Friday, May 22, 2015

The Spider by Hanns Heinz Ewers, 1915

Review of a short horror story by the German actor, poet, philosopher, and writer for Friday’s Forgotten Books over at Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinase.

When the student of medicine, Richard Bracquemont, decided to move into room #7 of the small Hotel Stevens, Rue Alfred Stevens (Paris 6), three persons had already hanged themselves from the cross-bar of the window in that room on three successive Fridays.

I read The Spider by Hanns Heinz Ewers as part of my self-styled challenge to read thirty-one short stories in May and I’m about half way there. I’d be happy if I read even twenty stories this month.

The Spider is an unusual story, illusional and spooky and surreal as a dream, or a nightmare. Three men—a Swiss travelling salesman, a high wire cyclist, and a police officer—are found dead in the hotel room on consecutive Fridays, hanging by the cross-bar of the window and their legs dragging on the floor. A large black spider crawls from each dead man’s mouth.

A hotel porter flicked it away, exclaiming, “Ugh, another of those damned creatures.”

Fearing for the consequences to her business, Madame Dubonnet, the owner of the cheap guesthouse, summons the police inspector of the ninth precinct who reluctantly allows Richard Bracquemont, a student of medicine, to hole up in Room No.7 till he gets to the bottom of the mysterious deaths, or suicides.

The days and weeks pass without incident until, one day, Bracquemont notices the young woman in the small dark flat across the narrow street. Clarimonda, as the student believes her name to be, is sitting by a window and spinning on an old-fashioned spindle. Bracquemont finds her irresistible.

What does Clarimonda look like? I'm not quite sure. Her hair is black and wavy; her face pale. Her nose is short and finely shaped with delicate nostrils that seem to quiver. Her lips, too, are pale: and when she smiles, it seems that her small teeth are as keen as those of some beast of prey.

From across the street, Clarimonda begins to draw Bracquemont towards him, like a moth to a flame, like a fly into a spider’s web. But is Clarimonda real? And does Bracquemont solve the three mystery deaths?

Clarimonda is a metaphor for the spider in the story which reads like a mild tale of horror. Although The Spider is well-written, the length could've been cut short. It drags a bit halfway when Bracquemont and Clarimonda communicate with each other through smiles, signs, and gestures. This story might not be to everyone’s liking but you might want to read it if you’re a fan of strange fiction.


  1. Glad to hear you are pursuing the challenge still - I wouldn't beat yourself up over your overall numbers mate. This one's probably a story I shan't be seeking out myself.

  2. Hanns Heinz Ewers is a writer new to me. I'll have to track down a copy of this. Nice review!

  3. Although I don't usually like spooky or nightmarish writing, this does sound interesting. The premise of three men of such different backgrounds dead in the same room in this situation is appealing.

  4. Sounds interesting. I haven't read it. I do like short horror stories.

  5. The title made me think The Spider, the pulp fiction "hero" who in many ways is similar to The Shadow. But this is a very different bowl of soup, indeed. Though it does sound slightly interesting, it's just a little too horrific for my taste.

  6. The spiders are too off-putting for me - that top cover really gives me the creeps...

  7. I don't read short horror fiction, Prashant. In fact, I don't read long horror fiction either. But still I enjoy reading about what you're reading. If we all read the same things what a boring world it would be. :)

  8. I quite like the sound of this Prashant, though sorry to hear about the longuers - is it available online?