Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Henry Kuttner's "Call Him DEMON" (novelette, haunted house, free): Little child "beats" the ghost

Illustration accompanying the short story Call Him DEMON by Henry Kuttner in 1953 anthology titled Wonder Story Annual, Vol 2 No 1, edited by Samuel MinesKuttner is back here with his favorite subject - children can see things & think in ways that makes them aliens so far as adults are concerned; younger the children, more alien their psychology.

Story summary.

The house with Grandmother Keaton, Aunt Bessie, & 4 uncles - Simon, James, Lew, Bert. Plus 5 children - Jane Larkin (9), from whose point of view the story is told, & Beatrice, Charles, Emily, & Bobby (youngest).

And the "Wrong Uncle" - uncle with whom adults see nothing wrong but kids do (older kids are afraid of him; younger ones don't know fear). Uncle who came 3 weeks back from god knows where & modified the minds of adults to think he had always been around. Uncle who comprises of two parts - a human shaped one here, & an indescribable one that kids can sense after crossing some sort of multi-dimensional portal in the cellar. Uncle whose presence in the house is wearing down the grown-ups for reasons they cannot place.

Uncle who must be fed red raw meat regularly to avoid bad things from happening. Since only kids can sense him (it), they do what they can.

And a very Kuttnerish climax, where the youngest child Bobby is trying to outsmart the demon & "win" the game. And we will see the dreadful meaning of "win" - a meaning the child doesn't realize.


"Demon" of title is used in two senses - the cross-dimensional alien haunting the place, & the youngest child Bobby whose behavior would be as alien to grown-ups...

See also.

  1. Henry Kuttner & C L Moore's "Mimsy Were the Borogoves" (download): Another story with somewhat similar adult/child mental alienation theme.
  2. "Makdee" (2002); movie description at IMDB: Another story with a haunted house, & a little girl who must regularly feed meat to the witch living there because...

    Original is a Hindi movie; I don't know if an English dubbed version is a available.
  3. Philip K Dick's "The Father-Thing"; read online (no download, need a lot of clicks; is it a novelization? I'd read the original short story version): Similar situation - an alien impostor has conned mom into believing he's dad, but it cannot fool the kid.

Collected in.

  1. Samuel Mines (ed)'s "Wonder Story Annual, Vol 2 No 1 (1953 Edition)".

Fact sheet.

First published: Thrilling Wonder Stories, Fall 1946.
Download full text as HTML, or as part of the online scans of this anthology.
Rating: A.
Related: Stories of Henry Kuttner; Ghost stories.