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Romance has always had a dark side: something sinister, possessive, even fatal lurks behind the desire to attract and be attracted. For centuries something spiritual – even supernatural – has been suspected in the ways of lovers in the night. Shakespeare called love-making “the beast with two backs”; in many ages the monomaniacal lust of a man for one woman has been blamed on witchcraft; the French refer to the sleep that follows intercourse as “le petite mort” – the little death. There is a night-side to our amours: a dark, animalistic release that takes place when we are alone with our love, drenched with shadows and candlelight. Something vestigial and primitive about romance returns us to our less civilized forms, and for some of us, it is one of the few moments that we can genuinely sense our relationship to infinity and the realm of spirits. Consequently, romance has become one of the most prominent themes in Gothic fiction: from “Dracula” to “The Phantom of the Opera,” from “Wuthering Heights” to “The Raven,” nothing bridges the gap between reality and imagination, the physical and the spiritual, quite so nimbly as carnal attraction; and no genre is more capable of deconstructing these emotions quite so nimbly as horror.
The collection presented here offers samples of some of the greatest romantic ghost stories and supernatural fiction from the Golden Age of Horror. There are tales of ghostly highwaymen, resurrected vampires, Deceased lovers returning from the grave, marriages between ghosts and the living, marriages between skeptics and decapitated corpses, attractions struck up after breaking into haunted houses, attractions frustrated by hereditary curses, abductions by demon lovers, abductions by possessive spirits, abductions by vengeful ghosts, romantic waltzes with the Grim Reaper in female form, revenge had by jilted lovers, revenge had by murdered rivals, revenge had by deceased wives, romances with revived Egyptian slave girls, romances with cursed mummies, romances with enchanted portraits, romances across dimensions of time and space, tragedies involving poor communication between the genders, tragedies involving hypnosis, tragedies involving unintended affairs, and tragedies involving assault by animated statues. Oh, and much, much more. If your Valentine has a taste for the macabre and the romantic, pair this book with your roses and your box of chocolates. And make sure the chocolate is dark – very dark.