Vintage Horror: Rick Hautala’s Night Stone

Over the pandemic I decided to revisit some of my favorite vintage horror from high school. There were several titles that I remembered as being pretty scary, and a few that I couldn’t even remember the title or author for and had to do a little investigative work to figure it out. One of the latter was Rick Hautala’s Night Stone, which I vaguely remembered as having something to do with stones that a guy would see in his yard when he was dreaming, and as a book that had been creepy enough to kind of stick around in my head over the years. Once I figured out who had written it and the title, I managed to secure a reasonably priced copy online. It even has the original creepy cover that goes between little girl face and skull that I remembered!

Cover of Night Stone

Night Stone has everything: a house deal that seems too good to be true, a creepy haunted doll, a possessed horse, underground terror (that is possibly from a Native American burial ground or sacrificial site), family drama with distracting sexual indiscretions, and some bloody deaths orchestrated by the presence haunting the land.

Don decides to move his family – wife Jan and daughter Beth – out to the country and into an older family-owned house that his sister has been taking care of for years. We learn that his mother hadn’t wanted anyone in the family to live in the house and that his sister hadn’t been able to sell it (never a good sign). Problems start immediately as Beth has some type of seizure as they are driving past the large gateposts of the house, and then escalate when she finds a creepy old doll and becomes obsessed with it. Jan becomes bored with the new situation almost immediately and takes a job waiting tables at a pretty sleazy sounding bar and grill in town, and Don becomes increasingly obsessed with the house and with a large stone that he uncovers in the yard. Archaeologists are called in, additional unsanctioned digging is conducted, weird noises and dreams start taking place, and Beth begins talking to her doll and letting it influence her personality. Beth finally gets the horse she’s been begging for and it turns out to be a nightmare on four legs. And, as we’ve seen before in these cases, Don increasingly becomes more unhinged, and the wheels completely come off of the entire enterprise by the end of the book.

The main things I noticed re-reading this book about 30 years later were that it was a lot more crazy than I had remembered. Dolls always creep me out, but the idea of a girl Beth’s age carrying some monstrosity like this around with her everywhere and whispering to it continuously is just a big “nope” for me. (The doll described in the book looks nothing like the somewhat normal one pictured on the cover, so be fair warned!) Also, the entire horse aspect of the plot was both crazier and sadder than I had remembered. All the girl wanted was a sane horse that she could ride around on the farm, and instead she got Goblin, the horse from hell. Lastly, the size of the huge, sacrificial stone in the front yard that Don keeps digging up, along with the underground tunneling aspects of the story, were parts I had completely forgotten. I am not a big fan of tight, underground places, so this part definitely gave me the creeps.

If you are looking for a vintage horror read that delivers nicely on a lot of the typical tropes we think of from the ’70s and ’80s, then I recommend checking out Night Stone. Rick Hautala has also written some other books and short stories that terrified me over the years, such as Mountain King. He’s definitely a horror author worth checking out!

July Short Reviews

Here are a few things that I’ve been reading:

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Quincy Carpenter is one of only three “final girls”, each of which survived a massacre in different areas of the country.  While Quincy survived her ordeal, her memory did not and she has no recollection of most of what happened that terrifying night. However, at the beginning of this book, she is not doing too badly. She has a fiance and a successful cooking blog. But when one of the final girls, Lisa, commits suicide, it seems so out of character that Quincy becomes determined to figure out what really happened. The appearance of the third final girl, Sam, further complicates matters, and soon Quincy is struggling to figure out not only who she can trust, but also the truth of what happened to her that night, and it soon becomes clear that her life is depending on her figuring out the answers.

This book has a great thriller pacing to it, and I found the story to be engaging. Sager drew me in quickly with the idea of playing with the final girl trope. I know it’s something that’s been done a lot at this point, but Sager works to keep this fresh and different. The story kept me guessing until the end and it was definitely a fun read!

What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine

Maisie Cothay grows up with an unusual curse: anything she touches dies – or is revived. She lives on an estate at the edge of a mysterious forest, isolated from the world around her because of her condition. Her father, and pretty much everyone, has warned her not to go into the forest, and there are many legends of local men who have gone missing over the years. What Maisie additionally learns, though, is that many of the women in her family – ancestors from years gone by – have also gone missing in that forest. However, when Maisie’s father goes missing, she dares to venture into the forest in search of him, and she finds much more than she had bargained for.

I love the fairy-tale feel of this book, but it is not soft and pretty, there is definitely an edginess to it. It is frightening in some areas, and the fantasy elements have a darkness that I always enjoy. The resolution of this book, is interesting, but I think I mostly enjoyed the telling of the story itself. Maisie has an interesting viewpoint and her struggles with her condition and those around her lend a loneliness that makes the story even more haunting. Recommended for those that like Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

Constable Peter Grant is just starting his career and hoping that he won’t be assigned to what is basically desk duty. However, his fortune changes when while assisting with a murder investigation he is approached by a ghost – offering him information. This odd interaction leads to him being assigned to work with Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightengale, who works on those sorts of cases, and who also happens to be a wizard. Peter and Nightengale team up to investigate a mysterious string of murders. Along the way, they are assisted by a variety of water elementals, each of whom is a different river that flows through the city. Throughout it all, Peter struggles to master his own growing magical skills, and become acclimated to his new role.

I loved this book and will probably devour the series! This would probably fall more into the urban fantasy genre, and readers of Jim Butcher’s Dresden series will probably enjoy this, as well. As the story developed and I learned more about the case, I was pleasantly surprised at how very original this idea was!


Check back in for more posts soon! I’ve been reading and watching some great stuff, and there are some new releases that will be coming out soon that are going to make for some excellent reading!