“The Events at Poroth Farm” can be found in the extremely inexpensive and wonderful collection The Cthulhu Mythos Megapack (see below). I’m reviewing this tale because it became the basis on which Klein’s sole novel, The Ceremonies (to be reviewed next week) is based.
What a great story. This is the very definition of an atmospheric horror story with a slow creeping realization that things are not right and are getting worse and worse as the story progresses. I have always been a big fan of epistolary tales, and that’s just what we get here: The journal of a young PhD student in literature, Jeremy, who is renting a room in a house in the isolated rural community of Gilead, New Jersey, for the summer because he needs time away from the bustle of the city to read a bunch of books in preparation for teaching a new course in the fall on Gothic horror. The room he rents is at a farm run by Sarr and Deborah Poroth, a childless couple in their 30s who have seven cats and are members of one of those simple-and-agricultural lifestyle religious sects that has some odd but inoffensive views.
Jeremy’s tranquility at the farm is gradually invaded by a series of events, none of them overtly alarming or profoundly weird, but they add up to some oddities: One of the Poroths, probably Deborah, seems to be poking through Jeremy’s things and reading his journal when he’s not around, and they’re not even especially subtle about it. Enormous moths are drawn to the light in his room, so they’re always crawling over his window screen. The room itself gets infested with crickets and mold, and the spray he purchases to use there is both ineffective and then goes missing. One night, everything goes silent—if you’ve ever spent time in nature, you know how loud the ambient noise of the natural world can be, and how eerie those sudden silences are—and then resumes, but Jeremy has a sense that there has been some sort of rupture or (negative) change. He’s right. He sees Bwada, the meanest of the cats, dead in the forest. There’s no doubt about it: she’s dead. But then she comes stumbling back to the house, changed. Things get darker and darker from there, descending into violence and madness. The ride is sufficiently interesting and unexpected that I am reluctant to provide more details. It’s certainly a great story, and one of my favorites from Klein.
One possibly missed opportunity in the story is the religion that the Poroths belong too. Maybe Klein simply didn’t take the easy way out and make it a secretly dark religious cult that was behind the weirdness on the farm. That would have been a bit too trite, I think, and certainly a plot that we’ve all read far too often. But ultimately I’m left wondering what a difference the particular community/setting/context made on the story—for all the importance of this backdrop to the events of the story, it could have been set in any rural or suburban locale that had an outsider staying in a home near some woods. I’m not sure this particular community’s isolation made much of a difference.