Thursday, November 8, 2018

Schoolhouse by Lee Duigon

by Lee Duigon
1988, Pinnacle

The best part of haunted house stories is the unveiling of the evil history of the site.  The second best part is when the spirits influence the living, possessing them with madness.  The dumbest part is the actual ghost, because ghosts are always stupid.

Good thing here that there are no ghosts, just alien brain worms.  This is spelled out pretty early, so no big reveal on this.

The titular schoolhouse is built on the site of a meteor crash.  An armored husk buried underground sticks worm tentacles up people's noses, causing them to go insane and create a separate psychic projection.  This is not explained well, and the better for it.

The actual prose is a bit clumsy and juvenile, but I got used to it after a couple chapters.  The school has always had a high turnover rate, and there is a little bit of the cursed history of the location.  The best parts involve the teachers who slowly lose their minds.

A woman becomes violently possessive of her former sancho, who in turn is obsessed with losing weight.  The Mandingo reading nurse flips out after seeing naked ghost children, and the school bully is getting more violent than usual.  The gym teacher cusses at the kids and makes them do push-ups, so he was clearly unaffected.

I like the build up, the slowly mounting insanity, so I was especially disappointed when things just kind of stopped there when the alien gets set on fire with floor wax.  Duigon seemed to try to make up for it a little in the epilogue, but this is a strictly low-stakes book.  If it wasn't for the cussing, it could pass for R.L. Stine.

If this was a proper ghost story, it could have kept the low-stakes in exchange for atmosphere, but when you're going with alien brain worms you need to ramp it up a bit.

Special thanks to Ron Clinton (@ron_clinton) for the book!  Follow him on twitter and read his article Collecting The Macabre: 30 Years of Pursuing Books of Wickedness & Wonder in Strange Stories

I wouldn't bother with the paperback on Abebooks unless the prices have moved a digit or two since this writing.

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