Tuesday Terror! The Face by EF Benson

A Nightmarish Tale…


Having (just about) recovered from last week’s spookily terrifying story, I have summoned up all my courage to venture once again into the world of…


“I shall soon come for you now,” it said, and on the words it drew a little nearer to her, and the smile broadened. At that the full, hot blast of nightmare poured in upon her. Again she tried to run, again she tried to scream, and now she could feel the breath of that terrible mouth upon her…

hauntings and horrorsHester Ward is a cheerful, contented young woman, happily married and with two small children. But one night she has a dream – not a bad dream in itself, but one that she remembers from her childhood. And she remembers too that this dream was always followed the next night by another, much more terrifying nightmare. Despite her attempts to convince herself she is being silly, as soon as she falls asleep, the nightmare begins. In her childhood, the face that haunts her dreams used to tell her ‘I shall come for you when you’re older’. But now the horrible vision tells her ‘I shall soon come for you now

This is a well-written story and though it’s quite short we have enough time to get to know and like Hester, so that we empathise with her growing fear. Refreshingly, there is no suggestion that Hester is ‘hysterical’ – in fact, she is a down-to-earth, sensible, fun-loving person, which leads the reader to feel that there must be some substance to her fears. Perhaps by the time EF Benson wrote the story (late 1920s) the fashion for implying that all women were constantly on the verge of insanity was beginning to pass. Benson relies on some good descriptive writing to create an atmosphere and build the tension – a woodland path leading to a ruined church on the edge of an eroding cliff, which is encroaching on the surrounding graveyard. And then, of course, there’s the face…

Her heart hammered in her throat, and then seemed to stand still altogether. A qualm as of some mental sickness of the soul overcame her, for there in front of her was he who would soon come for her. There was the reddish hair, the projecting ears, the greedy eyes set close together, and the mouth smiling on one side, and on the other gathered up into the sneering menace that she knew so well.

EF Benson
EF Benson

Did it scare me? Well…no, to be honest. Not a hair was raised. Perhaps the ending is a little too clear-cut – there’s none of that feeling of uncertainty that can leave a reader feeling uneasy. However, I enjoyed the quality of the writing and characterisation, and thought it was a well-told tale. Although there are a lot of the usual clichés – church, graveyard etc – the story feels quite fresh, with some original features and even a few touches of humour. It will certainly encourage me to read more of Benson’s stories – perhaps they won’t terrify me, but I suspect they will entertain me.


Fretful porpentine rating: 😯 😯

Overall story rating:         🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

24 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! The Face by EF Benson

  1. FictionFan – How nice that the protagonist here is depicted as smart and sensible. Even if the FP rating was low, that’s enough to recommend a story. And now I want to know how it all works out; that says something about the story and about your fine review. Thanks.


    • Yes, a nice change from the usual manic female – maybe it was because corsets were going out of fashion by then! 😉

      And though it wasn’t very scary, it was still a good story – and really, that’s more important.


  2. Okay – here’s a story to terrify you and raise your fretful porpentine levels to astronomical measures :

    Once upon a time (starting today) every Theobroma cacao tree in the world SUDDENLY DIED. Within a week they were extinct. Convinced the humble Theobroma cacao had been a fomenter of revolutions, the cause of unruly behaviour by citizens AND an agent of international capitalism/the forces of communism/the spawn of Satan/global warming (depending on local variations in ideology) world governments made it illegal to possess any stocks of Theobroma cacao, whether in plant, bean or product form, and anyone found in possession of even the teeniest tiniest morsel was incarcerated in solitary confinement deep under the earth until they withered away.

    And no one lived happily ever after.


    • Aaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrghhhhhhh!!!

      😯 😯 😯 😯 😯 It’s a fretful porpentine!! Only a wekk to stock up with a lifetime’s supply!!

      If I have nightmares tonight, I will sue you….


        • You couldn’t have told me that before the pantechnicons arrived with the 50 tons of assorted chocs? (One ton for each anticipated year of life left…) Now I have no choice but to eat them all before the ban comes into force. Then let’s see if they still have a cell big enough to incarcerate me in…


  3. Out of all the scary stories you’ve covered in your Tuesday Terror spot this is the one that appeals to me most. Maybe it is the time it is written in and a big selling point is the sensible female protagonist… so even though it didn’t scare you it sounds like a good read.


    • I enjoyed it for the same reasons – I get a bit sick of the screaming hysterical Victorian woman. I get the impression most of Benson’s horror stories aren’t terribly frightening, but are considered to be good stories nonetheless. When I get a chance, I intend to read a few more.


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