First published back in March of 2014, US author Stephen Graham Jones’ short ‘The Elvis Room’ formed the sixth offering in the ‘This Is Horror’ quarterly chapbook series.  The chapbook was limited to just 100 signed and numbered copies.

DLS Synopsis:
He hadn’t gone into the experiment hoping to find anything that proved the existence of a life after death.  In fact, he’d performed the experiment in order to show the opposite.  To prove that there was nothing lurking in the darkness.  That when the lights went out, there was nothing waiting.  Nothing watching.  Nothing to be scared of.

But when he put his psychologically unhinged patient, Mary, into a chamber that measured atmospheric pressures and the smallest fractions of weights to the most microscopic of degrees, he unwittingly lunged himself into a world of sceptical ridicule.  He hadn’t wanted to find anything.  But the results recorded the slightest of detections.  Something had happened.  Something had been there.

And as simple as that, he found that he was suddenly being shunned by the entire scientific community.  The only talks he was asked to give were now alongside those on UFOs and Bigfoot.  He never wanted any of this.  But that’s what he got.

And then he happened to stumble upon something strange which demanded his attention.  He found that hotels, the world over, would always leave one room empty, even when fully booked.  The reasoning was more to do with hard figures than any real superstition or tradition.  It appeared that whenever a room had not been left empty, at least one guest that night would die.  And a death in hotel, no matter how innocent it looked, was never good for business.  So it was a simple case of hedging their bets.  Playing the game, and just accepting that one room should always be left empty.

But there had to be an explanation behind it.  A reason why one room had to be left.  Why someone invariably died when a room was not set aside.  Why every hotel had to have their own Elvis Room…


DLS Review:
Upon commencing Stephen Graham Jones’ tale, it’s hard not to feel completely enveloped in a thick early twentieth century-esque atmosphere; as if written in the same era as William Hope Hodgson  or E.F. Benson.  Okay, so the tale isn’t necessarily set in the same time period, but the feel, the intriguing charm, that cautious pause which precedes the gradual revelation, all feels closely akin to a much earlier style of horror fiction.  And it’s by no means a bad thing.

Jones delivers his tale through the perspective of our unnamed protagonist (another recurring technique from the bygone days of supernatural shorts).  Indeed there’s a certain ‘gentlemanly tone’ to the way in which the story is presented to the reader; with a careful storytellers charm weaving it without too much obvious over-indulgence.

It has to be said that ‘The Elvis Room’ isn’t exactly rich in horror or all things grotesque.  It’s just not that sort of story.  However what it does offer is a gradually mounting unease that creeps under the skin with its suggestive pondering.  Our lack of understanding and inherent fear of death and the vague possibility of an afterlife makes for a particularly fertile ground for curious exploration.  And what Stephen Graham Jones has done is put his mind to this area of the unknown, and from there brought to the table some rather clever and quite unsettling ideas.

There is a slightly reserved, and dare I say ‘dragging’ feeling to the mid-section of the tale, which can make the story as a whole feel a tad too stretched out.  That said, it doesn’t last all that long before Jones has crept up behind us again and is pulling us into the dark and deeply unnerving territory that awaits within the final few pages.

Another superb addition to the ‘This Is Horror’ chapbook series.  And it’s one of those stories that just gnaws away at you; emerging later in the cold-sweat of a nightmare or in the glimpse of a shadow under the cloaked darkness of night.

The chapbook runs for a total of 31 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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