Horror Short Story Review: "The House on the Rynek" by Dermot Chesson Spence
This tale is relayed by a superstitious Irishman (…and aren’t they all in tales of the supernatural?) who has been listening to group of friends tell their stories. His has to do not with Ireland, though, but with Poland.
One Count Paul Lewandowski, a friend of his, was well versed in his country’s folklore. Not only that, his own family came with a curse. None of the titleholders have died peacefully in their beds for centuries. It is known that the curse centered around the vengeance wrought by a Jewish furrier, Matteus Levine, who lent one of the Lewandowski ancestors a great deal of money and then had the nerve to ask for repayment.
The curse is more than the result of a slighted creditor, however. Seems that the ancestor dealt with his debt by seeing the furrier met his end in one of the pogroms that were once all the rage of Europe. Justifiably frightened, the furrier sought refuge from the mobs in the courtyard of the Lewandowski estate. A servant girl threw him a fur coat, and as the good people of Krakow beat him to death, he cursed the Lewandowskis. However, no one is sure just quite what he said.
But Count Paul and his bride, Sonia, who also happens to be descended from the family, have decided to break the curse. They invite their good friend, a superstitious Irishman, to come with them to Krakow.
This is a sad and horrible little story. On the one hand the curse that the bygone furrier laid on the family is pretty nasty, for it dooms people who had nothing to do with his unspeakably cruel death to pretty lousy deaths of their own. And I can’t help thinking that the time of its writing—1936—had something to do with the rising anti-Semitism in Europe. At the same time, the author’s revulsion for Levine, while in subtext, is unmistakable.
Title: “The House on the Rynek” first published in Little Red Shoes 1936
Author: Dermot Chesson Spence (1904-1966)
Last review: “I’ll be Glad When I’m Dead” by Charles King
©2015 Denise Longrie
Image Credit »