Of Monsters and Men: Scary Stories as Told by Clark’s English Professors


Emily Morang

Professor Jennifer Plante reads at “Terror Rising: The Village Mob” in the Higgins Lounge.

Daniel Juarez, General Manager

Attendees were in for a true Halloween treat when they turned up at the Higgins Lounge this past Wednesday for the readings of the evening, titled, “Terror Rising: The Village Mob,” which focused on the human monsters rather than the supernatural. With beverages in back and candy set to go around, students, faculty, and anyone else in the mood for some ghost stories silently seated themselves in a redecorated and rearranged Higgins Lounge, just as Clark English Professor Meredith Neuman gave some quick introductions to the storytellers.

With the room dark except for the small light for whoever was reading up front, with the windows to their backs, the first story up was Edgar Allan Poe’s, “The Masque of The Red Death,” read by the English Department’s very own Professor James Elliott. Quickly explaining to the audience the appropriateness of the short story given the theme of “village terror” and some villager’s need of “comeuppance, he began his tale.

“The ‘Red Death’ had long devastated the country,” he started. “No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal the redness and the horror of blood.”

The whole Lounge seemed gripped with suspense as Elliott narrated his tale about a disease plaguing a small country that caused its victims to die gruesome deaths– all while the country’s sovereigns ignored their people’s plight amidst a lavish masquerade ball.

“And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death,” Elliott read, reaching the end of his story. “He had come like a thief in the night.”

An atmosphere of gloominess had settled in the room as  Elliott brought his tale to a close, and it was only with applause that this field was shattered.

Next up was Professor Jennifer Plante from the Clark Writing Center, whose opening paragraphs for her chosen story, “Kids and their Toys” by James A. Moore, lightened the grim mood– for a while, at least.

“The ‘angry mob’ for my story comes in the form of six teenage boys,” she disclaimed before starting, “so as you can imagine there are some cuss-words in here.”

Of course they poked it with a stick. What else would twelve-year-olds do with a freshly discovered corpse?” Plante started. “Later, when the fascination was fading, they would do what they were supposed to do and tell the police about the body, but then, at that first moment of discovery, they had a new toy and it had to be carefully examined before it could be given away.

The audience sat transfixed by Plante’s story about a group of sadistic kids and their discovery and capture of a rapidly-decaying zombie.

Laughter erupted from time to time while the story went on, with each boy offering their take own take on what they were dealing with.

“‘I think it’s demons.’ ‘DEMONS [ITALICS]? Like in the movies?’ ‘Like in the Bible– Jesus fought demons.’ ‘It didn’t react when you put a cross around its neck.’ ‘So? Maybe it’s a Jewish zombie and doesn’t know any better.’

Eventually, the tale took a turn for the worst, and as Plante uttered the last passage, the audience was left shocked and horrified by the outcome of their gruesome activity.

The audience applauded as she stepped down and theatre Professor Gino DiIorio stepped up with the final story of the night, “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. He opened by first informing his audience of the controversy surrounding the story when it first appeared in “The New Yorker” in 1948.

“Critics called the story ‘outrageous, gruesome, and utterly pointless,’” he read off, and talked about how many readers canceled their subscriptions to the magazine and that it suffered severe backlash after its publication.

With this said, Professor DiIorio nonetheless began his tale of the mysterious lottery. With a tense build-up, audience anticipation grew as all awaited for what– if anything– would befall the participants of the raffle. It wasn’t until near the end of the story, where everything fell into place.

“Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones,” Professor DiIorio narrated, ending his tale to the gasps of the audience, and a round of applause that brought another annual round of spooky stories to a successful close.

Photo caption: Professor Jennifer Plante reads at “Terror Rising: The Village Mob” in the Higgins Lounge. Photo by Emily Monahan Morang.