Bram Stoker is mostly well-known for his gothic horror novel Dracula, a tale which has inspired numerous adaptations in many artistic media. The story of Count Dracula is known by pretty much everyone nowadays, regardless of them being fans of the horror genre or not.
Dracula‘s immense success, however, has resulted in Stoker’s other stories to be rather neglected and not so widely read. The Judge’s House is a short story, first published in a magazine called Holly Leaves the Christmas Number of The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News in 1891. The story was not published in book form during Stoker’s lifetime, since it was included in the short story collection Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories merely two years after his death, in 1914.
The story begins when Malcolm Malcolmson, a university student, decided to move into a rather old and abandoned house in a small English village in order to find some peace and quiet to concentrate on his studies. He rents the house for some months, despite the horrified looks on everyone’s face when he tells them about his decision.
Things go smoothly at first, as he manages to get a lot of his studying done (and drink quite generous amounts of tea in the process), but it is not long before strange things begin happening. The sudden appearance of rats in the house, the creepy and dusty portraits that loom over him and the unexplained presence of a hanging rope beside the fireplace are just some instances.
Since it is a short story, I do not want to get into much detail and give it out. I really enjoyed reading this, as it contained all the Victorian gothic and horror elements that I adore in such stories. Stoker’s writing is really captivating and it manages to keep you at the edge of your seat until you finally find out what happens.
On a side note, the edition I got of this story is a really pretty one belonging to the Travelman Short Stories, by Travelman Publishing. It does not have the format of a regular book, but rather that of a map. You open it like a map and read each page as it unfolds. I thought it to be an excellent and really innovative idea – traditional books are always beautiful but such unconventional formats are really refreshing once in a while. I also have one more short story by this series, William Trevor’s The Summer Visitor, which I will be reviewing in the next couple of days.