The Events at Poroth Farm (1990)

The Events at Poroth Farm (1990) was T.E.D. Klein’s debut short story (first published in 1972) that formed the basis for his excellent novel, The Ceremonies (1984). Despite being included in a couple of Year’s Best Horror anthologies, the story was difficult to find prior to this Necronomicon Press version (which boasts some minor revisions and corrections by the author). It’s one of my favorite horror stories ever and I think there is a solid argument for it being one of the best horror stories written in the second half of the 20th century (and it is, at least to my recollection, free of the controversial themes that mars some of Klein’s later work).

It sees a writer preparing for a course on Gothic literature by spending the summer in a rented room on a remote farm in South Jersey owned by a couple who practice an unnamed Amish-like religion that proscribes modern technology. The isolation is right there from the start, as is a light (an entirely unrealized) sexual tension between the young couple and their lodger. It almost feels like a different kind of story entirely, but then something crawls out of the woods and into one of the couple’s cats, then into more human lodging. Whatever it is does a good job of impersonating people, but it often forgets to blink. The result is catastrophic without ever losing the sense of intimacy and isolation (something the larger novel doesn’t succeed so well at, thought it’s still a banger).

Jason Eckhardt’s stipple-full illustrations really sold the story for me, now and in 1992. That one of the night sky is just beyond perfect. You might be familiar with Eckhardt’s name because I think his work on Chaosium’s Lovecraft Country sourcebooks is so excellently atmospheric. His work for Necronomicon Press is on the same level.

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