Title: Death by Suggestion | Edited by: Donald K. Hartman | Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform | Pub. Date: 08/30/2018 | Pages: 260 | ISBN13: 9781984128430 | Genre: Classic horror | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Received from the publisher for review consideration
Death by Suggestion: An Anthology of the 19th and Early 20th Century Tales of of Hypnotically Induced Murder, Suicide and Accidental Death
Death by Suggestion gathers together twenty-two short stories from the 19th and early 20th century where hypnotism is used to cause death-either intentionally or by accident. Revenge is a motive for many of the stories, but this anthology also contains tales where characters die because they have a suicide wish, or they need to kill an abusive or unwanted spouse, or they just really enjoy inflicting pain on others. The book also includes an introduction which provides a brief history of hypnotism as well as a listing of real life cases where the use of hypnotism led to (or allegedly led to) death.
Death by Suggestion Review
Hypnosis is a fascinating subject. I would be very curious to do it but at the same time I’m very leery of it. For some people it works wonders for helping them quit smoking and other therapeutic benefits. It’s also a bit like playing with a loaded gun, in my opinion (i.e. Satanic Panic). I was very interested in Death by Suggestion as the stories collected in it were written when it was becoming a popular study and therapeutic tool.
Death by Suggestion begins with a brief history on hypnosis that was very interesting. The Introduction also has a list of the resources used in the intro. I really like when a book includes that if it’s an interesting subject as a jumping off point for study is always helpful. There is also a short editor’s note regarding the stories themselves being transcribed faithfully from the original texts. There is also an index in the back along with biographical notes on the authors.
The cover may be a little on the plain side but it fits the book well. The illustrations in the book are excellent. I don’t know if they were originally printed with the stories but if not they fit the time period very well. The stories are mostly didactic and morality plays. And also unintentionally hilarious. The power of hypnosis is apparently magical. It can keep a cabin boy alive through extraordinary circumstances in Hypnotism with a Vengeance (a story which, incidentally, made me snort with laughter and yell “Oh come on!” out loud), make a husband forget his wife in The Irishman’s Story and get a man roaring drunk in The Mystery of Turkentyne.
Death by Suggestion has quite the roster of authors. Arthur Conan Doyle’s story John Barrington Cowles is one of the more well-written and interesting story. Ambrose Bierce appears not once but twice. I’ve never been a huge Bierce fan but for those that are this will be a treat. I’d be curious to know if they are stories that are commonly anthologized or not. I was a it surprised to not see a few of the more famous stories such as The Haunted and The Haunters or, the House and the Brain by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (depending on which version you read, that is).
Most of the stories are silly but entertaining. Even the more poorly written stories that end -like this! and use the exclamation point so much the poor thing’s probably worn out. A few of the better stories are the aforementioned John Barrington Cowles, Suggested Suicide, and A Scientific Revenge. Suggested Suicide would have been a bit better if we had been told the motives beyond the acts themselves. The rest vary greatly in quality but for the most part are entertaining and rarely boring.
One thing I noted was how often women show up in these stories. Either as the instruments of doom for the men involved with them (no matter how justified) but more often as the victims. It makes a certain sort of sense, give the time frame but it was still fairly irritating. Even in a particular story (I won’t say which one) there is this quote which made me roll my eyes so hard I think I saw my brain: “Never teach a woman the power of hypnotism again. You place a dangerous weapon in the hands of the most irresponsible possessors in the world – not unscrupulous but impulsive. None should know it save those who value earth’s possession’s lightly – who harbor no revenge.” It was also written by a woman – a Marie Madison. The only other story written by a woman, Dora Sigerson Shorter, is also the weakest and most overwrought, melodramatic story of the book. Although I think it’s interesting to point out that in the story a person declares that an abusive relationship is not a marriage sanctioned by God. I’d be curious to know how people reacted to it at the time.
All in all, if you don’t mind some dated ideas, stories and a bit of (sometimes unintentional) silliness I would recommend it.