Saturday, July 5, 2008

Nightmare in a Box

The young girl is Tracy Ann Stuart. The old woman is Miss Lulu Cranshaw...or as she's known in the neighborhood, "Creepy" Cranshaw. Tracy suspects she's a witch.

Earlier that day Tracy received delivery of a parcel for Miss Cranshaw, who wasn't at home. Her parents are away as well, possibly overnight. Tracy is to hold onto the package until Miss Cranshaw returns.

Of course this wouldn't be a horror story if her curiosity didn't get the better of her. She carefully opens the little box...

For a second or two she stared at the horrible little dried-up thing in her hand. Then shuddering with revulsion, she flung it away and ran back to the kitchen. ...It had been alive once, but Tracy had never even imagined an animal like that, not in her most awful nightmares.
After gathering her senses she sets about putting Miss Cranshaw's package back together, but the little dead thing is nowhere to be found. Panicking, she scours the house for it only to be interrupted by someone at the door. Miss Cranshaw! Tracy denies having received any package, but Miss Cranshaw doesn't seem convinced.

"This package," said Miss Cranshaw, speaking slowly and distinctly, "has a very special pet inside. It needs certain kind of care. If it is not treated correctly, it can be fatal."
As night falls, Tracy does find the creature...or more correctly, it finds her. Seems the little beast has been steadily growing until it is nearly as large as she, and is now sniffing and scrabbling around the basement, hunting her...

This story, by Rita Ritchie, comes from Baleful Beasts and Eerie Creatures, and is probably my second favorite to The Patchwork Monkey. And again, we do not have the contrived happy ending so common in children's horror.


Penh said...

Every so often I check the web to see if I can score a copy of this book for less than $150, which is how I stumbled across your site. Many, many thanks for posting those scans! I had forgotten most of the specifics about the stories, and only remember how thoroughly they scared the crap out of me as a kid. The pictures brought it alllll back. I especially liked, as you said, that some of the stories had decidedly non-happy endings, which was a pretty new (and traumatic) concept to me at the time. I can still hear "Hello, Tracy" in my head all these many years later.

Sweet One said...

I also liked this book as a kid. I was finally able to get it on ebay a few years ago. I remeber there was a kid who did not like to read who checked this book form the library in sixth grade right away. THIS is the sort o book that gets kids reading. We traded the book back and forth in class, and we both read the patchwork monkey and were chilled by it. One major scarey tale, especially if wierd dolls and evil monkeys give you the creeps. Another favorite was the one about the kid who's a monster buff, and defeats the basolisk--he should have stuck up for the professor at the end, though.

The only thing I didn't like was that the two stories mentioned did not have happy endings. Those of you who like unhappy endings--where is the appeal? I don't see it. I'll be glad to debate. It would be like arguing which is ther prettier color, though. But Nightmare in a Box is a story I have serious issues with, because there appears to be a twisted morality at work on the part of the author. It seems he was saying that Tracy got what she deserved for meddling in thigns she could not control. ANyone care to argue this point?

Brother Bill said...

Sweet One, I think you're right to the extent that there is often a strict morality underlying many of these stories. The lesson of Nightmare in the Box is simply to stay out of other people's never know what you might find.

For The Patchwork Monkey, it may be that the ongoing bickering between the siblings kept them from recognizing the danger of the doll early on.

Sweet One said...

It did look like that was the intended moral in "Nightmare in a Box". I'm not sure there was any moral presnt in "Patchwork Moneky", but I could be wrong.