Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Of Skeptics and Spectres

The Elvis Room

Stephen Graham Jones

This is Horror

March 13, 2014

4 & 1/2 stars

"There’s a reason that other guest pacing you, three steps ahead, is so silent. It’s that, under his hat, he has no eyes."

When I think of writers who can do no wrong, Stephen Graham Jones immediately comes to mind. By that, I mean that he has such impeccable skills as a writer he will transform any plot line he brings to his pages. The short but haunting The Elvis Room is a good example of this. With its scholarly professor set-up and its "skeptic is challenged" beginning, it is reminiscent of older works from Blackwood and Machen. Yet it is thoroughly contemporary and has its own devious twists and turns.

A scientist studying sleep behavior has a subject who is terrified of the dark because she thinks she is haunted by the her unborn twin sister. He rigs an experiment to prove to her there is nothing in the dark with her but it tends to suggest the reverse. As this gets out in the tabloids, he is labeled as sort of a paranormal crackpot. He looks for a clearly provable incident that lifts him back into the reputation of a serious scientist. He discovers that every time a hotel books the very last empty room someone dies. He becomes obsessed with proving the hypothesis of "The Elvis Room".

Both the first incident in the story and the scientist's Elvis Room experiment become connected and that is where the horror is. This is a tightly structured story that wastes few words. Its power hinges on everything coming together at the right time. In others words, it is a good example of why SGJ is as good as he is. I would call this a excellent beginning novella for those who want to delve into his work. Then as soon as you finish it run out and get Mongrels. You will get my drift.

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