Saturday, September 6, 2014

"The Trick" by Ramsey Campbell

Deal Me In Lite, R.I.P. Edition: "The Trick" by Ramsey Campbell (Story 1 of 13)

As part of my participation in R.I.P. (Readers Imbibing Peril) this year, I am doing the "Peril of the Short Story" to add to my Deal Me In Lite activity.  (Click that link for a list of the stories I will be reading.)   I'm using a special deck of cards to pick the 13 stories of the Peril, the Bicycle Tragic Royalty set.  Here's what the suit of spades looks like:

The pips on the number cards have a little decoration, but the face cards are the real highlight of this deck.  They are creepy!  And according to the packaging, they glow in black light.  I don't have a black light, so I haven't tested that out yet.

The backs of the cards also have a suitably creepy design, for Bicycle cards:

So, on to the story!  This week my assignment was to read one story, and I chose the eight of spades which led me to "The Trick" by Ramsey Campbell, from the anthology October Dreams.  If you do not have this anthology, it is well worth the money.  It's filled with all kinds of modern Halloween stories and essays plus authors' reminiscences of "My Favorite Halloween Memory."  It's a unique and excellent anthology.

"The Trick" is a weird, creepy, and somewhat confusing story.  The story opens as a young girl named Debbie, and her best friend Sandra, are getting ready for Halloween.  Debbie lives across the street from an old woman that she believes to be a witch.  Witch or not, the old woman is disliked by pretty much everyone in the neighborhood -- she's mean to both people and animals, and lives in a dilapidated house with an unkempt, wild yard.  However, no one will say anything to her or against her, because they are all secretly afraid of her.

On the morning of Halloween, Debbie and Sandra decide to visit an old abandoned railway tunnel near their house.  The witch sees them and essentially loses it, telling them to stay away from there.  They get the impression that she's hiding something there, but they don't know what.  That evening, as they make their rounds of the neighborhood trick-or-treating, they go to the witch's house and she gives them each a piece of homemade candy.  There's clearly some kind of magic associated with the candy, but it's never clear exactly what the candy does.  At first it seems as if it may be some kind of drug, because Debbie goes on a weird and spooky expedition to the tunnel with Sandra in the middle of the night, looking for Sandra's dog which has run off.  There they meet the witch plus some other unsettlingly creepy friends of hers.  Debbie wakes up and it appears to have been a dream.  But further events transpire (as in all good scary stories) to suggest that maybe the events of the dream were more real than the characters first imagined.

I liked this story well enough.  But as in my thoughts on The Haunting of Hill House, I really don't care for stories where the author is SO obtuse that the reader gets confused and wonders what is really going on.  This story was a little like that.  However, it was a fine start for my R.I.P. short story project.


  1. So, what are the other stories in your mini-deck?!? Inquiring minds want to know...

    This is a great spin-off/adjunct to the deal me in project (keep it up and you may be playing with a full deck this year yet!) :-) I've thought about doing an October project of a similar vein - or even "discarding" (hahaha) my traditional assignment of 'dark stories' to my spades suit and having a special once-every-full-moon (heh heh) project with a mini-deck of 13 cards. I think there are usually 13 full moons in most years. (There are that many in 2015, for example...

    I was ignorant of Ramsey Campbell until fairly recently. I still haven't read him, but a new blogging friend is often singing his praises. Maybe this collection is a good place to start.

    1. I updated the post to make it clear -- my list of "Peril" short stories is on my original R.I.P. post. And that is a great idea about the full moons -- even if you had a year with just 12, you could squeeze in 2 for one time, maybe two authors or two stories who had some kind of connection? It definitely has promise!

  2. PS I WANT those cool cards!! :-) That was an unanticipated delight of opening up the Deal Me In challenge - all the cool card images people use. I may start collecting...

    1. Just go do some shopping on Amazon. The Bicycle Card Company has anticipated your desire and is ready to fulfill it. :-)