What disturbing short stories have gotten under your skin and stayed in your psyche since child or young adulthood?
For me, it's "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. First published in either 1892 or 1899 (depending on which source you go with), the story is either a haunted house story or a story of insanity. For a synopsis, visit this link:
When I first read this story as a tween in the 1970s, I envisioned the setting and characters in the 70s and viewed it as a haunted house story. But when I went back and re-read this story a few years ago, my own experience with living in a Victorian house and my research on Victorian times gave me a whole new take on the story. It certainly makes me appreciate the freedoms I've enjoyed as a female during this era of Women's Liberation .
Like the narrator's obsession with the yellow wallpaper, I am captivated by the bizarre details of the attic room with the bars on the windows, the bolted-down furniture, and the "iron rings and things" on the walls. In the Deep South, crazy relatives were often "kept" at home and locked away in attic rooms back in the day. I think the idea of chaining someone to a wall or tethering them to a wall disturbs me the most about the description of the room.
After reading the Wikipedia link on how Victorian women were treated for depression and anxiety disorders, I am even more thankful for modern medicine. We might think we rely too much on better living through chemistry, but I have to say that as someone who suffers from these disorders with a long family history and genetic propensity for them, the idea of being confined without mental or intellectual stimulation makes me a bit hinky. I'm sure I'd go bat-shit crazy if I had to live like that...if you can call that living. "The Yellow Wallpaper" is semi-autobiographical as Gilman had to suffer through a similar "treatment" for her nervous condition as it was called back in the late 19th century.
Now an anecdote: when the hubs and I bought our Victorian house, the wallpaper in the room that is now our master bedroom had been partially peeled away in long jagged tears along one wall. I immediately thought of "The Yellow Wallpaper." The room had belonged to the previous owners' little girl. That in itself was creepy. Why was she peeling the wallpaper at night next to her bed? eep!
The photo above is where my crazy cats have destroyed the wallpaper on the upstairs landing. There's no point in replacing or patching it since they'll just claw it off again. Ah, the joy of living with cats.
So, if you've never read "The Yellow Wallpaper," I highly recommend it. Let me know if you found it disturbing. I'd love to hear your thoughts.