Looking for a Very Specific Kind of Horror Short Story


mortal ally
Dec 28, 2019
I've been watching this old horror TV series called 'Way Out, hosted by Roald Dahl, which seems to be both darker and more humorous than The Twilight Zone. There's are episodes such as a mad scientist who turns people into frogs, a man whose ugly mask doesn't come off his face, and one where a man's glasses transport him to a pet shop for animals that are used by the misanthropic owners to kill anyone who pays the right price. Out of the whole series (14 episodes before it was canceled due to complaints about giving kids nightmares), Dahl makes one contribution, "William and Mary," about a dying man whose brain and eye are preserved in a basin.

So now I'm looking for stories like the ones featured in 'Way Out. Stories from the sixties (or earlier, maybe to the 20s) that are horrific and macabre and have supernatural or sci-fi underpinnings, and, less importantly, ones that are darkly humorous or have a twist ending. Easy on the ghost stories. One story I think would fit is Roald Dahl's "Royal Jelly."

Any ideas?
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Probably quite a bit of Dahl's work would fit the bill. Maybe a couple of L. P. Hartley's, like "The Traveling Grave" and "One, Two, or Three for Dinner." Some of Robert Bloch's short stories might, too; he was an influence of the E. C. Comics style of story, so you takes your chances.

A somewhat elevated tone and you have Saki, like "Sredni Vashtar" and "Gabriel-Ernest." Lower the tone a notch and some John Collier might fit the dark humor, but not always the supernatural or s.f.: "Bottle Party," "The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It".

Lower the tone and make it American, and a fair amount of Fred Brown's s.f. and fantasy stories might do; his Nightmares & Geezenstacks is in print, I believe, from Valancourt. You might also check on Charles Beaumont's short work.

What you're describing seems to me fairly consistent with what was published in the '40s by Unknown (a.k.a. Unknown Worlds) so a collection of works therefrom could work for you, and that magazine seemed to set a tone for later fantasy/horror/s.f. like that from Richard Matheson and Beaumont, also Rod Serling and even Shirley Jackson.