Tales of Enchanted October (the scariest story ever written) . . . The Monkey’s Paw


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The author at work.
The author at work.

His full name was William Wymark Jacobs, although he wrote his stories under the simplified handle of W. W. Jacobs. An Englishman, Mr. Jacobs was born in London, England on September 8, 1863. He would spend 79 years on the planet Earth, dying the 1st of September, 1943, still in his beloved London.

He was a short story writer and novelist. Much of his work was humorous. Much was not. His most famous story was a short one, the ever-remembered and much beloved THE MONKEY’S PAW. It was written in 1902.

Every once in a while, if a reader of fiction is really lucky, he will encounter a book so incredibly well-written, that he (or she) becomes so totally engrossed in the story, that the book in the hands seems to simply disappear. The reader enters into the story, becoming for all intents and purposes, a participant.

So it is with Mr. Jacobs’ most wonderful story of the paw. And it doesn’t seem to matter if you are reading it for the first time, or the fifteenth. It’s power to capture and hold the reader’s imagination is just that great. It is, to my mind at least, and in my very humble opinion, the scariest story ever written.

The entire story, which is not very long, is readily available on the internet, it having gone into public domain long ago. For any lover of horror, I would suggest reading the complete work, and basking for a short period of time, in the genius of the master. The best of modern-day horror genre novelists, mostly have their roots in this gentleman’s work. Lover’s of the work of Stephen King take note.

In the story, three wishes are granted to the owner of the monkey’s paw, but the wishes come with an enormous price-tag for interfering with fate. It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature, as the old saying goes.

The story involves an old couple, Mr. and Mrs. White and their adult son Herbert. He works in a factory, around a lot of machinery. Sergeant-Major Morris, a friend of the Whites, and a veteran of the British Army in India, visits. He brings with him a dried monkey paw, a paw that contains a curse put on, “by an old Indian Fakir.” “A very holy man,” according the  Sergeant-Major, he wanted to show that fate ruled people’s live, and those who interfere, do so to their sorrow.

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The paw comes with three wishes. The old Sergeant-Major, has had very bad experiences with his wishes, and throws the paw into the fire. Mr. White rescues it, thinking he could use a little cash. He wishes for 200 English pounds, which he gets a day or two later when his son Herbert is killed in a horrific accident at the factory. The 200 pounds is a goodwill gesture from the factory owners.

The poor boy has been thoroughly mangled by the machinery. His father can only identify him by the clothing he was wearing. The man, horrified by what he has done, which was basically trading his son’s life for money, attempts to destroy the paw again. Mrs. White interferes this time, and uses the paw to wish her dead son back to life. It is an ill-considered desire.

Remember, he’s been buried for ten days. Not very pretty, huh? Well, he’s on his way home.

I won’t give away the ending. I couldn’t begin to do justice to the late, and very great genius of the master story teller, Mr. W. W. Jacobs. He probably had more “diabolical” in his little finger, than I have in my entire body.

Give it a read before Halloween. Better yet, wait for that wonderful dark and crisp last day of October. Wait until late at night, when all the kiddies have gone home. When the witches fly. When the black cats scream. When ghosts rule the night.

When the dead make their way back home from the Cemetery.

Light up the fireplace. Lower the lights. Settle in with this story. And whatever you do, don’t look over your shoulder. Not even when you hear that faint and mild tapping at the door.

A change of pace for the weekend. A hundred and thirty-three years later .  .  .  back to the alley. Back to the gunfight at the OK Corral.

In the meantime, good reading. And many happy nightmares.

W. W. Jacobs
W. W. Jacobs