Horror stories of Robert E. Howard

These four stories are linked together in varying degrees by professor John Kirowan, who is either a prominent character or just merely mentioned in the story. Another prominent element in these stories is, that have been, at least partly, inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, whom which Howard was in correspondence with. 

The Black Stone (1931)

A scholar and a collector of occult eccentricities, has spent some time looking for a mysterious Black Stone, a mysterious artefact linked to ancients cults. He finally finds a clue of the whereabouts of the stone and arrives in a small, remote village of Stregoicavar, located at the hinterlands of Hungary.

The Black Stone is a feared object, shunned by the locals and linked to evil things, like dark visions and ability to drive people who camp near it insane. This doesn't sway the scholar and he decides to spend a night near the monolith, only to end up seeing grim and dark visions of sinister, ancient evil worshipping cult.

The Black Stone is a fairly well-written piece of horror. It's not a particularly novel story, but it does shine during the moments of the well described and brutal ceremony the narrator of the tale witnesses in the forest. It's also fairly easy to see the influences coming from the stories of Lovecraft.

The Children of the Night (1931)

A tale of ancient memories and deep-rooted rivalry between humans and ancient lizard-like people of the Earth. That's what describes the Children of the Night the best. The narrator of the story, O'Donnell, stumbles upon these old genetic memories after being struck unconscious, during which he sees himself as his ancestral warrior forefather.

O'Donnell wakes up in his vision as Aryara, only to realize that the members of his hunting party have been slain, as he had fallen asleep during his guard study. The culprits of the crime are the lizard people of ancient England.

Knowing, that he has to avenge his comrades, especially as it was his fault they were slain, Aryara begins his chase through the dark forests. He slays many of the Children of the Night before he is overpowered and finally slain.

As he wakes up, he realizes to his horror, that one of his friends is in actuality a member of the ancient enemy he saw in his vision and he thus comes to a conclusion, that no matter happens to him, he has to devote the rest of his days in cleansing the world of the lizard people, including his former friend. 

The Children of the Night if fun enough of a story. The horror elements it has are relatively light and it relies more on the similar action shown in Howard's fantasy stories more than it trusts in horror. It's not a bad story though and it does even let you speculate if any of the ancient memories really happened or if O'Donnell just went insane because of the hit in the head.

The Dwellers Under the Tomb (1976)

An old man, Job Kiles, wakes up his neighbour, Conrad, after he is convinced, that his not so long dead twin brother has come back as a vampire. So armed with a gun, and accompanied by the narrator of the story, they go to the tomb of the brother in order to see if the cadaver is still as dead as it should be.

Job Kiles enters to crypt alone, as he feels that whatever he has to do, he has to do it alone, family obligations and all. But all isn't right in the crypt under the Dagoth Hills, as soon there's a scream of terror and the lifeless body of Job Kiles is flung against the crypt door.

The duo descents into the crypt, only to find out two secrets. The first being, that there is an ancient race of dog-human hybrids dwelling deep under the hills and the second being, that the brother of Kiles also fond them, but not on purpose, but by a mistake during a swindle, he was playing in order to kill Job.

The Dwellers under the Tomb is a pretty straight cut horror tale, where the protagonists are far from being Howard's typical supermen. Instead of getting in a head-on fight with the ancient monsters, they do their best to escape the horrors, almost failing at it. It is another solid story and worth a look at.

The Haunter of the Ring (1934)

There are problems brewing in the new marriage of Evelyn and James Gordon, as the bride has tried to murder her husband three times. Distraught James seeks aid from his friend, Kirowan, who quickly rushes to their house to question Evelyn.

It soon becomes evident, that Evelyn has been cursed by an old suitor, Joseph. The disappointed in love man gave her a serpent ring disguised as a token of friendship after she turned down his proposals.

The Haunter of the Ring is not only a romantic tale of horror, it also works as a kind of a background narrative for John Kirowan. There's quite a bit of expose of his history in the world of the occult as well as his past dealings with the gutted suitor Joseph.

It's yet another well-written story and in the contrast to Howard's other works, you could even think of it as somewhat novel to him, considering the romantic notions of the newlyweds. But, at the same time, it does link back to Howard's own mythos, by using the serpent ring, that was previously owned by Thoth-Amon.