Corpse Cold by John Brhel and Joseph Sullivan #BookReview

Title: Corpse Cold – New American Folklore | Author: John Brhel and Joseph Sullivan | Illustrations By: Chad Wehrle | Publisher: Cemetery Gates Media | Pub. Date: 11/05/2017 | Pages: 207 | ISBN13: 9781978169005 | Genre: Horror | Language: English | Triggers: Child death | Rating: 3 out of 5 | Source: Received from publisher for review consideration

Corpse Cold: New American Folklore 

They take place on desolate highways, in a dark and lonely wood, in ordinary neighborhoods just like your own. Tales of everyday people caught up in indomitable situations. Dread-inducing moments with an air of plausibility-while you hope to god they aren’t actually true. Urban legends, modern folklore, or creepypasta. Whatever you call them, they represent shards of our deepest anxieties as individuals, as a society. CORPSE COLD: NEW AMERICAN FOLKLORE evokes the spirit of the campfire tales you heard as a kid. This 20-story anthology offers refreshing, mature reinterpretations of time-tested stories, and wholly original legends that explore the twisted labyrinth of modern myth. Each tale is brought to life and made all the more unsettling by the striking, grisly illustrations of artist Chad Wehrle.

Corpse Cold Review

I had read most of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz when I was younger but I don’t remember all of them. The few that stand out most vividly (and I might have the titles wrong) are Taily-Po, “The Call” (the illustration for that story in particular was creepy as hell) and “The Vindow Viper” (I don’t care, it still makes me giggle). However, I really didn’t find myself comparing Corpse Cold with the series. Instead I mainly found myself comparing it with the other Cemetery Gates collection (At the Cemetery Gates: Year One) by the same authors. Since I really liked that book I had high hopes for Corpse Cold. I was a bit disappointed. There were a few stories in Corpse Cold that really caught my attention but in general they were few. They were, in general, enjoyable. There were a few that didn’t hold up to the talent displayed in other stories. Sometimes it was puzzling what direction they meant to go with them.

In fact, if we have to point out a flaw in Corpse Cold, it would be that. The stories themselves can’t seem to figure out if they were written for adults or older teens. This may have been purposeful, to up the nostalgia factor but it made the stories less clear than they should have been. In general, if the few swear words were taken out I would let the Tiny Tentacle read them (oh hell, who am I kidding? I’d let him read them even with). My only comparison between Scary Stories and Corpse Cold would be this – part of the punch of the stories in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is that, like any good urban legend or campfire story, they are short, concise and to the point. The stories in Corpse Cold are a bit too diffuse with more description than is necessary. The sharp ice-pick of surprise that stories like these generally give is just not there.

Note from Lilyn: I read this book at the same time Gracie did, but found it largely unnecessary to write up my own thoughts on it as we differed on very little. So if you see only unnamed comments on some of the stories below, its because there was no point in repeating ourselves.

Even though the actual cause of the ‘issues’ is a tad confused…was it haunted before, after? It’s hard to tell but I liked it quite a bit. It also reminds me quite a bit of similar ‘true’ ghost stories that I’ve heard or read. Story: 3/5 Illustration: 3/5

Black Dog
GracieKat – My original thought was a 2 but on further consideration I bumped it to a three. The ending was partly expected but partly not. I will credit Lilyn’s comments on it to look more closely at it. So, while it’s a story that has been done before there was a bit of something new to it to make it a little different. Story: 3/5 Illustration: 4/5

Lilyn – This was an interesting story for me. Nothing exciting, but still interesting. I had only really heard of the “Black Dog” referenced as a harbinger of doom (aka: The Grim from Harry Potter and such.) So, the ending did take me by surprise a little bit.

Czarny Lud
GracieKat – I will fully admit to giving this a bit of a higher rating than it deserves but mostly through pleasant nostalgic feelings. I have been told to sit on my ‘dupa’ many a time. Being fair, though, it really deserves a three at most since we are disappointingly shut out of experiencing the dreaded ‘Czarny Lud’ for ourselves. Story: 3/5 Illustration: 3/5

Corpse Cold

We were in agreement on the fact that this story has been told far too often and in the same way so there was nothing new brought to the tale. It was a tad boring and easily forgotten. Story: 2/5 Illustration: 3/5

Amityville Beach

This left us feeling a bit (well, a lot) puzzled at the end. What was going on exactly? A haunting? A warning? If it was a haunting which were the ghosts? Also, it includes one of the tropes I detest the most. A family at the beach, a riptide…you get the idea. And I don’t know about anyone else but I would love to see this trope fade from view. Quickly.

Lilyn – Gracie had originally rated this a 1/5, but I bumped it up to a 2 because I actually kind of liked the “Okay, seriously, what the heck just happened?” aspect of it. I still would like some clarification! I don’t recognize where this urban legend comes from, and I need to know. Story: 2/5 Illustration: 1/5

A Morning Fog

Short, pointless, not scary and ultimately meh. Story: 2/5 Illustration: 4/5

Friendship: Dead and Buried

Lilyn – It was a modern take on a familiar tale. It’s interesting and a little terrifying to consider that anyone would actually think that it would be a ‘fun’ to experience being buried alive.

GracieKat – I had to rate this one a little higher because I was completely sucked in, wondering what exactly was going on and what was real. The description of the process was very well-detailed. The ending was a bit predictable but kind of leaves you wondering what will happen after. Story: 4/5 Illustration: 4/5

Autoplay ‘On’

We were agreed on this being a very good one. Lilyn had the observation that the way it plays to modern fears is perfect and I have noticed a rise in stories of creepy, cursed or haunted YouTube channels and most of them are very good. Story: 4/5 Illustration: 4/5

The Big ‘M’

The title is a bit vague but the story is not. It’s the one we could pinpoint the most as being ‘adult horror’. The situation and the choices made I don’t think a younger person would understand. Lilyn also commented that she could feel her stomach flip just thinking about it…What would you do when it came down to supporting your family versus putting up with an asshole boss. I think that’s something most adults would understand and sympathize with. Also, speaking for myself, I used to work at a “letter store” and would use the box squisher machine frequently and it terrified me. I’d hit the button and jump back as far as I could. And if it got jammed? Helllll no.  Story: 5/5 Illustration: 4/5

Dracula’s Bride

Flat, boring and the ending was a huge let-down. Story: 2/5 Illustration: 4/5

Moss Lake Island

Parts of this were a bit silly but there were a few scenes that were described very well and were quite creepy. Story: 4/5 Illustration: 5/5

It That Decays

Nope. Uh-uh. This caused us both to shudder and groan for several minutes. Can we just not ever hear about this theme again? Okay, great, thanks! This would definitely fall into the adult horror area unless you never want your child to go to the dentist ever again. Story: 4/5 for the “Hurk!” factor. Illustration: 3/5

Two Visions, 1984

It’s been done before, and it’s been done better (though to be fair, we’ve also seen it done worse) before. The surprise ending wasn’t really a surprise, and it added nothing to the collection. Story: 2/5 Illustration: 3/5

Woman on the Campus Green

This story was a bizarre, befuddled mess and the ‘addendum’ from the authors just made it that much more “what in bloody hell was that about?” to us. Story: 1/5 Illustration: 4/5

The Blue Hole

I think I speak for us both when I say that this was quite possibly the worst story in the book. Gross, pointless and just utterly disgusting. Story: 1/5 Illustration: 1/5


Just a little meh. It does have the feel of an urban legend with the mother and step-father being absolutely awful. It seemed to have a bit of tongue-in-cheek referral to the alligators in the sewer legend that we kind of liked. Story: 3/5 Illustration: 4/5

Model Citizens

It really had the makings of a great story but the ending dropped it flat. It seemed to us that it was trying for something a bit similar to Robert Bloch’s ‘Sweets to the Sweet’ but couldn’t quite pull it off. Story: 3/5 Illustration: 2/5

Last Train Home

Last Train Home was a decent story but lacking a bit of ‘oomph’. We did like the different twist on the “ghostly warning”, though and the ending was a bit intriguing. By the way, keys can be used as at least a fallback method of self-defense.  Story: 3/5  Illustration: 5/5

A Casket for My Mother

Lilyn really liked it and thought the Patreon ‘reward tier’ aspect to it was interesting.  This story also appeared in their Cemetery Gates: Year One collection. I liked it at the time and it holds up after a re-read and is actually a bit creepier the second time now that I’m more familiar with GoFundMe pages and Patreon, etc. At least Tim, strange as he is, honours the ‘rewards’.  Story: 4/5  Illustration: 3/5

Echo’s Reflection

Eh, we weren’t too impressed with this story. Which is strange because we usually love a good haunted/cursed mirror story or movie.  Story: 2/5  Illustration: 3/5

We liked the authors’ notes at the end very much. In some cases they were more interesting than the story themselves.

Overall, this really wasn’t a bad collection, but it wasn’t as strong as it could have been. Most of the illustrations were fantastic (but unless you’re doing a book on feces, please never feel it necessary to illustrate a pile of feces!), and while, again, some of the individual stories were great, it wasn’t clear if we were the right target audience for this book or not.


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