Saturday, 25 September 2010

The boy in the boat

The Boy in the Boat is a story I played around with for a long time before I was happy. It differs from many of the stories in the Tales of Terror collection, in featuring a child as the malevolent presence in the story.

All my stories for the Tales of Terror have a young protagonist - and The Boy in the Boat is no exception - but this story is one of the few where the supernatural threat is coming from another child.

Children and young people are commonly found in uncanny or macabre stories. Many Saki stories feature children: The Open Window, The Lumber Room, Sredni Vashtar to name but a few. Children also play a big part in M R James' The Lost Hearts and Henry James' The Turn of the Screw (wonderfully filmed as The Innocents). Then there is John Wyndham's classic The Midwich Cuckoos (filmed as Village of the Damned).

The Midwich Cuckoos plays on the idea of children as an unlikely source of danger and this idea is a firm favourite of horror movies - The Orphanage is a recent one that comes to mind. The Japanese seem particularly obsessed with this notion - the movie Dark Water being an excellent example of the genre.

So why are children creepy? Well, it is something to do with what I was talking about a couple of posts back when I said that we are unnerved when our expectations are dramatically contradicted. A child is expected to be playful and lively. A poorly lit, persistently silent and sullen child staring at the camera is usually all it takes to set a scary tone to a scene.

I thought I would take this idea one step further, and have a child who was cute and lively and seemingly good-natured - and turn all those qualities into a nightmare.


  1. This is my favourite story in the Tales of Terror books. I read it on a stormy night, in a room lit by a candle, and it freaked me out something awful.

  2. Ha - that sounds like a perfect setting! I should insist that all my readers have to read the stories under such conditions.

  3. you are the best author I ever knew,your tales are really terrifying but that makes them perfect,I am waiting Tales Of Terror From The Tunnel Mouth to come to Turkey ! :) <3

  4. "We are unnerved when our expectations are dramatically contradicted."
    Thank you for that illumination & thank you for your dedication to the genre! Your short stories are terrific!
    I stumbled upon "Tales Of Terror From The Tunnel Mouth" by chance a few weeks ago, thinking it was just going to be mindless nostalgia.
    I was so wrong. "Never judge a book by it's cover". :) You hooked me! You write about parent/child & gender relationships so well. This stuff is classic!