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Creator / Stefan Grabiński

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Stefan Grabiński (26 February 1887 - 12 November 1936) was a Polish short story writer, famous for the weird, surreal, terrifying tone and themes, as well as for creepy trains. His prose is full of ghosts, witches, incubi and a variety of otherworldly things. He was interested and well-versed in the occult, and apparently drew some inspiration from German Expressionism. Also, from Henri Bergson, William James and Edgar Allan Poe (of whom he was a fan). In short, a Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant extraordinaire.

Due to worsening tuberculosis, he had to retire from his day job as a teacher and fell into obscurity, finally dying in poverty. His works were forgotten, then (after World War II) rediscovered.

Some of Grabiński's works were translated into English by Mirosław Lipiński and published under the title The Dark Domain.

His works:

  • Novels
    • Salamandra (Salamander) (1924)
    • Cień Bafometa (Baphomet's Shadow) (1926)
    • Klasztor i morze (The Cloister and the Sea) (1928)
    • Wyspa Itongo (Itongo Island) (1936)
  • Short-story collections
    • Z wyjątków. W pomrokach wiary (From the Unusual. In the Shadows of Belief) (1909)
    • Na wzgórzu róż (On the Hill of Roses) (1918)
    • Demon ruchu (The Motion Demon) (1919)
    • Szalony pątnik (Mad Pilgrim) (1920)
    • Niesamowita opowieść (An Eerie Tale) (1922)
    • Księga ognia (The Book of Fire) (1922)
    • Namiętność (Passion) (1930)
  • Plays
    • Willa nad morzem (Ciemne siły) (Dark Forces)
    • Zaduszki (All-Souls' Day)

Tropes he will scare you with:

  • Cosmic Horror Story: Explanations are for the weak. Just why would twins share a consciousness, a poet's creation would come to life, or a man would decide the world's telling him to commit suicide is never even hinted at. These things just happen.
  • Creator's Oddball: Demon ruchu contains a sci-fi story about a Cool Train of the future. (Then again, the oddness lies in futuristic trappings, as it is still a spooky story involving a train.) Like you'd expect from sci-fi written in the interwar period, zeerust is in full swing.
  • Doppelgänger: Often...
  • Demonic Possession:
    • The fire elementals hound Czarnocki until they get the opportunity to possess him and commit a lot of arson wearing his body. Finally they make him kill himself.
  • Eccentric Artist: Usually writers, often poets.
  • Evil Living Flames: In The Book of Fire, it being Exactly What It Says on the Tin, flames tend to behave as if they were living (and malevolent) things. In some stories, there are distinct fire elementals, in some it's any fire, period.
  • Evil Tainted the Place: In one of the stories, the protagonist is haunted by dreams of the previous tenant pacing and pacing and pacing the room, only avoiding the wardrobe. Turns out the tenant committed suicide in that wardrobe. The trope is also discussed in the story.
  • Evil Twin: In Problemat Czelawy, either the titular scientist of his more obviously evil twin brother. They both plot to murder the other...
  • Fanatical Fire: In "Gebrowie", the orgiastic celebration of the fire cult turns into an uncontrolled fire as the High Priest calls on the believers to give up their Fiery Sensuality heresies and return to the pure fire cult. He kills ("sacrifices") the priestess and sets fire to the drapes. The believers follow suit.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Several stories end with the protagonist undergoing this fate. Quite a lot end with them dying, as well. If the story starts with the protagonist visiting his wife in a psychiatric hospital, it's usually due to her having experienced something of this sort and he's not safe, either.
  • House Fire: The Book of Fire is full of buildings burning down to the ground. Some instances are mundane(ish) arson, some are clearly supernatural.
    • In "Pożarowisko" the protagonist decides to build a house on a cursed spot where no building stood for more than three years before burning down, and the locals claim whoever helps put it out will face some fire-related trouble. He finishes it and moves in, but he and his family become obsessed with fire, begin setting it themselves, until the house does burn down, and the protagonist, the only survivor, is carted away in a straitjacket.
  • Heroic Fire Rescue: Happens once or twice in The Book of Fire, but with mixed results, as the rescuees go insane.
  • Immune to Fire:
    • The titular "Czerwona Magda" (the Red Magda), who is, according to a Magical Romani old woman, a "child of flames". Huge House Fires start wherever she's been working for some time, and she always just falls asleep to wake, unharmed, after the fire has been extinguished.
    • Czarnocki the firefighter in "Zemsta żywiołaków" (The revenge of elementals) can even make others Immune to Fire temporarily. Problem is, fire elementals hate him and try to kill him in other ways.
  • Irony: The titular character's father in "Czerwona Magda" is a firefighter whose daughter has been accused of arson (but she's probably some sort of a supernatural conduit for fire). In the end, he kills her with his axe.
  • Magical Romani: "Czerwona Magda", being half-Romani, might qualify, although her powers have nothing to do with fortune-telling and don't seem to be under her control.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Quite a lot.
    • In "Pożarowisko" the causes of fires are mundane - chimney fire, an accidentally dropped cigarette, carelessly handling flammable liquids - but when you learn fires just keep happening in the same place, it's not so mundane anymore. When the family living on the cursed spot goes crazy and burns the house down deliberately, it stops sounding so mundane.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: "Biały wyrak" is a probably non-sentient creature that lives inside chimneys and feeds on chimney-sweepers. It's made of soot animated by vengeful intent. Daylight turns it into dust.
  • The Paranoiac: Some of the protagonists.
  • Psychological Horror
  • Psycho Psychologist:
    • Czelawa is a researcher, not a therapist, but there's something weird about the man. Before the doppelganger thing is even mentioned...
    • Doctor Ludzimirski in "Gebrowie" encourages his patients' creation of an extatic, orgiastic fire cult, to the point of becoming the High Priest himself. For Science!
  • Pyromaniac: The Book of Fire features lots of characters obsessed with fire:
    • Kobierzycki in "Płomienne gody" has no libido at all, until he sees fire - then he'll grab the first woman he can, even as the building burns around them. After the fire is out, he becomes asexual again. Which is why his wife sets the room on fire on their wedding night. Unfortunately, it goes out of control and she goes completely insane.
    • In "Gebrowie" there's an extatic fire cult based on the writings of a psychologist gone mad about the subject of fire. Their celebrations feature more and more sex as the cult evolves.
    • For a non-sexual example, the entire family living on the cursed spot in "Pożarowisko" begins wearing lots of red clothes, wallpapering the rooms red, using candles and oil lamps for light (although they have electricity), burning small things, scaring guests with controlled fires, and finally burns the house down.
  • Purple Prose: Similar to what Edgar Allan Poe tended towards.
  • Railroad Employee Roundhouse: Since Demon ruchu is all about trains, you get almost the entire set, most of them unhealthily obsessed with trains in some way or another.
  • Sinister Subway: His famous Demon ruchu short-story collection is full of creepy, spooky train-related things.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Several stories. If it's written in the first person, beware.