of Horror, inducted in 1993 by The World Horror Convention, or because he has been the influence of such authors as Stephen King (Also a Grand Master), but because so many of these short stories were the basis of amazing movies and TV anthologies that we have all enjoyed. • Nightmare at 20,000 feet (Twilight Zone TV series Nightmare at 20,000 Feet: Horror Stories by Richard Matheson should be required reading for all fans of horror. Not just because Mr. Matheson was one of the first Grand Masters of Horror, inducted in 1993 by The World Horror Convention, or because he has been the influence of such authors as Stephen King (Also a Grand Master), but because so many of these short stories were the basis of amazing movies and TV anthologies that we have all enjoyed. • Nightmare at 20,000 feet (Twilight Zone TV series and movie) • Disappearing Act (Twilight Zone TV series) • Long Distance Call (Twilight Zone TV series) • Dance of the Dead (Masters of Horror TV Series) • The Likeness of Julie (Tales of Terror Movie) • Prey (Tales of Terror Movie) Mr. Matheson is in his element when he is writing true horror. The psychological horror stories were for me hit and miss, but the true horror was chilling. For me the three stand-outs in this series were “Crickets,” “The Distributor,” and “Dance of the Dead.” I’m throwing in "Witch War" for honorable mention because it was another standout. I read “Crickets” alone in the dark and could not get the idea out of my mind when finished. The sound of the cricket is so ubiquitous here in the country that one almost doesn’t hear it anymore, but what if they were communicating to us through those chirps, or worst yet communicating with something else. “The Distributor” was probably the stand-out in the psychological terror stories in this series. There is somethings so disturbing about the character of Theodore Gordon, who destroys the lives of his new neighbors so completely and with such glee and zeal. It was truly terrifying, and when he posts the results in his book and the reader realizes just how many times he had done this, it was just another level of horror. Sublime. Masters of Horror: Season 1, episode 3 I was first introduced to “Dance of the Dead” by Showtime’s amazing Anthology Series “Masters of Horror.” Although only 2 seasons long, it was an amazing introduction to the horror genre and included 1 hour movies from some of the greatest names in horror ever assembled. You should check them out, several can be found on youtube.com. But I digress, but only slightly. The thing is, I was mesmerized by the story when I first saw it. It was horrifying and tragic, heart breaking sad and a coming of age story all wrapped up in one. I immediately ran out and found the story and read it, I was disappointed because the short story was markedly different from the TV series I had just watched. Now ten years later and vastly more well-roundingly (sp) read, I was able to read this story with fresh eyes. The only thing the screen writer (who incidentally was Richard Matheson’s son Richard Christian Matheson) did was expand on the themes his father laid out in the short story. I just loved it on this second reading. I have to be honest in “Witch War,” I just liked the juxtaposing of the giggling teenage girls and the destruction of the army. It was a revelation to read. 5 of 5 stars

  14. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    More chilling works by a 20th-century master of the genre. Matheson is a primary influence on modern horror--not just literary, but in cinema and television (Matheson wrote prolifically for "The Twilight Zone" and the title story of this collection was adapted for that show). If your only Matheson experience so far has been Will Smith in "I Am Legend," you owe it to yourself to expand your horizons. This collection is a great introduction to typical Matheson themes: ordinary folks in horrifying More chilling works by a 20th-century master of the genre. Matheson is a primary influence on modern horror--not just literary, but in cinema and television (Matheson wrote prolifically for "The Twilight Zone" and the title story of this collection was adapted for that show). If your only Matheson experience so far has been Will Smith in "I Am Legend," you owe it to yourself to expand your horizons. This collection is a great introduction to typical Matheson themes: ordinary folks in horrifying situations, bewilderingly strange children, the dire consequences of misplaced trust, self-identity, anger and existential crisis. From "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" to "Prey," Matheson's incisively drawn characters and tautly paced tales will hold you and haunt you long after you've closed the book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Finished it on Halloween - that was nice timing. Great collection of Matheson scary stories. I enjoyed most of them, as I always seem to like his stuff. A few were stories I'd read before, but it was nice to revisit those too. Favorites: "Witch War", "The Distributor", "Mad House", and the title story. Most of these would be great as Twilight Zone episodes, and some of them were...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Doreen Petersen

    Wonderful collection of short stories. Not quite to the level of Stephen King but very good. I would recommend this one.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Trudi

    I expected to LOVE this collection, and while I mightily enjoyed a handful of the stories, others left me feeling cold, confused or just plain ol' meh-disappointed. Most of that meh is not Matheson's fault - I fully recognize him as a master of his craft. Stephen King (my favorite author) admits Matheson is the writer who has influenced him most (and the more I read of Matheson's work the more I believe that). The meh is my fault; short stories are not usually my bag and it takes a lot for one to I expected to LOVE this collection, and while I mightily enjoyed a handful of the stories, others left me feeling cold, confused or just plain ol' meh-disappointed. Most of that meh is not Matheson's fault - I fully recognize him as a master of his craft. Stephen King (my favorite author) admits Matheson is the writer who has influenced him most (and the more I read of Matheson's work the more I believe that). The meh is my fault; short stories are not usually my bag and it takes a lot for one to really grip and engross me. Several did inspire pure love however (blinding, passionate, irrational love). I consider these to be absolute must reads for anyone. The following are some of the best crafted short pieces of fiction you will find anywhere. Not to mention creepy as all hell!!! Nightmare at 20,000 Feet: I loved this as a Twilight Zone episode, but as a short story it totally kicks ass and takes names. The set-up is so simple but the terror of it draws you in and does not let go. I have a pretty sick fear of flying – flying at night is even worse. I WILL NOT, CANNOT look out the plane window at the darkness while I’m mid-air. I just cannot physically make myself do it. This is a primordial fear buried deep in the lizard part of my brain. It’s almost a psychosis (!) and it’s all thanks to Mr. Matheson. I mean, for real, what if you did look out there and there was some goddamn “thing” looking right back at you? ::shiver:: Dress of White Silk: Maladjusted, “weird” children just petrify me. I don’t want to help them come out of their shell, I don’t want to make friends with them, I don’t care if they are misunderstood I just want to run screaming in the opposite direction. The little gal in this gem of a story is weird personified. She is obsessed with her dead mother’s things, especially that white dress made of silk. The ending here blew my doors off. I was like “whoah”, did I just read that? Moses on a crutch. Best last line ever. Through Channels: There is so much creeping malevolence packed into this tightly wound very short story I can scarcely believe it. It is THICK with atmosphere and dread. Set in that cramped interview room, the story chokes you with its claustrophobic feel. And that ending!!! Oh how I love that ending! The Children of Noah: The feel of this one reminded me of Stephen King’s “Children of the Corn” (and not just because it has children in the title!). That sucker punch ending, POW! right to the solar plexus, also reminded me of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”. This story is not as good as either of these, but it is still pretty freakin’ awesome. The Distributor: Delectably evil. Reminded me a lot of Stephen King’s Needful Things. The havoc that can be wrought with just a few well-placed acts of sinister mischief! October Country 2011 #5

  18. 4 out of 5

    T.E. Grau

    Not a perfect book (what book is?), but shows the range and huge chops of Richard Matheson in the short form, as he blend genres but keeps it dark and probing. One of my favorite writers, whom I feel is undervalued a bit in discussions of either our best horror authors, or best American authors in general. Stephen King's introduction is wonderful, and succinctly reminds the reader just how important Matheson was as a bridge between the decline of the Great Pulpists (Lovecraft, REH, CAS, etc.) an Not a perfect book (what book is?), but shows the range and huge chops of Richard Matheson in the short form, as he blend genres but keeps it dark and probing. One of my favorite writers, whom I feel is undervalued a bit in discussions of either our best horror authors, or best American authors in general. Stephen King's introduction is wonderful, and succinctly reminds the reader just how important Matheson was as a bridge between the decline of the Great Pulpists (Lovecraft, REH, CAS, etc.) and the rise of post-war horror, sci-fi, and weird fiction authors (Bradbury, Jackson, Orwell, Bloch, Dahl, Serling, Beaumont, Nolan, Clayton Johnson, etc.), who also had such a profound impact on television, and also on film. Stand-out stories in this collection include the titular tales (which is much more terrifying than the entertaining, near camp of the Shatner "Twilight Zone" adaptation), "Prey," "Witch War," "Disappearing Act," "The Children of Noah," "The Distributor," "Likeness of Julie," and "Dress of White Silk." Highly recommended.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Emilia

    Charles Beaumont is still #1 for me, but enjoyable nonetheless.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jaksen

    Not a bad collection of horror/scifi/mystery stories, but there was an ongoing or running theme through many, that of the disgruntled white man who can’t catch a break in present-day society. Blame it on work, the wife, the circumstances of life itself, many of the MCs were just plain miserable and going mad or doing crazy things because of it. Now... Maybe at the time of the writing – mostly the1950’s – there were a lot of men questioning things which they hadn’t before. WW2 was over, and even i Not a bad collection of horror/scifi/mystery stories, but there was an ongoing or running theme through many, that of the disgruntled white man who can’t catch a break in present-day society. Blame it on work, the wife, the circumstances of life itself, many of the MCs were just plain miserable and going mad or doing crazy things because of it. Now... Maybe at the time of the writing – mostly the1950’s – there were a lot of men questioning things which they hadn’t before. WW2 was over, and even if you hadn’t served directly in the conflict, you knew someone who had, or who had been killed or injured, or physically/mentally affected. The way to deal back then was just TO DEAL and get on with life. So there were probably a lot of people with HUGE ISSUES and very few to talk with about them. Anyhow, that’s my interpretation and I know Mr. Matheson wrote other things, not always about men trying – and failing – to cope with life. (I mean just read the story in here called ‘Disappearing Act,’ in which a man finds his life disappearing around him. Wow. Yikes. Crazy.) So atmospheric, yes, a touch. Haunting, some of the stories are. Repetitious much, yes, but blame that on whoever selected these stories. (Which I just learned was Matheson himself.) Three stars.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bandit

    The one novel I read by Matheson before this has left enough of an impression to warrant checking out this collection and I'm so glad I did. These stories really showcase Matheson's most impressive talent and it's not so much for supernatural spookiness, though there is plenty of that, the author really shines when it comes to writing the dark deep secrets, the hidden sides of human nature. There were some genuinely terrifying stories in this collection about various ways to go mad, about losing The one novel I read by Matheson before this has left enough of an impression to warrant checking out this collection and I'm so glad I did. These stories really showcase Matheson's most impressive talent and it's not so much for supernatural spookiness, though there is plenty of that, the author really shines when it comes to writing the dark deep secrets, the hidden sides of human nature. There were some genuinely terrifying stories in this collection about various ways to go mad, about losing your hold on the tenuous reality of things and slipping through. In simple and sparse, yet all the more effective for it, prose, Matheson creates really moving and disturbing tales, he excels at dread, exceeds at unsettling. This is a really great collection, highly recommended for any horror fan.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Carol Storm

    A hero from my childhood -- Richard Matheson wrote "Steel," my favorite Twilight Zone episode, plus he wrote the book that inspired the classic movie "The Omega Man" with Charlton Heston and Anthony Zerbe! I just had to read "Prey" because I remember screaming along with Karen Black in "Trilogy of Terror" as the Zuni doll chased her all around her apartment. My favorite stories were "Blood Son" and "Dress of White Silk." Great American horror!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    There are some great Matheson classics in this volume! The man is one of the best, in my opinion. My favorites, though it's hard to pick just a few, are Blood Son, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, and Prey. This is more of a 4.5 stars, but I guess I'll go with 4. I highly recommend this book!

  24. 4 out of 5

    James Hold

    I was extremely disappointed in this collection. RM is a favorite of mine, not my all-time favorite, but one I can reasonably expect to entertain me. The problem is he can be very uneven with just as many clunkers as masterpieces and his screenplays and television scripts are generally better than his prose. I imagine this is because RM is a visual writer and it is better to see his stories than to read them. The collection here reflects his unevenness. Perhaps it represents some of RM's earlier I was extremely disappointed in this collection. RM is a favorite of mine, not my all-time favorite, but one I can reasonably expect to entertain me. The problem is he can be very uneven with just as many clunkers as masterpieces and his screenplays and television scripts are generally better than his prose. I imagine this is because RM is a visual writer and it is better to see his stories than to read them. The collection here reflects his unevenness. Perhaps it represents some of RM's earlier works and he was still finding his footing when writing them. The title story, so famously recreated in a Twilight Zone episode starring William Shatner is, in print form, a slow, plodding, dragged-out narrative that takes forever to come to a climax. It's just a constant repetition of 'Oh, look!' and 'There's nothing there.' The 8 stories that follow are equally uninteresting. Maybe he was experimenting with styles and different narrative voices. Whatever the case I was unable to finish most of them and found little reward in those I did. It was not until the 10th story, 'Slaughter House' that things finally picked up and delivered a ghost story that might later have served as a blueprint for Hell House. I found 'Prey' was also effective. I was turned off by Stephen King's introduction where he begins by saying: 'To say that Richard Matheson invented the horror story would be as ridiculous as it would be to say that Elvis Presley invented rock and roll...' (First off, deduct two grammar points for using 'that' twice in the same sentence.) But more seriously, whoever said RM created the horror story in the first place? The answer is 'no one'. I complained in another review about asinine introductions and King gives another good example. My recommendation is if you're a die-hard RM fan, buy it; but if you aren't to skip over it. But be warned they aren't all winners and the number of clunkers far exceed the good ones.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brian Fagan

    Yet another example of what's wrong with the literary academic community in this world. While everyone gets wet in the pants at the mention of Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and their great contribution to the world of letters, they bypass people like Matheson who wrote some of the most perfect short stories ever written. If you want to learn how to write a short story, read this book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Jeez what an imagination! Matheson went to some very dark places for the 1950s. My favorite was a story about an ill-tempered man who continually cursed aloud at every object in his house for his own clumsiness.....until his house struck back. Wonderful.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

    Stories all ranged from 2 stars to 4 stars. I give the collection 3.25 stars overall. It was a nice Halloween month read!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kaisersoze

    For its time, this Richard Matheson collection is outstanding. It's very easy to see his influence on so many contemporary authors and the way they strive to get under the skin of the reader. This collection - which commences with one of the greatest short stories ever written, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, which was also adapted for both the Twilight Zone TV series and then again perfectly by George Miller in the Twilight Zone: The Movie back in 1983 - is not without its low points, or stories that For its time, this Richard Matheson collection is outstanding. It's very easy to see his influence on so many contemporary authors and the way they strive to get under the skin of the reader. This collection - which commences with one of the greatest short stories ever written, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, which was also adapted for both the Twilight Zone TV series and then again perfectly by George Miller in the Twilight Zone: The Movie back in 1983 - is not without its low points, or stories that simply do not work. But that's the price of ambition, and Matheson is nothing if not ambitious through this series of twenty stories, most of which are extremely successful in terms of what achieving that they're aiming for. Eerie, surreal and, for the most part, haunting , Nightmare at 20,000 Feet: Horror Stories is a must-read classic that will scuttle into and take up residence in that dark corner of your mind - perhaps for longer than you might like. 3.5 Gremlins Waggling Their Fingers at You for Nightmare at 20,000 Feet: Horror Stories.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jose

    Mixed feelings. Some of the stories are superb. but some are just... well, not that good.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Albert

    Okay read. I prefer his novels. Three of four really good stories but most were just "meh", and there were a few too many that didn't do a single thing for me.

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