Guillermo del Toro’s eloquent Foreward to Ray Russell’s Haunted Castles: The Complete Gothic Stories praises this winner of both the World Fantasy Award and the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. And, so does Stephen King, who called “Sardonicus” as “perhaps the finest example of the modern gothic ever written.”

The stories included in this collection represent the skillful application of fear and dread to modern life. In his Gothic “S” trilogy–“”Sardonicus” (1961), “Sagittarius” (1962), and “Sanguinarius” (1967)–capture the extreme emotions generated when dealing with the bizarre. This volume brings together some of Ray Russell’s best work. And, who can resist the marvelous cover artwork by Lola Dupre? GRADE: A


Haunted Castles, Dark Mirrors: On the Penguin Horror Series by Guillermo Del Toro xi

“Sardonicus” (1961) 1
“Sagittarius” (1962) 55
“Sanguinarius” (1967) 109
“Comet Wine” (1967) 163
“The Runaway Lovers” (1967) 191
“The Vendetta” (1969) 207

“The Cage” (1959) 225

31 thoughts on “FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #594: HAUNTED CASTLES By Ray Russell

  1. Michael Padgett

    I’ve read these stories but not in this edition, which I’ve never seen. There’d be no forgetting that cover. There was also a movie made from “Sardonicus” in the sixties, “Mr. Sardonicus”, directed by the P. T. Barnum of horror movies, William Castle. As well as I can recall it wasn’t very good.

    1. george Post author

      Michael, I have these Ray Russell stories in other collections, but I couldn’t resist buying this Penguin edition with the dazzling cover! I haven’t seen that William Castle movie, but I’m sure it will show up on one of the streaming services.

  2. Jerry House

    Russell was a very talented yet underrated author who spread himself in many directions — film, romances, historicals, satire, science fiction and horror. He was an early editor at PLAYBOY, contributing volumes of articles and satires under many names, and was the anonymous editor of many of the early paperbacks featuring stories from the magazine. His first novel, THE CASE AGAINST SATAN, was a masterwork that predated THE EXORCIST by a decade. His novel INCUBUS was a geuinely frightening, sexually-charge horror novel. His many short stories in the field are worth checking out.

    1. george Post author

      Jerry, I have a couple more of Ray Russell’s books around here somewhere. After reading HAUNTED CASTLES, I want to read some more!

  3. wolf

    Haunted houses?
    Not really interested …
    My favourite memory:
    With our granddaughter we once went to Orlando because my wife had promised her a holiday in Florida – if she was good at school in English. So we went to the amusement parks and of course there was a haunted house …

    1. george Post author

      Wolf, the Tower of Terror at Disney World in Orlando was a popular attraction. The drop at the end took my breath away!

      1. Jeff Meyerson

        I don’t like rides like that. Jackie strong-armed me into the Tower of Terror ride. I hated it!

      2. wolf

        Thanks, now I remember. Generally it was a great holiday with all those shows – and the fireworks in the evening.
        Great memories.

  4. Jeff Meyerson

    That is a great cover! I’ve definitely read SARDONICUS – I think I got a Penguin edition in England in the ’80s – and at least one other of his books. I will definitely look for this, as I haven’t read them in years.

  5. Fred Blosser

    SARDONICUS is a masterpiece, SAGITTARIUS nearly as good. MR. SARDONICUS, the William Castle movie, is pretty entertaining gothic horror from the early 1960s period of Hammer Films and Roger Corman. Good performances by Guy Rolfe as the title character and Oscar Homolka as his creepy servant. Opinions vary about Rolfe’s fixed-grin prosthetic face, but it was probably about as accomplished as they could do in those days with a limited budget. The movie is either enhanced or ruined (depending on your tastes) by a silly insert, just before the final scene, in which Castle invites viewers to vote in a “punishment poll’ to determine whether Sardonicus should pay for his sins, or should be forgiven. Ballantine Books issued SARDONICUS, a collection of Russell’s stories, around the time the movie was released. Bantam Books’ UNHOLY TRINITY, a slim paperback with a silly photo-cover, collected SARDONICUS, SAGITTARIUS, and SANGUINARIUS in 1967.

    1. wolf

      Yes, Hammer Films were great!
      I eypecially remember the Dracula and Frankenstein follow ups, simply produced, black and white – but extremely funny in a way.
      As a student in the early 1960s I often went to a cinema with my friends where they did these movies in a late show – around 10 pm til mdnight. The only problem was finding after the show a bar that was still open or a friend whose landlords would allow late visits.
      A bit OT:
      I also remember the Penguin editions of many SF books that I bought in London – they had a really simple format, just the title and author of the novel on the front page, no garish pictures like the US pulps. 🙂
      Btw the same held for German SF by Goldmann – I bought many books by Asimov there. Only later did we get those crazy front pages.

  6. Beth Fedyn

    Sardonicus was included in the Playboy Horror anthology back in the day.
    This looks like a good collection, George. Thanks for the tip.
    As to terrifying roller coaster rides, Maggie and I were in line to go on The Mummy ride at Universal Parks Orlando. As we’re closing in on the place where they put you in the cars, I’m seeing the videos showing the cars rolling along and tipped so they’re parallel to the ground. When we got to the boarding platform, I told Maggie I just couldn’t do it. She was a good sport but I was sorry to ruin her fun. It turns out that if you chicken out at the last minute, there’s a door with a stairway that will get you back to the ground so you don’t have to do the walk of shame past all the braver thrill-seekers.
    I like the Peter Pan ride at Disney World.

    1. george Post author

      Beth, I’m not a thrill-ride fan. I got talked into going on The Tower of Terror. It would take a vast amount of money to get me to go on it again!

      1. Jeff Meyerson

        I can say unequivocally that there is NOT enough money to get me on that ride again! Like you, it made me nauseous. But I survived.

  7. Rick Robinson

    Oh boy. I am particularly not interested in this. Horror, and especially Gothic Horror, are very much not things I enjoy AT ALL. Not to read, or watch, or listen to. Science fiction horror (Alien) was as intense as I could go.

    1. george Post author

      Rick, I’m a fan of the ALIEN movies. The first one captured a lot of fear. The second movie was more action-packed and only occasionally scary.

  8. Carl V. Anderson

    So glad to see you post about this book as it popped on my radar a while back and then quickly disappeared from my memory. I love that cover, and these are the kind of horror stories that I tend to like, and I like these particular Penguin Classic editions. I have others.

    I’ve remedied the memory issue by adding the book to my private Books to Buy list on Amazon. Always the best way for me to keep track of recommendations.

    1. george Post author

      Carl, welcome back! Yes, I also add books to my AMAZON Wish List to keep track of them. I have some of the Penguin Classic editions, but not all of them.

      1. Carl V. Anderson

        I’ve also found my Books to Buy list as a great place to hide reminders for books in series that my wife reads, but doesn’t buy or check out from the library, so I have a steady source of gift ideas.

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