With Halloween around the corner, Jersey Devil Press’s new issue is especially enticing this month, promising to quench a reader's thirst for spooky, strange stories to read in the dark.
L. L. Madrid provides a heartwarming ghost story in “Here Fishing,” the first piece in the October 2016 issue. The narrator continues to see their grandfather at the lake where they once fished together, never actually referring to him as a ghost. It’s little details like this that separate “Here Fishing” from the usual ghost story tropes. Strangers can also see the narrator’s grandfather; he’s not haunting a house, breaking lamps and moaning in the attic, but is in the public park enjoying his hobby as usual; and when the narrator finally confronts him, what they feel is a warm, solid person instead of a cold wisp. Madrid breathes some life into a familiar tale, a good introduction for the issue, which only gets stranger from here.
Brian Lillie turns the six degrees of separation game on its head in “Jefferson Davis’s Six Degrees of Separation from Kevin Bacon: The Real Story.” Starting with a sock, the degrees include but are not limited to an eczema bump named Gary on a badger named Bumpy (duh), an elderly mosquito with a religious agenda, and an autobiography by self-named actor Kevin Skreeeeeeeeeeeeee. This is one story where I could honestly say I had zero idea of what to expect next, but Lillie balances the absurdity and humor well, slowly sinking readers into the layers of weird until we reach eczema funerals and are too committed to bow out.
In another strange tale, “The Salwar,” Ramsha Siddiqui introduces us to Razia, her main character who, having grown sick of the verbal and physical abuse at the hands of her husband, disappears into a salwar—a pair of trousers—while he’s away. After he returns home, changes into the trousers, and goes to the mosque for prayer, Razia exacts her revenge. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants has nothing on this vengeful, magical salwar. Once again, the original twist of this piece had me glued to my computer screen the whole way through.
Robert Roman closes the issue with “Double-Strength Demon Dogs,” a story of childhood imagination in the 80s that reminded me of a mix of The Sandlot and Goosebumps books. The piece is rich in humor, pulling readers in from the beginning:
Fantastic Freddie was the only altar boy from the Red Brick Alley. He was always consecrating Ritz Crackers and trying to make us eat them like communion wafers. He light-fingered incense from the sacristy, and he blessed water from Old Lady Tully’s spigot and flicked it in our faces before we played Mutually Assured Destruction in the woods.
Fighting a neighborhood demon dog on a paper route, the narrator and Freddie use stolen religious paraphernalia and a ton of imagination to (kind of) save the day.
In each story in the October 2016 issue of Jersey Devil Press, writers employ twists and turns to freshen up old ideas and introduce completely new ones. This month, the press celebrated seven years of strange and unique storytelling, so here’s wishing the publication many more years of happy haunting.