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Tales of dark and scary forests are older than history itself. World literature – especially fantasy, horror, and speculative fiction – has seemingly always recognized woodlands as a zone that emulates the frightful shadows of the human heart, in which lurk unseen monsters and unnoticed traps. The forest harbors both an archetypal attraction – of freedom and sincerity – and an archetypal horror – of chaos and evil. While modern man may find solace in a weekend camping trip, there is still a small part of our evolved brain which shivers at the sight of trees blocking out the sun. They represent the loss of civilization and order, the reign of savage Nature and merciless Fate. The woods allow us to reconnect with our roots, but they also threaten to undo the work of society: to turn boys into monsters, men into murderers, and brave souls into cowering sheep.
The stories in this book sample from classic tales of horror and the supernatural – and all are set in the untamed wild. There are stories of alternate dimensions, portals to bewitching worlds, haunted houses surrounded by tangled trees, demon-possessed campers running off into the night, canoers fighting for their life against otherworldly forces, headless horsemen lurking in swamps, Satanic orgies among the thorny brambles, hikers spirited away without a sound, children seduced by witch cults, werewolves shifting behind the trees, and ghosts peering through campfire flames. These are classic tales from the pens of Ambrose Bierce, Algernon Blackwood, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, and other masters of horror. They are tales of man versus nature, of camping trips from hell, and of the almost hopeless fight to survive the woods.
As dear as they may be to us, as much as Wordsworth and Thoreau adored them, and as much as our souls swell at the sight of unfettered Nature, we still recognize the woodlands as our natural enemy. They threaten to harbor wild beasts, to discombobulate our sense of directon, to sever us from our secure communities, and to ensnare us in a world of savage misrule. I personally recommend that everyone spend time in nature – breathe the air under trees and see the sky reflected in a woodland pond – but the next time you go camping, take this book with you. Wait until the shadows have dropped and the light through the overhead branches is purple and dim. Light a fire in front of you and a lantern at your side. Read these classic stories of sylvan dread as the shadows shift around your campfire. I promise that it will deliver a truly rustic camping experience…