Title: The Dead Smile (Chilling Horror Short Stories)
Author: F. Marion Crawford
Genre: Short Story, Horror, Gothic, Paranormal
Pages: 13 (75-87)
Oh wow…so this one put my imagination to good use to scare me a little witless. There’s no gore in this story. Nowhere does it describe bloody scenes, decapitation, or dismemberment; the only disturbing things described are the conditions of corpses and the frightening ‘dead smile’. And it is that smile that my mind recreated to frighten me!
This story was nothing like I was expecting and it had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. The imagery was beautifully done, nothing to elaborate, just enough to get the point across and the image into your mind. While originally published in 1899, The Dead Smile does not quite read like it’s over a century old. Some of the words and phrasing show its true age, but overall the story does not appear to have been weathered by time. In fact, if I had not read the author’s bibliography in the back I wouldn’t have realized how old it was!
Crawford’s writing is different than other authors that I’ve read from that time. He knows when to be poetic with his details and when to be simple and straightforward. He focuses on action and dialogue to keep the readers going, to keep them hooked until the end, but he draws out the passages when tension is high to try and force the reader to feel the same. And he uses just enough information to keep the readers wanting more, reading until the very last page. It might have been one of the longer short stories so far, but it sure didn’t feel like it!
The Dead Smile was a fantastic short story with an intriguing concept. The most chilling aspect of the story is the imagery that Crawford use to invoke the ‘death smile’ in your mind. Every time the smile appear on the page it appeared in my mind and made me shiver. Again, the writing was fantastic and almost timeless, which I haven’t found a lot of recently. My biggest complaint is that it appears that the editor fell asleep on the job. Why? Because there were weird periods in the middle of sentences or breaking up words, one place even had a random 4 when it should’ve been a t. The transcription mistakes were so weird that it took me out of the story just a little bit. Overall, The Dead Smile was a wonderfully chilling read and I would recommend it to anyone who may be interested, the language is easy enough to follow for almost anyone.