Coffin Hop Day 3: A Sea of Horror….

And walkest on the foaming deep,

And calm amid the storm didst sleep;

O hear us when we cry to thee

For those in peril on the Sea…..


Ahab and all his boat’s crew seemed asleep but the Parsee; who crouching in the bow, sat watching the sharks, that spectrally played round the whale, and tapped the light cedar planks with their tails. A sound like the moaning in squadrons over Asphaltites of unforgiven ghosts of Gomorrah, ran shuddering through the air.

Started from his slumbers, Ahab, face to face, saw the Parsee; and hooped round by the gloom of the night they seemed the last men in a flooded world. “I have dreamed it again,” said he.

“Of the hearses? Have I not said, old man, that neither hearse nor coffin can be thine?”

“And who are hearsed that die on the sea?”

“But I said, old man, that ere thou couldst die on this voyage, two hearses must verily be seen by thee on the sea; the first not made by mortal hands; and the visible wood of the last one must be grown in America.”

“Aye, aye! a strange sight that, Parsee!- a hearse and its plumes floating over the ocean with the waves for the pall-bearers. Ha! Such a sight we shall not soon see.”

“Believe it or not, thou canst not die till it be seen, old man.”

“And what was that saying about thyself?”

“Though it come to the last, I shall still go before thee thy pilot.”

                                                                ~ Herman Melville, Moby Dick


It was a simple, rambling thing – a naive sailor’s effort at a post-facto diary – and strove to recall day by day that last awful voyage. I cannot attempt to transcribe it verbatim in all its cloudiness and redundance, but I will tell its gist enough to shew why the sound the water against the vessel’s sides became so unendurable to me that I stopped my ears with cotton.

Johansen, thank God, did not know quite all, even though he saw the city and the Thing, but I shall never sleep calmly again when I think of the horrors that lurk ceaselessly behind life in time and in space, and of those unhallowed blasphemies from elder stars which dream beneath the sea, known and favoured by a nightmare cult ready and eager to loose them upon the world whenever another earthquake shall heave their monstrous stone city again to the sun and air.

                                                                                ~ H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu

Hodgson Illustration by Philippe Druillet in 1971
Hodgson Illustration by Philippe Druillet in 1971

Strange as the glimmer of the ghastly light. That shines from some vast crest of wave at night.

                                                        ~William Hope Hodgson, The Ghost Pirates


I really don’t know why there isn’t more sea-based horror. Really.  From Melville’s Moby Dick to Hodgson’s The Ghost Pirates to Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulu, the sea offers myriad opportunities for scaring the living daylights out of us. In some aspects, it is that monsters lurk in the deep. In other aspects, it’s that we, ourselves, are the monsters that ply upon the waters. Wolf Larsen, the dark and brooding captain of The Ghost in Jack London’s The Sea Wolf, tortures his crew after a failed mutiny attempt. While London’s story is not specifically “horror,” the horror elements within it are inarguable. The same holds true for Moby Dick. Fedallah’s interpretation of Ahab’s dream of the hearses, the heart-wrenching sadness of Rachel lurching toward every shadow that might be the captain’s lost son, the madness of The Pequod’s captain that condemns his crew to death…  all of those may only be “horrific elements,” but I find myself arguing that Moby Dick is, truly, a horror novel.

But, post-World War II, there hasn’t been the sea horror there was in previous decades. I believe this is because we’ve become, fundamentally, separated from the sea. In earlier times, people would never have breathed a sigh of relief that a storm was “safely out at sea.” So tied were people to the sea that such a statement would have been anathema. Not so anymore, yet, there remains in us a fascination with “the Big Blue Wet Thing” (Muppet Treasure Island) and the mysteries that “lurk ceaselessly” within its depths. As Lovecraft intimated in The Call of Cthulhu, it is a primeval coupling that draws us to the watery depths. He says it much better than I say it, but I enjoy the old ways of writing about gelatinous ooze and many-tentacled beasts.

The Littlest Lovecraft

Call of Cthulhu

Contest! (For I have been remiss about contests the last two days) I have TWO prizes today from the good folks at The Littlest Lovecraft. First prize is a hardbound version of their upcoming children’s book The Call of Cthulhu! Second prize is an eBook version of the book. What to do, what to do … I have a question that needs answering: In all your reading experience, what is the ONE BOOK you think of that is not traditionally classified as “horror,” but works “horrifically” for you?

#CoffinHop Continues! There are so many great posts and contests and interviews out there this year! Keep Coffin Hopping!


13 Replies to “Coffin Hop Day 3: A Sea of Horror….”

  1. False Memory by dean Koontz is a psychological thriller, but I am certain it is horror. I know it is. Why doesn’t everyone else think so?

  2. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, while essentially fantasy, has strong elements of horror in it.

  3. While not straight-up horror, Ice Limit (either Lincoln Child or Douglas Preston, I can’t remember which) is a thriller/horror. Horrific things happen in it…

  4. The novel “Atonement” is a romance for some, others a family drama, but once you hit the end, it’s all horror for me–probably for most writers. The thought of being afflicted with vascular dementia, which causes mini-strokes and impairs your use of vocabulary, memory, and complex brain function absolutely terrifies me. Oh, the horror…

  5. It’s not a book per se, but I found myself unexpectedly horrified when studying Alzheimer’s Disease in college. Mind you, a lot of that program could get pretty morbid: we had courses like Forensic Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and the like, and given that our clientele isn’t always the best off in life, a lot of us have a pretty black sense of humour. Nonetheless, something about the exact, clinical step-by-step description of the loss of self and function that comes with Alzheimer’s scared the everlovin’ bejeezus out of me. Death seems to just be the final insult with it, really.

  6. Stephen King’s The Stand – it’s not typically classified as horror but for some reason things that COULD happen in real life are horrifying to me.

  7. I would pick “Devil’s Knot,” a nonfiction book by Mara Leveritt, about the West Memphis Three, who were imprisoned for over 17 years for murders they didn’t committ. The book is terrifying–the kids were railroaded and jailed, essentially for the “crimes” of liking heavy metal music, wearing black fingernail polish, and being interested in learning about Wicca. Scary stuff, especially since it really happened!

  8. A couple of the Sherlock Holmes inspired me to sleep with the lights on for a night or two. The Speckled Band certainly being one.

  9. You always have the best coffin hop prizes:))

    Horror book? Twilight saga. Not only for the writing, but the religious undertone not only stripping vampires from their basic need, but also ripping humans of theirs, too.

  10. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McArthy! Not traditional but Anton Chigurh takes everything to that “other” level that scares the hell out of you!

  11. This is very hard for me to answer as almost all that I read is horror, if not horror then comedy so nothing comes to my mind.

  12. I’d have to go with the YA sci-fi Space Demons by Gillian Rubinstein about these demons in a computer game that feed on hate and try to gain entry into this world. Reading it when I was twelve I imagined that these Space Demons were trying to gain access to my reality too…

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