Friday Fright Night: Which Situation is the Most Frightening?

Curtis Evans, writer of the blog The Passing Tramp, sent out an invitation a short while ago for bloggers to take part in a month of spooky, scary and sinister posts. Thankfully there is no strict definition of what this theme does or does not contain, so participants can interpret it as freely as they wish. I am no fan of horror fiction, so my interpretation is definitely going to be on the more creative side! In particular my focus will be on different scary aspects of vintage mystery fiction. Any blogger is welcome to take part and whilst I believe posts are being gathered by Curtis from the Golden Age of Detection Facebook page, feel free to leave links in the comment section below and I’ll make sure they get ferried across. A final thank you should also be given to Bev, creator of the blog My Reader’s Block, who designed the image for these posts, which you can see opposite.

So for my inaugural post I decided to do a poll, in this case for which situation, culled from vintage mystery novels, would be the most frightening to be in. Naturally answers will depend on the voter’s physique, age, life skills etc. If you’re like Bear Grylls, then being left on an island would probably be less daunting, and I am sure anyone who is a black belt in karate is going to be less fazed by an intruder in the home. However, I have tried to come at the theme from various angles, and I am definitely intrigued to see which answers come out top! I suggest perhaps assessing the situations as though you did not have access to current technology, as obviously a mobile phone or a computer, would resolve some of these problems a lot more easily!

Everyone is allowed to select their top three most scary options from the list. The list is written out in full, with reference to the novels they are based on and then the voting widget is after that, where each situation is referred to by the novel it is based. It would also be lovely to hear other people’s suggestions for other scary situations from vintage mysteries.

Scary Situation No. 1

You have been invited by a creepy older former college friend to attend an evening reunion at their relation’s remote country house, which has a private zoo. Not long after you arrive you realise that there is a strong chance someone is going to want to use the exhibits as means of murdering you and the rest of the party…

Source: The Man Who Was Not There (1943) by Ethel Lina White

Scary Situation No. 2

You have been sent an invitation out of the blue to make up a holiday party, which is taking place on someone’s private island. You’re not sure who is else is invited, and for that matter you’re quite sure who the host is. When you get there, you find yourself cut off from the mainland, with no way of contacting it and oh, before I forget, there is someone trying to bump everyone else off… It would have been criminal to not include this one!

Source: And Then There Were None (1939) by Agatha Christie

Scary Situation No. 3

You are a young widower, with two young children, and you have been swept off your feet by a dashing Swedish count, who happens to own an island off the coast of Sweden. He takes you all there to see your future home, before you tie the knot. It is only when you get there that you discover your fiancé only wanted to kidnap you and force you into writing a bestseller thriller based on your current circumstances. He plans to profit from the success of your publication, yet suffice to say you’re unsure whether you will get off the island alive…

Source: Step in the Dark (1938) by Ethel Lina White

Scary Situation No. 4

You have been invited to a dinner party by your ex, who plans to kill one of his guests that night. Each guest happens to be one of the women in his life and you are sure of his murderous intentions, but unsure who the victim will be. It may even be yourself!

Source: Follow as the Night (1950) by Patricia McGerr

Scary Situation No. 5

After a heavy night drinking you discover in your office a manuscript, typed on your own typewriter and purportedly written by yourself. It catalogues a series of questionable and dubious events, making up almost a confession of sorts. Yet these events are not things you have done but are things which you are seemingly going to do in the future.

Source: The Last of Philip Banter (1947) by John Franklin Bardin

Scary Situation No. 6

Your holiday plans are ruined and you return home. Yet when you turn up at your apartment, lacking your luggage and down to your last few cents/pence, a man is already inside and claims that this is his home, not yours. Even once you gain entry into the property it remains to be seen whether you can trust this mysterious stranger…

Source: The Nine Dark Hours (1941) by Lenore Glen Offord

Scary Situation No. 7

You have been in an accident and cannot remember who you are. Those around you claim to know your identity, but you are unsure whether they are telling the truth.

Source: Puzzle for Fiends (1946) by Q. Patrick

Scary Situation No. 8

You have been paralysed by a stroke and you are unable to move or speak. Even worse you have heard others plotting to murder someone and you are worried that they might know you know about the plot.

Source: The Whispering Wall (1969) by Patricia Carlon

Scary Situation No. 9

You are staying overnight locked in a room. You are checked on every 15 minutes. Yet it just so happens that this room has a history of killing its occupants, method of which is unknown…

Source: The Red Widow Murders (1935) by John Dickson Carr

Scary Situation No. 10

You go to visit your future father in law and partake of a beverage. Everything then becomes a blank. On waking up you find yourself locked in a room from the inside, and find that your future father in law is now very much dead – murdered in fact… Naturally you are the prime suspect.

Source: The Judas Window (1938) by Carter Dickson

Scary Situation No. 11

There is a serial killer on the loose in your remote rural neighbourhood and as the night wears on, your employers and their relations, one by one, become incapacitated by alcohol or accident. The house is completely locked to prevent intruders getting in, yet you have the growing suspicion that the killer is already on the inside…

Source: Some Must Watch (1933) by Ethel Lina White

Scary Situation No. 12

You are a young journalist who is determined to uncover who is behind a recent spate of murders, in which several people have been killed at a waxwork museum. You are ensconced there at night, waiting to find out the truth, and it is only then that it dawns on you that the waxworks seem to be alive…

Source: Wax (1935) by Ethel Lina White

Scary Situation No. 13

You have been walking in some woods during a fog near a nursing home you have been staying at. You end up witnessing a murder, not close enough to identify the killer, but near enough to know one has been committed. Unfortunately, the killer, armed with a flashlight, has had a good look at one. You end up a nearby house, but are you safe from the killer just yet?

Source: The Deadly Climate (1955) by Ursula Curtiss

And now for the voting…

I’ll announce the results next Friday, when I may just have another poll in the offing…

21 comments

  1. Anything that would make me question my own identity freaks me out. Even worse is telling the truth about something and not being believed. Took me a long time to be able to watch North by Northwest…

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yes I wonder whether the identity one would be a popular choice, as it is a frighting situation which is harder to fight against. It is in keeping with Victorian novels in which a character has to fight against being put into an asylum.

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  2. Kate – thanks for the poll. Not easy to pick just one.

    I think my biggest fear is having an ever growing TBR pile filled with excellent books and I cannot read them all 🙂

    Your excellent list has increased this fear as now I have a number of additional books to track down that I haven’t read or even knew existed, but whose premise sounds intriguing. I am off to hunt for some of them,

    Liked by 1 person

      • Based on your blog post, I have ordered the John Franklin Bardin omnibus, Patrick Quentin and Pat McGerr titles at affordable prices. Searching the usual places for White’s, TMWWNT, only showed copies at far more than I am willing to spend so will keep looking for that one.

        Looking forward to your next poll!

        Liked by 1 person

      • All good choices! I got the JFB omnibus too. My favourite was The Deadly Percheron. Pat McGerr is an interesting writer, very experimental with her narrative structures. I’m not surprised about the White title – aside from 2-3 of her books, second hand paperback copies are not the cheapest to track down. Hopefully your patience will pay off though, as from time to time they do turn up.

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      • I believe a classical composer was killed by a falling bookcase and I’m sure Midsomer Murders had someone squashed by their collection of newspapers. I keep trying to get on top of my TBR but restricted leisure choices currently and ebay are a combination that keep defeating me.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. 9 and 10 sound like fun to me! 🙂 So I picked 5 and 7, because not being able to trust your own mind would be more frightening than any so-called ghosts or homicidal maniacs. You can fight or retreat from those threats, but that’s not option when you’re up against yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • haha there’s also one isn’t there? You do realise that JJ is now probably constructing such a room to meet the requirements of No. 9. Beware any invites you get from him to come and visit him at his country retreat…

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  4. […] For my final contribution to Curtis Evan’s Friday Fright Night meme I decided to focus on a character type; the heroine in jeopardy. After all what other mystery fiction character encounters so many terrifying and unnerving experiences in such a short space of time as they do? Some examples of these can be found in my first Friday Night Fright post, which you can read here. […]

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