Library Classics... 'Under the Bedclothes' – David Langford.


I know, it's another 'short story post' today but bear with me a little bit. Not only has my reading taken a bit of a hit this week (what with one thing and several others) but 'Under the Bedclothes' is a story that's a little bit special to me. Let me explain...

I first came across the short story 'Under the Bedclothes' when, I reckon, I was about nine years old and at primary school. The bookshelves, at my primary school, were nothing like what you'd expect to see these days, in particular I'm thinking about what seemed like loads of horror and supernatural anthologies. Pan Book of Horror? My primary school had that, amongst many others.

So I'm reading my way through the '14th Armada Ghost Book' and I come across this story called 'Under the Bedclothes'. I'll tell you about it in a minute but for now, lets just say that I read it and it scared the life out of poor little nine year old me. It scared me to the point where the next morning, I remember waking up, from a nightmare, and not being able to move with fear because I was sure that there was a pair of tiny red eyes staring at me from the shadows on top of my bookshelf...

'Under the Bedclothes' then was the story that set me looking for more scares in my reading and has made me the slightly jumpy character that I am today. It's ironic then that as soon as I went to High School, I promptly forgot about this story and didn't give it much thought until a few years ago when I half remembered a really scary story that I'd read as a kid and set out to find it again. Now, you try looking for a story that you can only half remember and it's part of a completely different series to the one you were thinking of. It's no surprise that my search was utterly fruitless until the other day when I made a chance comment on Twitter and my good friend @Oretinker came up with the answer within a couple of minutes. You don't waste good fortune like that, I found myself a copy of the '14th Armada Ghost Book' right away and when it turned up yesterday, I dropped everything and settled down for a quick read...

Jon Harvey is under the bedclothes, having a sneaky read by torchlight while his Mum isn't looking. He's found himself a good story to read as well, a ghost story, but it could well end up being the last story he ever reads if he isn't careful...

I know what you're asking, I was asking the exact same question when I started reading, It had been thirty six years since I last read 'Under the Bedclothes', how would it hold up now? Nine year old me would believe almost anything while forty five year old me loves a good read but only really believes in payday (and even then, only when it happens)...

'Under the Bedclothes' isn't the truly scary read that it was and that's fine, it was never going to be after all those years. I knew the ending for a start and I was bringing a lot of other stuff to the read that I wouldn't have done back then. It is still a deliciously creepy tale though, especially when you see how Langford gently foreshadows what is coming, little moments that could be completely innocent... or could very well be anything but. I knew what was coming but Langford makes that work for his story. I'm old enough now to see the clues for what they really are but all this did was to make me yell at the book like Jon would actually hear me... The tension is still rising, just in a slightly different way and it's doubled as we're not only reading about Jon, we're also reading about the 'Jon' in the book that Jon is reading. It's funny how a story can be so well written that you can see the plot devices playing out, and know where they're headed, but still feel unnerved by them at the same time...

You wouldn't believe how happy I was to revisit 'Under the Bedclothes'; or maybe you would, you know exactly what it's like, don't you? This story won't give me sleepless nights anymore but it still makes my skin crawl, just a little bit. It just goes to show then that sometimes you can go back and a story will be as scary as you remember, just in a slightly different way...

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