Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

Richard Matheson
Nightmare at 20,000 Feet Cover

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet: Horror Stories By Richard Matheson


Nightmare at 20,000 Feet: Horror Stories by Richard Matheson should be required reading for all fans of horror. Not just because Mr. Matheson was one of the first Grand Masters of Horror, inducted in 1993 by The World Horror Convention, or because he has been the influence of such authors as Stephen King (Also a Grand Master), but because so many of these short stories were the basis of amazing movies and TV anthologies that we have all enjoyed.

Mr. Matheson is in his element when he is writing true horror. The psychological horror stories were for me hit and miss, but the true horror was chilling. For me the three stand-outs in this series were "Crickets," "The Distributor," and "Dance of the Dead." I'm throwing in "Witch War" for honorable mention because it was another standout.

I read "Crickets" alone in the dark and could not get the idea out of my mind when finished. The sound of the cricket is so ubiquitous here in the country that one almost doesn't hear it anymore, but what if they were communicating to us through those chirps, or worst yet communicating with something else.

"The Distributor" was probably the stand-out in the psychological terror stories in this series. There is somethings so disturbing about the character of Theodore Gordon, who destroys the lives of his new neighbors so completely and with such glee and zeal. It was truly terrifying, and when he posts the results in his book and the reader realizes just how many times he had done this, it was just another level of horror. Sublime.

I was first introduced to "Dance of the Dead" by Showtime's amazing Anthology Series "Masters of Horror." Although only 2 seasons long, it was an amazing introduction to the horror genre and included 1 hour movies from some of the greatest names in horror ever assembled. You should check them out, several can be found on But I digress, but only slightly. The thing is, I was mesmerized by the story when I first saw it. It was horrifying and tragic, heart breaking sad and a coming of age story all wrapped up in one. I immediately ran out and found the story and read it, I was disappointed because the short story was markedly different from the TV series I had just watched. Now ten years later and vastly more well-roundingly (sp) read, I was able to read this story with fresh eyes. The only thing the screen writer (who incidentally was Richard Matheson's son Richard Christian Matheson) did was expand on the themes his father laid out in the short story. I just loved it on this second reading.

I have to be honest in "Witch War," I just liked the juxtaposing of the giggling teenage girls and the destruction of the army. It was a revelation to read.

5 of 5 stars