Publisher: Leisure Books
Writer: Leona C. Ross
Released: March 1st, 1986
Genre: Horror_Super natural_Medical_Occult
A young couple rent a shabby cabin in Maine for the summer. Although they’re on break from College in New York, Mike and Sandy do newlywed things like talk about having a baby and renovate the Cabin with fun home improvement projects. In the attic, they discover an Ouija board and meet a spirit named Simon that compels them to visit his gravestone in the cemetery down the road. When they visit the town’s library to research Simon’s grave, that’s when we meet the book’s antagonist–Fannie, a psychopathic crone who’s spent her life concocting the perfect resurrection elixir.
Fannie is awestruck at how closely Mike resembles her dead lover Simon. He’s the anatomical quintessence of what host she needs to perform this revival. Not revealing her intentions, she soon woos Sandy into the temptation of communicating with ghosts by using magnets on the Ouija board to spell out subtle directives. An abundance of guile, coffee, and cigarettes occupy the pages. Mike is fed-up with their antics, but before he leaves her behind Sandy lures him into a deadly sacrament. Dressed in robes, a huddled cult encroaches on Mike, forcing him to guzzle down the red liquid (Simon’s blood) in the ornate chalice seen gracing the cover. He wakes up the next morning, unharmed, and begins a slow transmogrification into Simon. Delusions and the horrid memories of Simon’s tragic death materialize in Mike’s mind. It turns out Fannie’s treachery runs deep and vile. Simon was indeed her former lover back in the 1920s, however she’s also his murderer after catching him cheating with her sister.
Fearing Simon may like the youthful Sandy, Fannie’s haunting jealousy drives her to lock Sandy in a room and let her voracious boa constrictor devour her. Fannie had manipulated Sandy into believing it was ghosts and devilry, not letting her know about her youth serum. She had paid the nearby gravedigger to don a robe and be the muscle, but even he was swindled on payment. This is halfway through the book, and it feels like the climax. Fannie’s farmhouse burns down, killing the gravedigger. Sandy escapes and ends up assigned to an asylum with amnesia and catatonia.
A year rolls by and Sandy is finally released into the care of no one. Among a slew of other nonsense, the book’s logic starts to crumple, becoming extremely disjointed. Where were her parents ? Why weren’t Mike’s notified? She wanders back to the cabin they’d rented last summer. Somehow she’s aloud to live there with no income. Simon, seeking revenge on Fannie, pops into Sandy’s life, believing she’ll eventually be able to lead him to Fannie. He’s charming at first. That’s until he gets her pregnant! Cold and now distant, he starts aging rapidly with chunks of flesh decaying. He must find Fannie before he rots. However, Fannie is hiding out in underground tunnels, waiting for her youth pills to kick in. She can’t very well re-enter Simon’s life looking like a Hag. This woman’s Insanity has no limitations. Sandy copes with all this by smoking while pregnant.
After refusing to give him the youth pills, Simon goes bonkers and buries Fannie alive in his old grave, then ties Sandy to the tombstone. He succumbs to physical decay and dies. Is this the climax? no, Fannie survives by eating anyone who treads over the cemetery grounds. Her underground tunnels lead back to her barn on the Willowby farm. Sandy forsakes the place and reunites with her parents in New York, unwillingly to divulge anything that actually happened. Her memory finally returns, knowing now everyone’s motives and how she was deceived.
Eventually the cops summon her back to Maine after bodies start piling up. But guess what? it’s time to deliver Simon’s abominable baby. Fannie figures using Simon’s blood on his own son will splice the DNA better this time around. Disguised as a nurse, she whisks the baby away and injects it with the serum. However, it isn’t Simon’s baby. It’s Mike’s baby, if that makes any sense. Something about soul transference, even though the super natural element had been debunked by Fannie throughout the book. Whatever. In the end, Sandy and Mike reconcile and of course the hospital burns down, seemingly killing Fannie.
Final Thoughts: Despite the narration’s uneven path , Leona C. Ross has beautiful prose that makes it worth giving a read. If it wasn’t another author’s pseudonym, It was her only published book. The only other Leona Ross I found on the web was a woman who started a Gofundme page in 2017, imploring for donations to pay her heat and electric bills in order for her fur babies to survive. Anyhow, stay tuned for more vintage horror paperback reviews.